CHRISTMAS wouldn't be Christmas without a performance of the Nutcracker Suite – and Span Arts is kicking off its celebrations with a Nutcracker with a difference.

Arranged by jazz legend Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, this version of parts of Tchaikovsky's ballet suite was first recorded in 1960 and will be performed at the Queens Hall, Narberth, by the impressive forces of the 18-piece Royal Welsh College Big Band tomorrow (Thursday).

The band is going from strength to strength under the directorship of Robert 'Teddy' Smith and in the second half will continue celebrating the work of Ellington through a swinging selection of songs, paying homage to the great vocalists of the time such as Ella Fitzgerald and Mahalia Jackson.

The Nutcracker was not Ellington's only reworking of major works from the classical repertoire. Others included Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite.

As orchestrators and harmonists, Ellington and Strayhorn found inspiration in Debussy and Ravel but their reworking of The Nutcracker was much more than simply 'jazzing up' some well-know tunes– and the result is a composition that is capable of standing up in its own right.

The event is supported by the Arts Council of Wales. Tickets in advance are: £13/£11/£5, and on the door: £15/£13/£7 (full/concession and member/ child). The music starts at 8pm. More information at