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Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas

December 2, 2016 12:55 am
Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas

decal2Welcome to Day 2 of our
25 Day Ottawa Life
Christmas Calendar

We’ll be updating with a
new treat daily so be sure
to keep checking under the
OLM Tree 
to see what’s new.

All images by Andre Gagne.

Listen to our full interview with Jerry Granelli above.

If the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s holiday classic “Christmas Time is Here” doesn’t instantly bring to mind images of a round headed barber’s son, a loudmouth fussbudget and an imaginative beagle you must have been living in a desert near Needles for the last five decades. Good grief.

With lyrics written in 15 minutes on the backside of an envelope, the song has become the soundtrack to the Christmas season whether it be background music while carving the turkey, sung along to while wrapping gifts or something you quickly turn off the thousandth time it comes on the car radio during the first week of December.

The song is a classic but 51 years ago when three jazz musicians stepped into Fantasy Recording Studios in San Francisco, to them, it was just another gig. Sure,  a gig for the first animated special of a popular comic strip but, still, just a gig. They’d come in, lay down their jazzer Christmas cuts, pocket their pay, and then hit up the jazz club in the evening to jam as they always did. Overall, the work that would become their legacy, took a total of three hours and they netted about $68. .

While we can now look back at A Charlie Brown Christmas as much part of the holiday season as Santa, Rudolph and an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air riffle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time, not everybody was confident in the Peanuts gang’s transition to television back in 1965. In fact, along with the music that became so attached to the beloved characters, A Charlie Brown Christmas almost didn’t make it to a first airing.


“CBS said no,” recalls Vince Guaraldi Trio drummer Jerry Granelli of the network’s disdain for the final product. “We’re not going have jazz music on television and we’re not going to have a little kid tell us the spirit of Christmas.”

Granelli was in his early 20s at the time he was offered a coveted spot in Vince’s trio. Though he’d had moderate success, scoring for film and television was relatively new for Guaraldi’s band. Writing a few tracks for a documentary on Peanuts creator Charles Schultz was what eventually lead to writing the music for the Christmas special though, having not seen a single frame of film, the trio kind of just improvised like most good jazz musicians will.

When they turned in their soundtrack it was promptly rejected by the network. While CBS was dealing with a mountain of problems it had with the special, the music would stay shelved.


Though it had taken a bit of time (the strip had debuted over ten years earlier), by the early ‘60s Schultz’s comic strip had become a worldwide sensation. Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and especially Snoopy had evolved beyond the printed page and became part of the growing social consciousness of a decade that would see much change. For Granelli, Peanuts was on the crest of a wave that would soon wash over the 1960s and change everything.

“We were coming off the ‘50s Ozzie and Harriet and people were no longer believing in that. Schultz was right in that stream and people identified,” he says. “People could read (the comic) and feel kind of safe in one way and challenged in another way. These little characters were so sweet but there was an edge to them.”

It was an edge that paired nicely with the creative leaps jazz music was making at the time. Jazz pianist Guaraldi had been experimenting with the genre prior to putting his now iconic trio together. When Granelli came along on drums and Fred Marshall on bass things clicked and their live playing became more cutting edge.

“We were playing pretty outrageously for the time,” recalls Granelli. “People like Miles Davis came every night. (Vince) was playing with this edge to him and when Schultz heard the trio he became a fan.”


CBS, however, did not and it wasn’t until they were pressed by Coca-Cola –who was the main advertiser– that network executives reluctantly agreed to air the special. To them, it was a one off, something people would see and then forget and the special would vanish into ether never to air again. They were about as wrong as Charlie Brown’s ill-fated belief of his ability to kick a football.

When it first aired on December 9, 1965, the special was watched by over half the viewing audience of North America. Unlike the Great Pumpkin, it would be seen again each holiday season introducing new generations to Charlie Brown and Snoopy. For many, the special became the much watch event of the season with Christmas not quite being Christmas without at least one viewing.

charlie-brown-xmas-8-of-13wAs for the soundtrack, it went 3x platinum and became one of the highest selling jazz albums of all time, something that is still surprising to Granelli. For a while, he didn’t even include A Charlie Brown Christmas on his resume. In fact, a man who helped create the music that is part of so many’s holiday cheer actually doesn’t really like Christmas at all.

“I hate Christmas,” Granelli chuckles through this very Charlie Brown-like statement. “I’ve never been happy at Christmas in my whole life. Even as a kid it was always disappointing.”

Still, even with his dislike of the season Granelli eventually decided to revisit the music for the first time in its entirety a few years before the 50th Anniversary.

Granelli, the last surviving member of the trio, had watched the rise in popularity of the special but had never been inspired to perform it outside of a few tracks here and there. He had been approached over the years by people wanting him to make imitations of the soundtrack but he declined all offers. It took nearly 5 decades, but he finally came around to seeing how he could perform the piece, tour it and still maintain the integrity of the music people had come to value each December.

“I could finally see it as a piece artistically, a statement I could make without trying to recreate something. I was looking for a place of comfort, someplace to go and I feel now I can not do anything less than the spirit it was (originally) done with.”


Now a Canadian citizen, Granelli launched Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas four years ago. Part concert, part storytelling, part film screening and all heart, the show has the drummer sharing his memories and music with new audiences who all leave with a smile.

The piece had it roots in Ottawa where it was first performed and it has returned every year as a special festive presentation by the Ottawa Jazz Festival. The show has included local choirs of youngsters as well as one or two kids playing some of the Peanuts gang.


Granelli remains in awe of the love the music receives. The first time he performed the piece he nearly couldn’t get through it, so shocked by all the joy in the room that his hands wouldn’t stop shaking.

“It’s just overwhelming. Right now with what’s going on in the world it feels great to go out and do something where people will feel pretty joyful for an hour and a half. It’s totally amazing.”

Does it make him look forward to the Christmas season now, one may wonder? Granelli laughs and admits that it does.

“I look forward to the tour.”

It’s not hard to see why. Just look over those leaving Dominion-Chalmers United Church last night. They were families with wide-eyed kids, beaming parents, grandparents, and maybe even a few great-grandparents. Many were repeating popular lines from the show. Some of the kids were acting like Snoopy and dancing in the aisles. Many were humming the music. You’d be hard pressed to find a single person in that crowd not filled with some slice of holiday happiness. This is the joyful warmth –like that found in, say, a good blanket– that the special and its music wraps around you.

Family?  Happiness? Joy? That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Warm your heart and Soul This Weekend with Empire of the Son

December 1, 2016 1:14 pm
Warm your heart and Soul This Weekend with Empire of the Son

Empire of the Son, the latest production at the NAC, keeps up with the stellar theatrical offerings of artistic director Jillian Keily.  The show is real, a theatrical biography of the family of Tetsuro Shigematsu (former host of CBC Radio One’s The Roundup) who wrote and stars in the show.  As part of his doctoral program, he interviewed his dad, whose health was deteriorating, to get his stories and to capture his experiences as a child in WWII Japan, as a broadcaster in the UK and in Canada at the CBC.  However, he also set out to capture his father as a person, a man, husband and father.  We get glimpses of other members of his family, from his mother to his sisters and children.

Tetsuro is electrifying on stage.  His presence is magnetic and moving and his telling of his dad’s story as his dad’s health slowly disintegrated is touching, supremely intimate and many times hilarious through self-deprecating humour that is both very moving and funny.  He tells his stories with incredible humility, respect for his family, love and respect for his culture and with honesty.  He is absolutely captivating.

empireoftheson_raymond_shum-12While the focus is most definitely on the narrative, he backs up his story with interesting use of light, cameras, and magnifying small objects for visual effect.  Videos, audio and pictures also support his story and bring his family to life.  It all works flawlessly.

It is a one-man show and he does it all.   When it is finished, you are left wanting more.  It is a short play — not even 90 minutes.

Be sure to give yourself some extra time to get to the theatre because the entrances are all messed up because of the construction.

Empire of the Son runs until Saturday.  Don’t miss it because it is outstanding. www.nac.ca

Light Up Your Ottawa Life Contest Begins NOW!

12:00 am
Light Up Your Ottawa Life Contest Begins NOW!

decal1Welcome to Day 1 of our
25 Day Ottawa Life
Christmas Calendar

We’ll be updating with a new treat daily so be sure to check under the 

OLM Tree to see what’s there each day.

Now we know these things usually end with a big surprise but we
thought why not start there with a huge prize pack giveaway!

We’ve been teasing it for weeks but can now officially ask you:

Get your cameras ready! How’s what you got to do to enter:

  1. Send a SINGLE photo of your holiday display (house lights, tree, Christmas village) to: olmlightup@gmail.com
    NOTE: You MUST be a resident of the National Capital Region and those who submit
    more than one image will not be considered. Images must be submitted between December 1st and (noon) December 16th.
  2. Ensure that your NAME is included as well as a NUMBER and EMAIL where we can contact you. Those with no valid email or contact number are ineligible.
  3. Wait to see if you win!

Pretty simple huh?

Ottawa Life staff will vote on winning entrants on DECEMBER 16 and we will be in contact with the winners. Winners WILL BE VERIFIED (as we hope to drop off the package to you and get a photo of your winnings with your display) so please ensure the image you send is yours and from this year. (Be honest Santas and not Google Grinches).

Please see FULL CONTEST RULES below.

We have three fabulous prize packs you can choose from (Our top pick gets first choice, second gets second and, well, you get the idea!). Okay, now to the good stuff.

Start your escape with 2 nights accommodations for two at the beautiful
Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid! Enjoy a Celtic holiday treat for the ears
with 2 tickets to Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy: A Celtic Family Christmas
at the National Arts Centre then treat your hair with $200 worth of hair care
products and a $25 gift certificate from Deluca Hair. Take a musical journey
through Germany and Italy with CDs from Claudio Ottaviano Trio and
Di Meschugeles and a trip to the Arctic with Norman Hallendy’s book
An Intimate Wilderness: Arctic Voices in a Land of Vast Horizons.
More reading travel can be done with Will Ferguson’s hilarious Canadian Pie.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten you campers out there. We’re throwing
in an MSR Portable Stove Kit! Finally, toast your beautiful escape
with a bottle of Amazing Wine from Savvy!

Actually, this could be a few nights on the town! First, enjoy some quality
jazz with tickets to the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival. You’ll also have your
choice of  a show by The Assad Brothers (Feb. 11) or Les Boréades
de Montréal (Apr. 10) courtesy of the Ottawa International Chamber
Music Festival. Get ready for you night on the town with manicure
and pedicure kits from Amope! You can listen to the fantastic new album
House of Many Rooms by Laila Biali while you try out your
new Dafni Hair Straightening Brush. Toast your night out with a
bottle of Amazing Wine from Savvy. There’s no better way to end your
night out than with a morning in. We’re giving you a new
Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker
to start the day off right!

love-localWho doesn’t love local? We sure do and we’ve put together some of
the best of what Ottawa has to offer. We’ll start you off with a slew of CDs
(and one vinyl) from lots of fantastic local musicians including: Moonfruits,
The Peptides, Monday I Retire, John Allaire, Lynne Hanson,
Harea Band and so much more! Also, love local early this holiday season
with two tickets to Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 18) performed by local choir
Seventeen Voyces and Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra. Ottawa’s
top local movie house The Mayfair has two movie tickets for you and
why not visit the House of Targ across the street for a pierogi dinner.
Stay for some pinball! Take in either the Aviation Museum
or Agriculture Museum with a 2 for 1 pass. We’ve also got some SENS
merch and CHIN Radio swag to give you and wear your local love
with a tee from LIVE! on Elgin. Local authors have added to the mix
with the new book The Other Side of Reason by David B. Gibson and
Ottawa Food: A Hungry Capital by Don Chow and Jennifer Lim. We’ve got
some issues of Ottawa Life to add to that reading list. Oh yeah, did we
mentioned we’re throwing in a gift pack
of our favorite local BEAU’S brews?

ALL three prize packs will continue a jar of tasty Nutella!

1) Contest commences 12 a.m. EST on Thursday December 1, 2016 and ends at noon,Friday December 16, 2016.
2) No purchase necessary.
3) The are three prize packages available to be won with only one pack per person. Prize must be accepted as awarded, without substitution and are not convertible to cash. Prize packs are subject to change.
4) The contest is open only to residents of the National Capital Region that over 18 years of age. Employees of Ottawa Life Magazine, or any of their affiliates, or any of their respective advertising and promotional agencies or contest organizations, or persons with whom any of such employees are domiciled is not eligible to enter. Decisions of the contest organizers and their representatives are final. The odds of being selected depend upon the total number of entries received.
4a) The winner will be contacted via email or number provided on December 16th. By entering the contest the winner agrees that they are in compliance with the contest rules and acceptance of the prize as awarded. By entering this contest entrants release Ottawa Life Magazine, contest organizers, their affiliates, officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives from all claims, demands, damages, liabilities, costs and expenses relating to the administration of the contest and use of the prize, including without limitation, personal injury, death, property damage, loss, accident or misfortune relating to all aspects of the contest, including without limitation, the administration thereof and the use of the prize.
5) Ottawa Life staff will vote on entrants on December 16th and three will be chosen. The first place chosen will get to select which package they would like first, the second would choose from the remaining two and the third would be given the package that is left.  To win, the selected entrant must comply with these contest rules.
6) The contest is subject to applicable federal, provincial and municipal laws and is void where prohibited.
7) The participants, by entering the contest and the winner, by accepting the prize, consent to the use of their name and/or photograph or other likeness in any publicity carried out by the contest organizers without compensation.
8) Ottawa Life Magazine Inc. or their designated representative will make a maximum of two (2) attempts to contact selected entrant by email or phone (using the information provided at the time of entry) within 24 hours of contest end date. Should we not be able to reach them another entrant will be selected.
9) Ottawa Life Magazine Inc. reserves the right, in their sole and absolute discretion, and without prior notice, to adjust any of the dates and/or time frames stipulated in these Rules, to the extent necessary, for purposes of verifying compliance by any entrant or Entry with these Rules, or as a result of technical problems, or in light of any other circumstances which, in the opinion of Ottawa Life Magazine Inc., in their sole and absolute discretion, affect the proper administration of the Contest as contemplated in these Rules.

$1.5 Million Donation Bolsters Ottawa Art Gallery Expansion

November 30, 2016 12:01 pm
$1.5 Million Donation Bolsters Ottawa Art Gallery Expansion


The Ottawa Art Gallery is celebrating its largest private donation to its Art Now-L’art ici Capital Campaign. On Tuesday night, John and Jennifer Ruddy announced they are donating $1.5 million from their Trinity Development Foundation. The money will go towards the OAG’s new gallery, which will be located at 50 Mackenzie King Bridge and is scheduled to open in Fall 2017.


“We are happy to support the Ottawa Art Gallery Expansion, for what will be a game changing building for our community,” said John Ruddy, Executive Chairman of Trinity Development Group. “We believe that the arts are an important aspect of any thriving community and we are proud to have a hand in helping to keep the Ottawa Art Gallery active and vibrant for years to come.”

The exterior of the OAG Expansion will be named the John Ruddy Cube. The new OAG is currently under construction just next door to its present location. With the new addition, the gallery will expand to more than 80 000 square feet. It will house a 250 seat multipurpose and multidisciplinary screening space that will be home to the Canadian Film Institute. In addition, there will be a changing exhibition gallery, a permanent collection gallery, a studio for workshops, a café, a gallery shop for visitors, and a new dedicated gallery space for the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art.


The expansion will also include a private sector mixed use residential complex and a boutique hotel.

To date, $5.1 million has been raised by the Capital Campaign committee for the OAG expansion. The donations will fund both the expansion construction costs as well as future OAG programming and exhibitions.

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