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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: December 3, 2018

It’s ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’ and all that jazz, at One Longfellow Square

Written by: Bob Keyes

Heather Pierson, with Shawn Nadeau, left, on bass and Craig Bryan on drums, embraces the music of the late composer and pianist Vince Guaraldi.
Photo courtesy of Heather Pierson Acoustic Trio

Heather Pierson figured she could do one night, maybe two.

The New Hampshire pianist grossly underestimated the popularity of her “A Charlie Brown Christmas” concert, which is now up to a dozen or so dates each holiday season across New Hampshire and Maine. With her acoustic trio, Pierson will perform the music from the seminal holiday TV special at 4 and 7 p.m. Sunday at One Longfellow Square in Portland and at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Bangor Arts Exchange.

Don’t sleep on tickets. Previous performances at One Longfellow Square have sold out, prompting Pierson to add a second show in Portland.

“When I started doing this concert six or seven years ago, I thought I would do it locally, just one show and see how people liked it,” said Pierson, who lives in North Conway, New Hampshire. “People responded so overwhelmingly well to it, I decided to keep it going.”

The concert celebrates her love of the music of the late Vince Guaraldi, who wrote the jazz piano score for the TV special. His song “Linus and Lucy” became the coda for Charlie Brown and his friends from Charles M. Schultz’s “Peanuts” comic. She and her bandmates, Shawn Nadeau on bass and Craig Bryan on drums, will play the entire score from the TV show, as well as other songs written by Guaraldi.

“I like to make the point that Vince wasn’t just the ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ guy. He was just the guy who wrote ‘Linus and Lucy.’ He was a great composer and arranger and a talented pianist. We present all of his music from the recording, and some other things that he wrote that do not have any connection to the ‘Peanuts,’ ” she said.

Guaraldi’s music turned her on to jazz when she was 5. “Every Christmas, I was glued to the TV to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special and to hear that music. It was something that was always with me,” she said. “It’s amazing how many other people have similar connections to that music. People of a certain age, the first jazz they ever heard was the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I think that’s awesome. I say playing jazz is one of the most patriotic things you can do. It’s truly an American art form.”

The Heather Pierson Acoustic Trio is loyal to Guaraldi’s arrangement, though the nature of jazz allows room for interpretation. “Some people have told me they appreciate our interpretation of it, but it’s about the body of work, about Vince and the emotion created with his arrangements. We try to stay as faithful as possible and preserve the feel of the arrangement. It’s not exactly the same, but if this part is swinging, we’re swinging.”

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” with the Heather Pierson Acoustic Trio

WHEN: 4 and 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $25
INFO: onelongfellowsquare.com,  (207) 761-1757

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