Skip to comments.Composer (Leroy) Anderson's 100th Birthday (today)
Posted on 06/29/2008 12:48:58 PM PDT by Borges
WOODBURY-The music of a composer best known for his tribute to winter will be celebrated as the town honors the 100th anniversary of beloved composer Leroy Anderson's birth with a series of events that begin Saturday morning a commemorative postal cancellation at the Woodbury Post Office.
That event, which runs from 8 a.m. to noon, is to be accompanied by the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra Brass Quartet, which will play Anderson's music, and a proclamation will be read by First Selectman Paul Hinckley.
Anderson is best known for the songs "Sleigh Ride" and "The Syncopated Clock" but was a prolific composer who also wrote music for the 1958 Broadway show "Goldilocks."
"I think it's great that we can have this kind of event to celebrate his 100th birthday. To have a distinguished composer having come from our little town of Woodbury, [who is] internationally known and whose music has been played for a long time ... is a wonderful thing," said Mr. Hinckley.
According to Rolf Anderson, Leroy Anderson's son, it is traditional for composers to be celebrated on their 100th anniversary.
"We are especially pleased that there is a celebration in Woodbury, where Dad lived from 1949 to 1975," said Mr. Anderson.
A special commemorative postal cancellation is unusual, Mr. Anderson said, noting that centennial celebrations are often the domain of lofty organizations and not constructed with a populist approach.
"It's a unique and fun way to bring attention to his life and music, and [the] years he spent in Woodbury," said Mr. Anderson.
Those attending the event will receive a biographical post-card free of charge. They may also receive a special postal cancellation, either by bringing their own envelope with postage on it or by purchasing a #10 envelope with postage printed on it, said Mr. Anderson. The illustration for the artwork on the postal cancellation was done by architect Peter Vercelli, the husband of Leroy Anderson's daughter, Jane Vercelli. The cancellation depicts themes expressed in Anderson's pieces, including a clock, a cat, a typewriter, a bugle and a trumpet-all going for a ride in a sleigh. "The post office will then give their envelope the special cancellation. The person can either keep the envelope as a collectable souvenir or mail it to someone," said Rolf Anderson.
Leroy Anderson was born June 29, 1908 and grew up in Cambridge Mass., where he graduated from Harvard University. His parents were Swedish immigrants-his mother was a church organist and his father played a banjo and instruments. The elder Anderson composed music as well.
Part of the Harvard marching band, the nascent composer not only marched in the front row but became a director of the band. Anderson was denied a scholarship to study music in Europe, though, because his band activities were not considered serious.
Still, Anderson did arrangements of Harvard songs for the Boston Pops, where he met Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler, with whom he began a lifelong professional relationship. Anderson composed the music and Fiedler introduced the pieces at Boston Pops concerts. Anderson came to Woodbury in 1946 after serving as a translator for the U.S. Army in Iceland in World War II.
He spent a summer in a rustic cottage on Painter Hill Road, and began composing several tunes, including "Sleigh Ride."
He and his wife, Eleanor, lived year-round in a converted barn on Painter Hill Road until 1953, when they moved to a newly-built house on Grassy Hill Road with their children, Jane, Eric and Rolf. A year later, their son Kurt was born.
"Among my happiest childhood memories growing up on Painter Hill Road were the sounds of Dad playing the piano after dinner. He loved to work late into the night when the house was quiet," said Mrs. Vercelli. "I knew that if Dad was composing a piece, all was right in the world."
Anderson died May 18, 1975 of lung cancer at his Grassy Hill Road home.
"Dad loved the rural aspects of Litchfield County life, which contributed to his creative musicality," said Mrs. Vercelli.
On Sunday, the U.S. Military Academy Band, from West Point, N.Y., will perform Mr. Anderson's music at a tribute concert at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury. The free event, sponsored by the Woodbury Lions Club, begins at 3 p.m. and is sold-out. Organizers say not all those who have obtained tickets will attend, and that guests who arrive at 2:45 may be able to be seated. A proclamation by Gov. M. Jodi Rell is to be read. A special exhibit that began June 14 at the Woodbury Public Library on the life and music of Leroy Anderson will be on display until the end of this month, and then on display at the Southbury Library, beginning July 1. "It is exciting to know that orchestras and bands around the country and around the world will be performing Leroy Anderson concerts all during this year," said Eleanor Anderson.
Ecuador is having a Leroy Anderson festival in July in Guayaquil, and concerts will be presented in other cities during the following weeks. A two-day festival will be held in July as well in Amsterdam.
Eleanor Anderson said that her husband wrote all of his 50- plus pieces originally for symphony orchestra. Many of his pieces were arranged for bands, while others have been performed by solo instruments and varied groups of musicians.
"He has been said to have created his own genre of music. Many people regard ... Leroy's music as their introduction to classical music," said Mrs. Anderson. The opening of the exhibit in Southbury will include a special event July 1, at 12:30 p.m. It will include a piano and violin duo performing Anderson's music. At 1:15 p.m., the PBS video of Leroy Anderson will be shown in the meeting room at the library.
Rolf Anderson will be there to answer questions to talk to anyone about his father's life. The exhibit will travel to other libraries in Connecticut and elsewhere.
Classical Music Ping
In 1973 Anderson lectured at the Yale Music School, and one lecture was taped. I was working in radio at the time, and on Sunday mornings we ran the "Yale Reports" tapes. The Anderson lecture was one of the funniest lectures on classical music I've ever heard.
Among my favorites about old music textbooks:
"All the examples in the book were from the symphonies of Louis Spohr."
"The author said, 'There are three great composers in Germany today whose music will live forever. They are Johannes Brahms, Richard Wagner and Joachim Raff.'"
He then explained his search for the mysterious, but forgotten, Raff. He knew about a piece of restaurant music, "Cavatina", that Raff had composed, but nothing else. His research led him to 11 symphonies by Raff, the last of which had been performed in Boston in 1901. "If a composer's works haven't been played in that many years, there's generally a good reason for it."
I wish I could find that lecture.
Raff was a much performed composer of the Liszt circle. He supposedly orchestrated some of the Liszt tone poems. Tchaikovsky thought his music far superior to Brahms’.
Anderson’s music used to be common fare on many radio stations pre-seventies. That’s the tragedy of today’s pop music stations. Even in the sixties you’d get wide variety of music on the pop charts. Anderson’s music would mostly be found on the stations your parents would listen to. But I always liked his music.
Sadly, the Boston Pops are ignoring Anderson's centennial. Nothing on this year's schedule. The Pops concert tonight: a Judy Garland tribute.
Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival” is one of my favorites during the season. In my opinion, it is the best of all arrangements of traditional Christmas carols.
Leroy has given me many hours of mirthful entertainment. I once downloaded about 10 different versions of “Sleigh Ride” and burned them onto a CD, which I gave as Christmas gifts and played at a party. After playing for several hours, no one at the party even noticed that it was the same song over and over and over and over.
grew up with syncopated clock as lead-in to cartoons:
(needs realplayer, Leroy Anderson conducting U.S. Air Force band)
Thanks for the clips..IIRC, Anderson also was the arranger for the famed Pops medley of the 5 military branch service songs that use to be a feature of most Pops concerts. I remember attending one in the 70’s..Fiedler conducting..and as each tune was played, everyone in the audience who had served in that particular branch would jump up and sing it loudly and proudly.
The Boston Pops did in fact celebrate the Anderson Centennial with performances of the composer’s music on June 3 and 4, 2008 at Symphony Hall. Although these two concerts included works by other composers, no major orchestras in the US would typically devote an entire concert to one composer. I was in Boston at the time and was able to get tickets.
For details see: www.leroyanderson.com/leroy-anderson-in-cambridge.htm
Although Anderson made many arrangements for the Boston Pops, the Service medley was not one of them. I have a copy of the Leroy Anderson reference book called “Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography. - Praeger Publishing, 2004” It lists all of the composer’s works - original compositions as well as arrangements. The Service medley is not there.
Well, thanks...I learn something new every day..I guess I just assumed he did it..
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