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The Harlem Nutcracker

The Philly POPS Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia

December 18, 2021
Zellerbach Theatre
Guest Events

The Philly POPS Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia returns to the stage with its annual holiday tradition—The Philly POPS Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia Holiday Celebration.

For the first set, the JOP, under the direction of POPS Artistic Director for Jazz Terell Stafford, will present Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s Harlem Nutcracker. Released in 1960, Ellington and Strayhorn’s Harlem Nutcracker infused the music of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite with vivacious jazzy energy, featuring song names like “Peanut Brittle Brigade” (based on the “March”) and “Sugar Rum Cherry” (based on the “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy”). The suite shows off Ellington and Strayhorn’s versatility as composers and arrangers—with the pieces covering a wide range of musical sounds, emotions and locales. This is the JOP’s seventh presentation of the Harlem Nutcracker, a tradition started to honor the great saxophonist, Jimmy Heath.

“The Harlem Nutcracker is an important tradition for The Philly POPS Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, and for me as well,” said Artistic Director for Jazz Terell Stafford. “It takes all of those holiday Nutcracker favorites and makes them swing—each in their own interesting ways. I’m glad to welcome one of my master’s students from Temple—and seven-year POPS Pathways Co-Op student—John Meko, on trumpet for his first full performance with the Jazz Orchestra.”

In the second half of the show, the JOP will celebrate the 100th birthday of jazz saxophone legend Charlie Parker. For this set, Terell has selected guest artists Charles McPherson and Jaleel Shaw, along with JOP saxophonist Dick Oatts, to represent Charlie Parker’s style.

“Charles McPherson, Jaleel Shaw and Dick Oatts are three of the best saxophonists in the world,” said Stafford. “Each of them is able to embody the spirit and playing of Charlie Parker like few others can. And as someone who has influenced almost every modern jazz musician, it’s an honor to celebrate Bird on his 100th birthday.”

Have a swinging Christmas with The Philly POPS Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia!

Performance Repertoire:

Set 1
Harlem Nutcracker Suite arr. Ellington, Strayhorn

Set 2

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