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Leroy Anderson on the CD cover of The Best of Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride
At the time he was working as organist and choir director at the East Milton Congregational Church, leading the Harvard University Band, and conducting and arranging for dance bands around Boston. In 1936 his arrangements came to the attention of Arthur Fiedler, who asked to see any original compositions that he could use in his concerts as the 18th conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall. Anderson's first work was the 1938 Jazz Pizzicato, but at just over ninety seconds the piece was too short for a three-minute 78 rpm single of the period. Fiedler suggested writing a companion piece, and Anderson wrote Jazz Legato later that same year. The combined recording went on to become one of Anderson's signature compositions.
His pieces and his recordings during the 1950s conducting a studio orchestra were immense commercial successes. "Blue Tango" was the first instrumental recording ever to sell one million copies. His most famous pieces are probably "Sleigh Ride" and "The Syncopated Clock". In February 1951, WCBS-TV in New York City selected "The Syncopated Clock" as the theme song for The Late Show, the WCBS late-night movie, using Percy Faith's recording. Mitchell Parish added words to "The Syncopated Clock", and later wrote lyrics for other Anderson tunes, including "Sleigh Ride", which was not written as a Christmas piece, but as a work that describes a winter event. Anderson started the work during a heat wave in August 1946. The Boston Pops' recording of it was the first pure orchestral piece to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Music chart. From 1952 to 1961, Anderson's composition "Plink, Plank, Plunk!" was used as the theme for the CBS panel show I've Got a Secret.
Anderson's musical style employs creative instrumental effects and occasionally makes use of sound-generating items such as typewriters and sandpaper.
Anderson wrote his Piano Concerto in C in 1953 but withdrew it, feeling that it had weak spots. The Anderson family decided to publish the work in 1988. Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra released the first recording of this work; four other recordings, including one for piano and organ, have since been released.
In 1958, Anderson composed the music for the Broadway show Goldilocks with orchestrations by Philip J. Lang. Even though it earned two Tony awards, Goldilocks did not achieve commercial success. Anderson never wrote another musical, preferring instead to continue writing orchestral miniatures. His pieces, including "The Typewriter", "Bugler's Holiday", and "A Trumpeter's Lullaby" are performed by orchestras and bands ranging from school groups to professional organizations.
Anderson would occasionally appear on the Boston Pops regular concerts on PBS to conduct his own music while Fiedler would sit on the sidelines. For "The Typewriter" Fiedler would don a green eyeshade, roll up his sleeves, and mime working on an old typewriter while the orchestra played.
Anderson was initiated as an honorary member of the Gamma Omega chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia at Indiana State University in 1969.
In 2006, one of his piano works, "Forgotten Dreams", written in 1954, became the background for a British TV advertisement for mobile phone company "3". Previously, Los Angeles station KABC-TV used the song as its sign-off theme at the end of broadcast days in the 1980s, and Mantovani's recording of the song had been the closing theme for WABC-TV's Eyewitness News for much of the 1970s. "Forgotten Dreams" was used as a recurring theme in the French film Populaire (2012).
The Typewriter was used as the theme song for Esto no tiene nombre, a Puerto Rican television comedy program - loosely based on the US television series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In - produced by Tommy Muñiz between the late 1960s and late 1970s. It is also the signature tune for the BBC Radio 4 series The News Quiz, which has been running since 1977.
The following is a selected discography of original recordings by Leroy Anderson. They were released from 1958 to 1962 on 33 rpm discs and on digitally remastered compact discs released posthumously. 78 rpm and 45 rpm discs from 1945 to 1962, and releases of identical recordings on different labels in U.K., Germany, New Zealand and elsewhere, are not listed.
Recordings by Leroy Anderson
Leroy Anderson's Irish Suite (Decca DL 4050; 1952)
Leroy Anderson conducts Blue Tango and Other Favorites (Decca DL 8121; 1958)
A Christmas Festival (Decca DL 78925 (s); 1959)
Leroy Anderson Conducts Leroy Anderson (Decca DL 78865 (s); 1959)
Leroy Anderson Conducts His Music (Decca DL 78954 (s); 1960)
The New Music of Leroy Anderson (Decca DL 74335 (s); 1962)
The Leroy Anderson Collection (Digitally remastered from original Decca analog recordings) (MCA Classics MCAD2-9815-A & B; 1988)
The Best of Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride (Digitally remastered from original Decca analog master recordings) (MCA Classics MCAD -11710; 1997)