Chippewa Valley Jazz and Symphony Orchestras Team up to Dish out the Classics

Lauren Fisher

DOUBLE TIME. Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra director Nobu Yasuda (left) has joined forces with Chippewa Valley Jazz Orchestra Director Bruce Hering.
DOUBLE TIME. Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra director Nobu Yasuda (left) has joined forces with Chippewa Valley Jazz Orchestra Director Bruce Hering.

The Chippewa Valley Symphony and Jazz Orchestras will team up Dec. 7 and 8 at the Pablo Center RCU Theatre to celebrate classical music in all its traditional splendor – and explore a more modern, jazzy take on old themes. At Let’s Go Nut(s)cracker!, The two groups will play hot-potato with Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Brahm’s Hungarian Dance no. 5, and other classic pieces, trading off between established tradition and unexpected interpretation. The second half will take a holiday turn as the ensemble presents Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, trading movements between the Symphony and Jazz groups.

“We didn’t want a dance band or a reading band. We wanted a band that actually played on the stage, and played ‘serious jazz music.’” – Bruce Hering

This is the second time the Jazz and Symphony Orchestras have partnered to present the Nutcracker Suite. In fact, it was their very first collaboration presented nearly 10 years ago at Memorial High School. The idea was born at the Joynt, where, as former CVJO director Bruce Hering said, “many great ideas of civilization have happened.” He and the Jazz Orchestra president, Geoff Peterson, wanted to form a new kind of jazz ensemble in the Valley.

“We didn’t want a dance band or a reading band,” Hering said. “We wanted a band that actually played on the stage, and played ‘serious jazz music.’”  They, along with Symphony Orchestra Director Nobu Yasuda, planned to launch the newly formed Jazz Orchestra with the joint Nutcracker concert in 2008, but a snowstorm forced a cancellation until the following year when it all came together.

“The audience went bonkers,” Hering said.  “People raved about it.  It was extremely well-received and it gave us our lift-off.”

Though Hering has since retired and moved to Madison, he is commuting to Eau Claire to direct the revival of the joint concert in the Pablo Center.  He’s energized by the rehearsals, by seeing long-time friends and students again, and by the opportunity to give the audience a chance to explore two styles of music through familiar pieces.

Yasuda is also excited to revisit the concert, this time on the RCU stage.  “This is everybody’s dream,” he said of the Pablo Center, and though this won’t be his first concert at the venue, he finds himself wondering if he’s dreaming every time he steps out before the crowd. It was the absence of a reliable and appropriately sized venue that prevented the two ensembles from revisiting the concept after the initial performance; now the way has been cleared for them to work together again.

The two groups will only have one rehearsal together before the first performance.  This is one of the most exciting elements of the show to Yasuda, who is looking forward to hearing how the Jazz Orchestra interprets the classic pieces.  He had the opportunity to listen to recordings of the arrangements they will use, but only gave them a cursory listen.

“I didn’t want to know too much, because it might take out my joy of the surprise of listening,” he said.  He imagines that his symphony will present the original songs to the Jazz group like a prize fish, and Hering’s musicians will cook it with all the spice and flavor of jazz. “They’re going to make an incredible dish,” Yasuda said.

Hering also pointed out that the concert is a family-oriented event.

“There will be little kids in the audience, because this is definitely a family thing,” Hering said. “If this is their first big musical experience … these kids are going to be wide-eyed and they’re not going to put a dividing line between classical and jazz. How cool is that? It’s just music! And that’s awesome!”

Tickets for Let’s Go Nut(s)cracker! at the RCU Theatre at the Pablo Center are available online at www.pablocenter.org.  There will be two performances: one on Dec. 7 at 7:30pm, and one Dec. 8 at 2pm.

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