No one can deny Leroy Anderson’s contribution to not only the band community but to the world. His music has delighted millions over the past 80 years, however, this time of year we are especially reminded how significant his contribution was to the American fabric. Over the first few weeks of December, bands around the world will be performing one or both of Anderson’s most popular compositions, Sleigh Ride and A Christmas Festival.
As you program his music this season, here are some fun facts to share with your students and audiences.
Sleigh Ride was composed during a heat wave!
In a PBS interview in the 1960s , Leroy Anderson discussed this composition:
And “Sleigh Ride”, I remember, was just an idea because, it was just a pictorial thing, it wasn’t necessarily Christmas music, and it was written during the heat wave. As a matter of fact, the strange thing is that it seems that all the winter or Christmas things I’ve done have been in heat waves, it was true of the Christmas Festival because you see in this case it was done for recording and Christmas music is recorded, at the latest, in July, because the records must be all processed and everything must be done and reshipped to the distributors by October 1st…
Perhaps instead of Santa hats, we should don Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts at our next concert!
Leroy Anderson was a band director
Leroy Anderson played trombone while a student at Harvard. He performed with the orchestra as well as the band. In 1928, Leroy assumed the role of director for the Harvard Band. During his tenure, he arranged much of the band’s standard repertoire to elevate the musicianship of the band.
It was also during this time that he was introduced to Arthur Fiedler, and began his relationship with the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops
Leroy Anderson was a spy??
Ok… maybe a “spy” is stretching it. However, Leroy Anderson was drafted into the army during the Second World War where he served as a linguist in the Army Intelligence branch.
At Harvard, Andrersons major field of study was not music but languages. Leroy was fluent in several languages and used his extensive knowledge to aid Allied Forces in the War. It may not have been the type of intelligence operations we see in the latest Bond films, but his contributions in the Top Secret branch helped pave the way to the Allied victory in World War II.
If you search Leroy Anderson on IMDB, you will find over 150 references credited to his work. One of his most famous film credits comes from actor and comedian, Jerry Lewis, and his 1963 movie Who’s Minding the Store? A scene in the film features Leroy Anderson’s The Typewriter which premiered about a decade before the film. In the composition, Anderson uses a typewriter as a featured solo percussion instrument with orchestral accompaniment.
In addition to this composition, Andersons works can be heard in contemporary films shows like Elf starring Will Ferrell, The Simpsons, and Marvel’s Hawkeye.
Leroy Anderson was known to write the published wind band transcriptions of his orchestral works. Both Sleigh Ride and A Christmas Festival are examples of orchestral works which transcribed for wind band publication.