A One-of-a-Kind Nutcracker Night

The SSO is excited to team up with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra to bring you not one, but two Nutcracker Suites!

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet has proven to be one of the most timeless holiday traditions.  The composer capitalized on his incredible ballet to create one of the most fun and festive pieces in the orchestral repertoire.  Alongside Handel’s Messiah, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is  the musical signaling of the holiday season.

The Suite features dances from the ballet’s second act, and the melodies have gone on to become some of the most loved ever written.

At Christmas 1960, the composing duo managed something truly extraordinary: a successful reimagining of The Nutcracker Suite. This suite was first composed as a ballet score by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1892. It wasn’t until 68 years later that Ellington and Strayhorn released their own version, refocused through the lens of big band jazz.

In his original liner notes for the Ellington-Strayhorn Nutcracker Suite, record producer Irving Townsend included the fantastic fiction that Ellington met Tchaikovsky while Ellington’s orchestra was performing at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. Knowing that the Russian died in 1893, a full six years before the American was born, this meeting never could have happened in the literal sense. However, listening to the jazzed-up Nutcracker, one could imagine the work as a meeting place for

Ellington and Strayhorn did not simply place jazz rhythms over Tchaikovsky’s music. Instead, they picked up the notes, recast the beats, communed with the themes, and recreated the work, turning it into something that was at once completely their own and completely Tchaikovsky’s. In doing so, they showed that while music may be the universal language, it is spoken with many accents (and therein lies the fun).

So what can you expect at our Nutcracker Meets Duke Ellington concert?  Here’s an example…

Tchaikovsky wrote this…

And Ellington and Strayhorn created this little ditty….

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