The holiday season is a festive time when families convene, congregations gather and feasters indulge. It’s also the time of year that features all kinds of music, especially Christmas carols and “The Nutcracker” ballet.

If you go

WHAT: The Charleston Jazz Orchestra’s Holiday SwingWHEN: 7 p.m. WednesdayWHERE: Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St., downtown CharlestonCOST: $25-$40MORE INFO: Call 641-0011 or visit

Most of us have our favorites — the tunes that strike a sentimental note, the tunes that fill us with cheer, the tunes that remind us of family and friends or childhood long ago. Now imagine taking those tunes and injecting the strut and swing of a big band. Imagine classic ballet music that’s blown with gusto through the horn and slapped about by the snare and toms. Imagine a “Waltz of the Flowers,” “Sugar Plum Fairy” or “Russian Dance” filtered through the sensibilities of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Imagine a big jazz blast from the stage.

That’s what you’ll get Wednesday night at the Charleston Music Hall, when the Charleston Jazz Orchestra offers its now classic “Holiday Swing.”

Hear a rendering of Tchaikovsky’s classic “Nutcracker” played Ellington’s way.

“It has become a family tradition and a band tradition,” said Leah Suarez, executive director of Jazz Artists of Charleston, which produces the CJO concerts. “This is the first piece of music we debuted as the Charleston Jazz Orchestra (four years ago). So this is always a very special time of year for us.”

The 7 p.m. show will feature highlights from the previous concerts, she said. “This has been a landmark season.”

It’s the first time programming featured arrangements and original works by local musicians and band members.

Charlton Singleton, conductor and artistic director of the jazz orchestra, said playing the Ellington-Strayhorn arrangement of “The Nutcracker” is always a big thrill.

The score was procured from the Smithsonian, which faxed a copy to Singleton. The score was penned by two of America’s greatest native talents.

“I’m looking at this stuff, and I’ll never forget it,” Singleton said. “I put that music down on the floor and I literally rolled around in it, because it was Duke’s handwriting and Billy’s handwriting.”

On Wednesday, under Singleton’s direction, the music will come alive once more.