The Clinton Symphony’s Holiday Pops concert is coming up this Saturday, December 8, 7:30 pm at Clinton High School. Today’s pieces come from the screen….big and small. Learn about the Charlie Brown Christmas, which songs are in our Christmas Movies medley, and the story behind White Christmas.
By the early 1960s, Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts had become a sensation worldwide. Television producer Lee Mendelson acknowledged the strip’s cultural impression and produced a documentary on the subject, titled A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Mendelson, a fan of jazz, heard a song by Vince Guaraldi on the radio not long after completion of his documentary, and contacted the musician to produce music for the special. Guaraldi composed the music for the project, creating an entire piece, “Linus and Lucy”, to serve as the theme.
The first instrumentals for the special were recorded by Guaraldi at Glendale, California’s Whitney Studio. Recycling “Linus and Lucy” from the documentary, Guaraldi completed two new originals for the special, “Skating”, and “Christmas Time Is Here”. In the weeks preceding the premiere, Mendelson encountered trouble finding a lyricist for Guaraldi’s instrumental intro and penned “Christmas Time Is Here” in “about 15 minutes” on the backside of an envelope.
By April 1965, Time featured the Peanuts gang on its magazine cover, and plans for an animated half-hour Peanuts Christmas special were commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company. When Coca-Cola commissioned A Charlie Brown Christmas in spring 1965, Guaraldi returned to write the music.
Christmas at the Movies ( arr. Bob Krogstad) recalls some of the most memorable songs and themes from our favorite Holiday films, including Somewhere in My Memory (from “Home Alone”), How the Grinch Stole Christmas; Miracle on 34th Street; The Polar Express; A Christmas Story; and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
White Christmas is considered the most popular song in America’s history. The composer of the tune, Irving Berlin, came to America with his family from a backward Russia, hoping to fulfill the great promise of his adopted land: In America, one can become whatever he wants to be, limited only by his own ambitions.
Berlin had his first world-wide success in 1911, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, a tune so infectious that it revived the ragtime mood that had gripped the country a decade before with Scott Joplin. For a time, he wrote a song a day, most often at night while the rest of the city slept. During World War II, he maintained a troupe of entertainers who traveled from camp to camp to keep up the morale of the troops; he was away from home and family for three and a half years.
Where, when, and how White Christmas came to be written is open to question. One account by Berlin states that in 1940 he was poolside at a hotel on a hot day in Phoenix, Arizona, when the words and tune came to him. He called his secretary in New York City and told her to get pencil and paper and copy down the words to the “greatest song that’s ever been written.”
The song was introduced in the wartime film Holiday Inn (1942).
Program notes by William Driver