The Clinton Symphony will be presenting their ‘Music of the Holidays’ concert on Saturday, December 8, 7:30 pm at Clinton High School. As part of the concert, we’ll be enjoying our favorite classic music of the season: Sleigh Ride, the Christmas Song, and a rousing sing-along to A Christmas Festival. Enjoy the following program notes about these pieces, and we’ll see you Saturday!
Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) got the idea for the theme of Sleigh Ride as he dug in his Woodbury, Connecticut, yard for water pipes during a heat wave in 1946. As he dug and the perspiration soaked his clothes, he thought of a tall glass of ice water to quench his thirst, a thought that turned to winter and snow and then to racing over the countryside in a horse-drawn sleigh with a sharp, wintry breeze whipping across his cheeks. With those thoughts in mind, the composer conjured up a melody.
Anderson’s new ‘holiday’ miniature premiered at a May 1948 concert of the Boston Pops. It was such an immediate hit with the public that several recorded versions appeared within a year, including one with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops and one with the composer conducting.
A concert overture, A Christmas Festival was arranged in 1950 by Anderson as a showpiece for his own orchestra. The compilation of melodies illustrates both the secular and religious aspects of the season. It includes Joy to the World; Deck the Halls; God Rest ye Merry, Gentlemen; Good King Wenceslas; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; The First Noel; Silent Night; Jingle Bells; O Come All Ye Faithful.
Mel Tormé (1925-1999), the ‘Velvet Fog,’ wrote over 300 songs during his career as ‘the epitome of the lounge singer,’ but only one remains today as a classic. And like much other music of the season, The Christmas Song came about by chance. Tormé stopped by the studio offices of his friend and lyricist Robert Wells on a sweltering hot summer day in 1944, and…
I saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil. They started, `Chestnuts roasting … Jack Frost nipping … Yuletide carols … Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ Bob didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.
The first issued recorded version with the Nat King Cole Trio was recorded in August 1946 with string quartet, harp and drum. This record was released in November 1946 and immediately became a best seller for Cole, who recorded newer versions of the classic with each change in recording technology. The 1961 Cole version is considered by many to be the definitive version of the song.
Program notes by William Driver