Saturday, October 6, 2018

Concerto-izing, Episode 3

We’re long overdue for an update on Nashville-based musician, composer and arranger Dick Tunney's commission to create a Peanuts Concerto that will morph Guaraldi’s most recognizable themes into a symphonic fantasy for solo piano and orchestra.

(You can read about the genesis of this project here and here.)

The delay was prompted by the reality of a musician’s life: the arrival of another project with a tighter timeline that superseded Dick’s efforts on behalf of Guaraldi. Dick had to set Vince aside in order to complete a three-movement piano concerto based on the songs of Burt Bacharach, which dominated his schedule earlier this year. It premiered May 19 with Jeffrey Biegel at the piano: the same gentleman who also will perform the Peanuts Concerto when it premieres — as currently is planned — in March 2019 at Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Dick subsequently dove back into Guaraldi’s oeuvre, and we exchanged several notes during the past summer, as various Peanuts tunes were considered for each of the three movements. Mostly, Dick has wanted to ensure that he gives at least a passing nod to any and all “Guaraldi Peanuts classics.” (And boy, there’s an open question: How deep is the list of “songs that shouldn’t be left behind,” bearing in mind the structural requirements of an orchestral concerto?)

At any rate, Dick just surfaced long enough to report on progress, so I’ll turn the rest of this post over to him:


On October 1, I finished the piano score for the first movement. The creative tightrope that I’ve been walking for these past couple of months is to keep the jazz harmonic structure, as well as the genius of Mr. Guaraldi’s improvisation, and let them co-exist with the symphony instrumentation and classical attitude. This it the third piano concerto whose commission has found my desk, and at this point it has been the biggest challenge. Honoring the legacy of such wonderful jazz piano, juxtaposed with Jeffrey’s astonishing classical gifts, has been a daunting task.  I’ve chosen to include the “Thanksgiving Theme,” “Red Baron” and “Oh, Good Grief” in the opening movement, with a couple of “Linus and Lucy” teasers/fragments just for fun.

The second movement piano score is underway, and I’m tipping the musical cap to Schroeder; this movement will begin with a piece of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique, which then morphs nicely into “Happiness Is.” A couple of final song decisions, and hopefully the piano score will be finished in short order. After that, the orchestration.

We’ve chosen to save the “Christmas movement” for last, as the final movement of the concerto. It’s finished, piano and orchestra. All of the Charlie Brown Christmas favorites are present: “Skating,” “Linus and Lucy,” “O Tannenbaum” and “Christmas Time Is Here.”
All in all, I believe that this concerto will become an audience favorite, and will be performed many times beyond its March 2019 premiere.