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Classical 101

Sleigh Ride Season and Leroy Anderson

As far as the weather goes in Columbus, it's not too hard to get into the holiday spirit. It's right on cue. With Thanksgiving behind us and almost three weeks to go before Christmas, snowflakes are falling and so is the thermometer. We just had the Holiday Hop in the Short North this past Saturday and the Village Lights event, with candle lit sidewalks and shoppers strolling through German Village, Sunday evening. For some reason, all this makes me think of Leroy Anderson and Sleigh Ride. Sleigh Ride is, of course, that perennially popular melody with a jaunty theme, jingling bells, cracking whip, and horses neighing that's hard to miss this time of year. Anderson had a knack for writing short, lighthearted orchestral pieces that were catchy enough to become hits -- that's back in the day when you might actually hear an orchestra on a station other than those broadcasting classical music. Leroy Anderson (1908-1975), who was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will forever be associated with one of Boston's best-loved institutions: the Boston Pops.

Leroy Anderson writes hit after hit

When Arthur Fiedler, the legendary and long-time director of the Boston Pops asked the young band arranger for an original composition, a long and productive association ensued. Beginning in 1938 with Jazz Pizzicato, a seemingly endless string of hits came forth, both in the concert hall and on the radio as well: Jazz Legato, The Syncopated Clock, Promenade, The Typewriter, Bugler's Holiday, Trumpeter's Lullaby, the list goes on and on.  Blue Tango, from 1951, was the first instrumental recording to sell one million copies, and the Boston Pops recording of "Sleigh Ride" was the first orchestral piece to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Music charts. The funny thing is that Sleigh Ride wasn't conceived as a Christmas tune. In fact, Anderson got the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July of 1946. He completed it in early 1948 and the Boston Pops made the first of several recordings of Sleigh Ride in the following year. Today, it continues to be listed as one of the top ten most performed songs written by ASCAP members during the Christmas season worldwide, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Nowadays, when we hear the tune, we may possibly associate it with crowded shopping malls filled with people rushing to and fro for the best deal. But when we step outside into the cold, brisk air in the parking lot, trying to remember where we left the car, perhaps, if that happy melody is still echoing in our minds, we might picture a different setting, one far from the city, gliding through the countryside over the snow as in a Currier and Ives print of years gone by. It's a really nice tune! Enjoy.