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Annual Christmas Gala Jazz to feature Charlie Brown, Nutcracker

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Some of the best-known jazz music of the season will be front and center for Bethel College’s annual Christmas Gala Jazz concert.

The performance, featuring Jazz Ensembles I and II, is Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center. It is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support jazz studies and performance at Bethel.

Joel Linscheid is finishing his first semester directing jazz studies at Bethel, which includes all college jazz groups as well as the Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble, an auditioned high school honors group. Linscheid has a two-year assignment while James Pisano is on leave for Ph.D. studies.

“Since the Dec. 6 concert is part of Bethel’s Christmas Gala, it’s always fun to feature some arrangements of Christmas music,” Linscheid said. “Both ensembles will be playing a few holiday tunes.

“We’ll feature music from two of the greatest jazz Christmas albums ever released: Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to the Charlie Brown Christmas special, and Duke Ellington’s Harlem Nutcracker Suite.”

Jazz Ensemble II will kick off the program with “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” by Duke Ellington and Bob Russell, arranged by Gordon Goodwin, and “Sesos de Huesos” by Robert “Beto” Skiles, arranged by Bob Meyer.

They’ll wrap up with two from A Charlie Brown Christmas: “Christmas Time is Here” by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson, arranged by David Pugh, and “Linus and Lucy” by Guaraldi, arranged by David Holmes.

Jazz Ensemble II personnel are: saxophones, Matt Lind, Hesston, Jacob Anderson, freshman from Newton, Ryan Fritz, freshman from Salina, and Chase Ebeling, junior from Hutchinson; trumpets, Isaac Dunn, freshman from Fresno, Calif., Andrew Ewy, sophomore from Parlier, Calif., and Ethan Knight, junior from Moundridge; drums, Dalton Smith, senior from Burrton; bass, Joe Kondziola, senior from North Newton; and piano, Mika Patron, sophomore from North Newton.

In the second half, Jazz Ensemble I will play a program made up entirely of music by Duke Ellington.

“Ellington is one of the most prolific and influential composers in jazz history,” Linscheid said. “He wrote more than 3,000 compositions – everything from ballets and extended suites to dance music and film scores.

“His music contains the perfect balance of sophistication and swing. It’s very complex and therefore difficult to perform correctly. I’m proud of the band for the work they’ve put into it. They’re playing Ellington’s music at a very high level.”

The Jazz Ensemble I set list is “Main Stem,” “Rockabye River,” “All Too Soon” and “Jack the Bear,” all written by Ellington, and two selections from The Harlem Nutcracker, based on The Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and arranged by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, “IV. Sugar Rum Cherry” and “V. Peanut Brittle Brigade.”

Jazz Ensemble I personnel are: saxophones, Joel Boettger, senior from Hesston, Daniel Barrera, senior from Newton, Paul Voran, senior from Newton, Westen Gesell, freshman from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Carl Lehmann, senior from Marion, S.D.; trumpets, Kyle Doesken, Derby, Evan Koch, senior from Colorado Springs, Colo., Tim Regier, sophomore from Newton, and Braden Unruh, sophomore from Goessel; trombones, Joshua Janzen, freshman from Aurora, Neb., Andrew Thiesen, freshman from Newton, Rebecca Trumble, senior from Newton, and Issei Tsuji, sophomore from Chiba-shi, Japan; drums, Adam Voth, junior from Goddard; bass, Landon Bartel, Newton; and piano, Ian Gingrich-Gaylord, Newton.

“One my favorite pieces is Ellington’s take on the famous Nutcracker Suite,” Linscheid said. “He and his longtime arranging partner and musical collaborator Billy Strayhorn have taken this iconic music by Tchaikovsky and made it swing.

“The whole suite is fantastic. I think the audience will recognize the tunes and enjoy Ellington’s unique interpretations.”

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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