‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ comes to NCC stage
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media December 7, 2010 3:48PM
David Benoit will present "A Charlie Brown Christmas" at NCC on Dec. 17. | Courtesy of North Central College
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 17
Where: North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville
How much: $45 and $50
Contact: 630-637-7469 or visit www.northcentralcollege.edu/showtix
Updated: April 19, 2011 5:25AM
For all of his musical achievements, David Benoit never expected to be known as the “Charlie Brown Christmas” guy. Fortunately, it’s a moniker he’s proud to wear.
Benoit, a jazz pianist, is a five-time Grammy Award-nominated musician, composer and arranger. He first launched his recording career in 1977 and has more than 25 recordings to his credit.
Benoit first covered the Vince Guaraldi classic “Linus and Lucy” in 1985, inadvertently launching the smooth jazz genre. He has since composed music for “Peanuts” television specials for more than 10 years, including 2000’s “Here’s to You, Charlie Brown” and the star-studded “40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The programs reflect his lifelong passion for the music of original “Peanuts” composer Vince Guaraldi. Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” characters were introduced to comic strip readers in 1950. Schultz died in 2000.
Benoit will perform “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on Dec. 17 at North Central College in Naperville. The concert features the Young Naperville Singers performing a collection of holiday favorites and “Peanuts” classics, such as the instantly recognizable “Linus and Lucy.”
His association with Schultz started 25 years ago.
“I didn’t really have any idea that I would have this long association,” he said. “When I covered ‘Linus and Lucy,’ it was just for fun. I didn’t know that it would eventually lead me to work with the man himself, Charles Schultz. I keep in touch with the family. It’s been a great relationship. I didn’t imagine I would become so much of a spokesman for the family, at least on the musical side.”
It was when he attended Schultz’s funeral that he hit upon the idea to do a musical tribute to the late cartoonist.
“I thought it would be nice to do that for him, since I knew him. And so the show started as a musical tribute to Charles Schultz, and it did pretty well,” he said. “Then I collaborated with a very famous stage producer and we made the focus more about Charlie Brown and Christmas and the audience took to that very well, and we decided to make that a Christmas tour, because it seemed like everybody likes Charlie Brown around the holidays.”
This is fourth “Charlie Brown Christmas” tour he’s done, and it doesn’t get tiresome for him.
“It makes people feel good. I would like to see this eventually become something like ‘The Nutcracker’ — a perennial, year-round experience that people can enjoy. I sure enjoy it.”
In every city, he books a children’s choir to perform with.
“The community gets to participate. It feels so right … to have children participate in the production. It’s really, really special.”
Selena Albright is the soloist.
His favorite part of the concert is a song called “Just Like Me,” where Albright talks about Charlie Brown and the little, dilapidated Christmas tree.
“I love that little moment. And of course I love the children’s choir and how they participate,” he said. “This year we’re going to close the show with a piece called ‘Happiness’ from ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.’ I’m excited about that. It’s going to be fun.”
In April 2010, Benoit released “Earthglow.” He promised fans would get to hear songs from that new effort at the concert.
“That’s another part of the show I enjoy doing,” he said. “It’s always nice in the context of a Christmas show to get down and do some of the regular repertoire. I think the fans enjoy it. We take a little break from the Christmas for just a minute and have a little fun with the band and let them stretch a little bit. That definitely will be very much part of the show. We’ll probably do a few of my songs fans know me for — ‘Kei’s Song,’ ‘Freedom at Midnight,’ ‘Every Step of the Way.’ It’s going to have a little something for everybody.”