After more than six years of planning, research and preparation, Rockefeller Arts Center at SUNY Fredonia is looking to give audience members a night to remember when it presents "Big Band Christmas Spectacular" on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in King Concert Hall.
"Big Band Christmas Spectacular" showcases 10 of SUNY Fredonia's talented student singers and dancers backed up by The Little Apple Big Band, under the direction of Bruce Johnstone, director of jazz studies at SUNY Fredonia. The concert features instrumental numbers, vocal solos, group numbers and dance routines.
"I've had the idea of doing a big band Christmas concert for some time now," said Rockefeller Arts Center director Jefferson Westwood, the producer of the Christmas concert.
About six-and-a-half years ago, Westwood began acquiring the charts (or printed music) for this show.
"The charts have come from all over the place," he said. "Some are from the regular online retailers of jazz ensemble charts, but also from some more of the out-of-the-way publishers. This included Lush Life Music of London, England, who specializes in note-for-note transcriptions of popular big band hits of the past."
The songs include "It's Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas," a jazz version of "The Nutcracker Suite," "White Christmas," "I've Got Love to Keep Me Warm," "Home for the Holidays," "Santa Baby," "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and many more with arrangements by and in the style of Count Basie, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, Les Brown, John La Barbera and Tom Kubis.
"I have developed a relationship with the arrangers at Lush Life Music over the years, and I have been a frequent customer of theirs for our commencement-eve productions," Westwood said. "Two or three years ago, I suggested that they do Les Brown's extended (almost eight minutes long) swing arrangement of Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker Suite.' They took me up on the suggestion, and I think I was one of the first people to buy it."
Westwood explained he found much of the music for the concert by purchasing big band CDs.
"When there is a tune I really like, I scour the Internet for the composer/arranger," he said. "This is how we came to acquire our chart for 'Deck the Halls,' which Nashville arranger Chris McDonald had done for a holiday CD but never published."
While many of the arrangements came through outside publishers, Westwood said the concert will feature others that were done especially for this production by Mike McGough, who recently earned a master's degree in music from SUNY Fredonia.
Tickets are available through the SUNY Fredonia Ticket Office at 673-3501 or fredonia.edu/tickets.