Thursday, December 24, 2009

Vince Guaraldi Trio: O Tannenbaum

For the Christmas Season, our TV Thursday feature is the Vince Guaraldi Trio with “O Tannenbaum.” I am not certain if the various Peanuts’ TV specials were aired outside of the US, but those in America will surely recognize today’s recording as coming from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” was the first of several prime time animated specials based on the Peanuts comic strip. Released in 1965, it was also the first opportunity for many Americans to hear the piano stylings of the late Vince Guaraldi. While network executives were horrified at the choice of Guaraldi’s soundtrack, it was one of the defining moments in the success of this and future Peanuts specials.

The story is told that the special’s producer, Lee Mendelson, heard a Guaraldi recording on the radio during a cab ride across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Mendelson recognized this as the sound he envisioned and contacted Guaraldi who accepted the offer and began to score out the tunes. Joining Guaraldi on this recording were drummer Jerry Granelli and bassist Puzzy Firth.

In February 1976, Guaraldi was found dead in his hotel room. He was resting between sets at a local nightspot when he succumbed to a heart attack. Previously in the day, he finished recording the soundtrack for “It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown.”

“O Tannenbaum” or “O Christmas Tree” was written by Ernst Anschütz in 1824. Anschütz, a Leipzig, Saxony organist drew upon older works to complete this 19th century Christmas carol. In the writing of this piece, Anschütz borrowed a German folk tune and similar lyrical content that dated to the 16th century. The song has become a popular Christmas song in Germany and elsewhere.

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas.

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