ANDERSON, Leroy: Classical Juke Box
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LEROY ANDERSON Classical Juke Box
Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops
Original 1947-1950 recordings
The world-famous creator of the Christmas standard Sleigh Ride, Leroy Anderson assimilated many diverse styles. Drawing upon his vast musical culture he often parodied accepted classical forms, trends in contemporary jazz and dance and the works of Gershwin and other popular composers. While certainly less frequently heard on radio than not so long ago, his finely orchestrated, thematic studies in miniature with their fine melodies and wry comment on everyday life will still be instantly recognisable even to those who may since have forgotten his name.
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 29 June 1908, composer, arranger and conductor Leroy Anderson benefited from a comfortable, middle class East Coast upbringing. Immersed from an early age in classical music, he was actively encouraged by his organist mother, who gave him his first lessons in piano. While he took a precocious interest in several instruments (he was a fine double-bassist) the multi-talented Leroy made a special study of both piano and organ with Henry Gideon at the New England Conservatoire and double-bass with Gaston Dufresne in Boston. From 1926, at Harvard, he studied theory with Walter Spalding (1865-1962), counterpoint with Edward Ballantine (1886-1971) and composition and harmony with George Enescu (1881-1955) and Walter Piston (1894-1976), gaining a B.A in 1929 and M.A. in 1930.
Andersons association with Harvard lasted until the mid-1930s, prolonged by the postgraduate studies he undertook in German and Scandinavian philology and he also showed devoted interest in the extramural musical activities of the University where he was organist and choirmaster from 1929 until 1935 (until 1932 he was also simultaneously a tutor in music at Radcliffe College and until 1935 musical director of the University Band). After free-lancing as an organist and conductor in and around Boston, he was by 1935 already an experienced dance-band arranger and orchestral bass-player when he forsook the academic ambience to become full-time arranger for Arthur Fiedlers Boston Pops Orchestra. Engaged in this capacity from 1936 in both Boston and New York, he finally emerged as a composer in his own right of short, witty orchestral trifles, beginning with Jazz Pizzicato (1938) and Jazz Legato (1939).
From 1942 Anderson served four years in the US Army. This did not however significantly impede his work for Fiedler and, by the Wars end, he had published under his own name the first in a much longer series of clever, picturesquely-styled "mini-programmes" which would earn him global renown. The first of these, Promenade (1945) was followed the next year by The Syncopated Clock. Subsequently a first US charted hit (at No.11, during 1951) and a first Golden Disc for Andersons own Pops Concert Orchestra, this later still became a song with words added by Shreveport, Louisiana-born lyricist Mitchell Parish (1900-1993). A 1951 US No.28 in this version by Fiedler, it became widely known in the USA as a theme used on TVs Late Show.
During 1946 Anderson also embarked on a wide selection of arrangements, including themes from Richard Rodgers Carousel and Chicken Reel (an adaptation of a traditional dance-tune), while 1947 saw the publication of Fiddle Faddle (a syncopation for string orchestra) and of his Irish Suite, a selection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Irish reels and songs already long established in popular music culture via the collections of Thomas Moore, George Petrie and others. During 1947 he also premiered Serenata, whose lovely, nostalgic melody contrasting with an underlying mock-Hispanic rhythm made it, by 1950, another ideal song vehicle for Parish, while already by 1948 Sleigh Ride (his biggest hit to date for which, again by 1950, Parish had penned lyrics), "Governor Bradford March" and the baroque-style Saraband had established his name in the light classical market.
Anderson soon produced a stream of similar miniatures, including several with onomatopoeic titles: A Trumpeters Lullaby (1949) was followed in 1950 by the characteristic arrangements A Christmas Festival and Classical Juke Box and in 1951 various new creations, notably "The Belle Of The Ball" (again converted to a song, with Parish, by 1953), "China Doll", "Horse And Buggy", The Penny-Whistle Song", "The Phantom Regiment", "Plink, Plank, Plunk" (an essay in pizzicato for strings) and his biggest seller of all "The Blue Tango" (after charting in the USA in a creator disc by the Anderson Pops orchestra for 38 weeks including five at No.1 this catchiest, most whistle-able, of Anderson numbers was another Parish song conversion, in 1952).
Throughout the 1950s Leroy Anderson continued to produce quality tunes with prolific regularity. "The Girl In Satin", "The Song Of The Bells" and "Summer Skies" all appeared in 1953; "Buglers Holiday", "The First Day Of Spring", "Forgotten Dreams" (Parish turned out a vocal version in 1962) and "Sandpaper Ballet" all got their first airing in 1954, while his "Suite Of Carols", published in 1955 in various instrumental configurations, was followed in 1957 by a well-received orchestral adaptation of Meredith Willsons "76 Trombones". In 1958 he scored his one and only Broadway musical Goldilocks (starring Elaine Stritch and Don Ameche this took Tony Awards but, at 161 performances and an estimated financial loss of $360K, was rated a failure, notwithstanding a fine original cast album). By 1962 he had returned to the more lucrative light music market with further short orchestral pieces (notably "Arietta", "Balladette", "The Captains And The Kings", "Clarinet Candy" and his late flowering was spurred in 1970 with "The Golden Years", "Lullaby Of The Drums", "Waltz Around The Scale" and "March Of The Two Left Feet" and indeed, at the time of his death in Woodbury, Connecticut, on 18 May 1975, his many works, albeit often derivative, had become standard mood grist to radio and TV programmers.
Arthur Fiedler (1894-1979) was an established figure with a keen interest in both the classical and popular spheres well before he appointed Anderson his full-time arranger. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 17 December, 1894, he studied violin first with his father Emanuel (a founder of the Kneisel Quartet and sometime first violin of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) then with Willy Hess at the Berlin Royal Academy, from 1911 to 1914. After a brief spell as second violin with the Boston Symphony in 1915, he served in the US Army until 1918 when he returned to the orchestra as a violist.
In 1924 he founded the Fiedler Sinfonietta (later re-christened Boston Sinfonietta) and during the mid-1920s also doubled as a choral conductor, notably with the Boston Male Choir and the Cecilia Society.
Fiedlers 1929 season of open-air Esplanade concerts proved so successful that he was appointed director of the Boston Pops Orchestra, a position he held for more than thirty years, until his death, in Boston, on 10 July, 1979. In 1935 he recorded "Jealousy", an arrangement of the Danish composer Jacob Gades well-known 1926 "Tango Tzigane" and this sold a million copies between its release in 1938 and 1952. Dubbed Mr. Pops, Fiedlers commercial success at Boston in popularising the classics (alongside his promotion