The music of the holiday season always includes:
Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring, ting, tingling too
Come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.
Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” has long been one of the most popular pieces of Christmas music in the United States, even though the word “Christmas” is never mentioned in the lyrics.1 According to Steve Metcalf writing in the Hartford Courant, “Sleigh Ride” has also been recorded by performers from a wider range of styles than any other piece in the history of Western music.2
This holiday favorite is only one of many Leroy Anderson compositions, written more than half a century ago, that have become an enduring part of both American concert and popular music.
Anderson’s “Blue Tango,” a sensual and dramatic dance with a sweeping melody, became the first orchestral piece to reach number one on the Billboard popular music chart. It remained at the top of the Hit Parade for twenty-two weeks and was named the top single of 1952. Anderson’s own recording of “Blue Tango” earned him a gold record, a first for an instrumental symphonic recording.3
Anderson also composed the whimsical, hummable, ticktocky “Syncopated Clock.” Written seventy-six years ago, it is still one of the most recognizable tunes today. Musicologist Howard Pollack declared that “Leroy Anderson’s orchestral miniatures, including ‘The Syncopated Clock,’ ‘Sleigh Ride,’ and ‘Blue Tango’ are among the best-known American concert music written after Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring.’”4 Most of us know his music, but few know anything about the man who wrote it. . . .
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1. “American Composer Leroy Anderson Wrote ‘Sleigh Ride’ in Woodbury Connecticut,” Leroy Anderson Foundation, http://www.leroyandersonfoundation.org/sleigh_ride.php (accessed November 11, 2021).
4. “Quotations about Leroy Anderson.”
5. “Leroy Anderson on Christmas and Christmas Music,” WTIC Radio, Hartford Connecticut, http://www.pbs.org/sleighride/From_Leroy/xmas_music.htm (accessed November 11, 2021).
6. “The Story of How ‘Sleigh Ride’ Was Written,” Leroy Anderson Foundation, http://www.leroyandersonfoundation.org/sleigh_ride.php (accessed November 11, 2021).
7. “Leroy Anderson,” PBS.
8. You can listen to both albums on YouTube and Spotify.
9. Kathy Warnes, “Leroy Anderson Captures Fun and Feelings in His Music,” History Because It’s Here, https://historybecauseitshere.weebly.com/leroy-anderson-captures-fun-and-feelings-in-his-music.html (accessed November 11, 2021).
10. “Leroy Anderson: Biography,” LeroyAnderson.com, updated November 19, 2020, http://www.leroyanderson.com/biography.php.
11. “Leroy Anderson,” PBS.
12. “Leroy Anderson: An Immigrants’ Son Takes a Sleigh Ride to the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” New England Historical Society, https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/leroy-anderson-immigrants-son-takes-sleigh-ride-hollywood-walk-fame/ (accessed November 11, 2021).
13. Joshua Kosman, “Don’t Discount Leroy Anderson’s Undervalued Musical Gems,” Datebook, February 5, 2020, https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/music/dont-discount-leroy-andersons-undervalued-musical-gems.
14. “Quotations about Leroy Anderson.”
15. Kosman, “Don’t Discount Leroy Anderson’s Undervalued Musical Gems.”
18. Anthony Tomassini, “Not Bach or Beethoven, but Leroy Anderson Is the Composer for Now,” New York Times, April 22, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/arts/music/leroy-anderson.html.