Song of the Week #18- Sleigh Ride

This week’s song had its origins during a heat wave in the summer of 1946. That summer the composer, Leroy Anderson, was dreaming of a way to escape the heat and a glorious winter sleigh ride came to his mind. Anderson put pen to paper and by 1948 had created the orchestral classic, Sleigh Ride. The first recording was made in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra. It was released on both 78 and 45 rpm versions. The 45 version was made on red vinyl- adding to the holiday appeal. The piece is super up-beat and features fun and exciting melodic lines. Musicians young and old love the “special” parts called for in the song: a trumpet creates a horse whiny near the end of the song and a percussionist must use a slap-board to create a whip crack sound. The Boston Pops Orchestra has become synonymous with the piece. Versions were recorded under the baton of world-know conductors including John Williams and Keith Lockhart.

The lyrics were added in 1950 by lyricist Mitchell Parish. The words tell the tale of a cheerful young suitor and his attempts to get his beloved to go for a ride. This is another song associated with Christmas that actually makes no mention of the holiday. Thanksgiving is the closet direct connection with the mention of pumpkin pie. Some singers have adjusted the lyrics changing “birthday” party to “Christmas” party including the Carpenters and the Air Supply. Words or not, Sleigh Ride is a perennial top 10 most performed Christmas song. The American Association of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) named it the most popular piece of Christmas music for both 2010 and 2011. Check out these recordings to get in the mood to hit the path in your own sleigh!

Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops– the Original Recording (the best of course!)
The Ronettes– Grooving 60s version from the all-girl group.
Ella Fitzgerald– Jazzy recording from Ella!
Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass– after the long vocal introduction include the spicy instrumental tunes
C3Po & R2D2– Very strange recording of the golden droid teaching R2 to sing. Sleigh Ride melody with all new lyrics!

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