Chuck Lazarus leads 'Merry & Bright'

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 13, 2013 - 4:03 PM

Locked-out Minnesota Orchestra player Charles Lazarus brings his “Merry & Bright” show to Wayzata.

Chuck Lazarus will play songs from his new “Merry and Bright” CD.


Trumpeter Charles Lazarus was on the road in Rockford, Ill., last week, when he spoke by phone about his big concert this Thursday in Wayzata. Lazarus, who might normally be playing with the Minnesota Orchestra this time of year, was on a multi-week tour with Elisabeth von Trapp (of the Family Von Trapp ... the Family Von Trapp ... They’re gone!).

Lazarus will bring a nine-piece brass band, along with five other instrumentalists and singers, to Wayzata Community Church on Thursday to perform the selections he has recorded on “Merry & Bright,” a 13-song Christmas CD.

It’s an eclectic collection: “Jingle Bells,” “Joy to the World,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “The Christmas Song” and the ancient hymn “Veni, Veni Emmanuel.”

Lazarus has a simple goal: Play great music people want to hear.

“In terms of this project, we’re trying to create a great family-centered holiday show that people can look forward to every year,” he said.

Lazarus has always forged his own path with music — at the same time he’s been a member of the orchestra. He works in many different groups, including his jazz quartet and this larger “all-brass big band,” which is the core of the “Merry & Bright” project.

Tommy Barbarella, who has toured with Prince, Art Garfunkel and Mavis Staples, plays keyboards with Lazarus and helped produce the CD. Bass player Jeff Bailey also gets a producing credit. Percussionist David Schmalenberger and vocalists Bruce Henry and Tonia Hughes fill out the personnel for the show.

“As I found my own voice, I realized I would have to create my own path,” Lazarus said.

A key backer has been Paul Grangaard, a member of the Minnesota Orchestra board of directors. The two have discussed for several years possible projects, and Grangaard strategized on arrangements and songs for the “Merry & Bright” CD. Grangaard also provided significant financial support, although he says he’s also been a sounding board for ideas.

“I’m not only writing checks,” Grangaard said.

Lazarus said he has always been able to make touring work around his schedule. He’s done more with the orchestra locked out, but he has also used the time to compose and arrange new music.

“It’s like anything else,” he said. “You get out of it what you put into it.”


Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299


    What: A big, brassy Christmas concert featuring Charles Lazarus.

    When: 7 p.m. Thu.

    Where: Wayzata Community Church, 125 E. Wayzata Blvd.

    Tickets: $15-$20, at the door.

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