Monday, 20 December 2010

Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride

My second Christmas indulgence has to be another piece by the great American composer Leroy Anderson- Sleigh Ride. I agree with the historian Pamela Blevins when she wrote in a comment on my blog that any ‘mention [of] Sleigh Ride and it starts playing in my mind’. It is an infectious tune. In fact, it is one of the few pieces that I can work out what it was from the very first chord. (The other is Lennon/McCartney’s ‘A Hard Day’s Night’). For me Sleigh Ride epitomises Christmas (at least the secular side of the Festival) as much as Noddy Holder’s shout of ‘It’s Christmas’ in ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’.

Sleigh Ride was originally a piece of so-called ‘light music’ which was composed for orchestra between 1946 and 1948. Strangely, it was conceived during a heat wave in the summer of ’46! A couple of years later, Mitchell Parish wrote the lyrics that have propelled the song into the popular music charts over the following 60 years.

"Sleigh Ride"
Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing
Ring ting tingle-ing too
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you

Outside the snow is falling

And friends are calling "You Hoo"
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you

Giddy-yap giddy-yap giddy-yap let's go

Let's look at the show
We're riding in a wonderland of snow
Giddy-yap giddy-yap giddy-yap it's grand
Just holding your hand
We're gliding along with the song of a wintry fairy land

Our cheeks are nice and rosy and comfy cosy are we

We're snuggled up together like two birds of a feather would be
Let's take the road before us and sing a chorus or two
Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you

There's a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray

It'll be the perfect ending of a perfect day
We'll be singing the songs we love to sing without a single stop
At the fireplace while we watch the chestnuts pop
Pop! Pop! Pop!

There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy

When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie
It'll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives
These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives

For the curious, Currier and Ives were a successful nineteenth century American printing firm specialising in making prints and lithographs of well-known works of art. Today they are much sought after by collectors. I have often wondered who Farmer Gray was, and how the birthday party fared.
It has occasionally been suggested that in ‘The Land of Lost Content’ the only music that is listened to are long Sonatas by Sorabji, Ricerares by Reizenstein and Eight-Part Fugues by Foulds- however, this is far from the truth! A brief glance at my iPod will reveal a wide range of music appropriate to my generation – from the Beach Boys to Led Zeppelin, from Dantalian’s Chariot through the Beatles to Runrig. Amongst these many tracks, are a number of versions of Sleigh Ride. These include Andy Williams, Perry Como, The Ventures, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby and of course the composer himself.
If I am honest it is Andy William’s version (in its vocal form) that floats my boat. However, I do like the original in its orchestral incarnation best of all. There are plenty of recordings of this piece available, including one from the Boston Pops Orchestra.

1 comment:

The Dotterel said...

I love this piece, from the days I first heard it sitting behind the Liverpool Phil at one of their Carol Concerts (I was in the choir) and watching the orchestra at work. It looked - and sounded - so much fun!