Seattle's Child

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Dr. Seuss meets Charlie Brown in a family concert Sunday in Seattle

Philharmonia Northwest will perform "The Peanuts Concerto" along with “The Sneetches,” a symphonic poem for narrator and orchestra based on the Dr. Seuss book.


Two beloved children's stories will be presented musically Sunday at Town Hall as Philharmonia Northwest, with New York-based concert pianist Jeffrey Biegel, plays the West Coast premiere of “The Peanuts Concerto,” a new orchestration of Vince Guaraldi’s music from the Peanuts TV specials.

They’ll also perform “The Sneetches,” by Lorenzo Palomo, a symphonic poem for narrator and orchestra, with the text by Dr. Seuss.

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As the story goes, at the beginning, there are two kinds of Sneetches, those with green stars on their bellies, and those without. Those who have them look down on those who don’t. A huckster named Sylvester McMonkey McBean arrives with a machine that puts stars on Sneetch bellies for $3, and Seussian mayhem ensues.

Seuss wrote "The Sneetches" in 1953, inspired by his opposition to antisemitism. In the age of social media, Seuss’s observations on discrimination and herd behavior retain their satirical bite.

Philharmonia Northwest will have Dr. Seuss’s vivid illustrations on a screen behind the orchestra. KIRO-FM talk show host Dave Ross will narrate.

The music echoes the action. There’s a tranquil theme for the Sneetches at play in their beach habitat, an aggressive theme for the strident sales-talk of Sylvester McMonkey McBean, and when the machines get going, they bring dissonance, heavy percussion, mixed meters and frantic sounds, says Philharmonia Northwest music director Julia Tai.

“The winds against the strings playing this nervous music,” Tai says. “It kind of portrays the machines running and the Sneetches running in and out.

When they reach the story’s happy ending, the tone changes.

“The end has a really moving melody for violins,” Tai says. “It’s the sound of happiness.”

The Peanuts concerto also celebrates a story that has endured across generations. Biegel, a lifelong fan of "Peanuts," says that though kids may not know what a newspaper comic strip is, they understand "Peanuts."

“Among people of all ages, someone is one of those characters or knows someone who was one of those characters. I think it kind of transcends all time. There will always be character like that.”

At different points in his life, he says, he’s been Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy, and of course, Schroeder, the piano-playing Beethoven superfan.

The concerto, orchestrated by Dick Tunney, takes Vince Guaraldi’s beloved music from the Peanuts TV specials and divides it between piano and full orchestra.

“It brings the sound more to life more in a big symphonic way,” Biegel says.

There will be "Peanuts" scenes projected on the screen. There are three movements. The final one is the Christmas movement.

Tai says the concerto should provide a new perspective on something beloved and familiar.

“I think it’s realy fun to hear the music that we know so well from the TV special in the concert form.”


If you go: Philharmonia Northwest plays “When Dr. Seuss Meets Charlie Brown: a Family Concert” 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, in the Great Hall at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle. Tickets $10-$30.


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