- Blue Tango
- Bugler's Holiday (Corner soloists: James Burke, John Ware, Raymond Crisara)
- The First Day Of Spring
- Sandpaper Ballet
- The Phantom Regiment
- Lady In Waiting (Ballet Music)
- The Girl In Satin
- The Typewriter
- The Waltzing Cat
- Plink, Plank, Plunk!
- Pyramid Dance (Heart Of Stone)
- Belle Of The Ball
- Forgotten Dreams (Piano Solo: Leroy Anderson)
- China Doll
- The Penny-Whistle Song
- Jazz Pizzicato
- Jazz Legato
- The Syncopated Clock
- The Blue Bells Of Scotland
- Turn Ye To Me (From "Scottish Suite")
Leroy Anderson was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 19, 1908, son of Brewer Anton and Anna Margareta Anderson. Both of his parents had come to this country when they were young children, his father from Christiantad in southern Sweden, and his mother from Stockholm. His mother was a church organist and his first piano teacher. His father, a postal employee, was an amateur musician.
Leroy Anderson received his education, as he frequently said, "on one street, Broadway, Cambridge". He attended Cambridge Grammar School, Cambridge High and Latin High School, and Harvard University. He wrote, orchestrated and conducted the class song for his high school graduation. At Harvard he studied harmony with Walter Spalding, counterpoint with Edward Ballantine, canon and fugue with william C. Heilman, and orchestration with Edward B. Hill and Walter Piston. He was graduated from Harvard College in 1929 with an A.B. magna cum laude in music, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Continuing advanced work in the Graduate School as holder of the Elkan Naumberg Fellowship, he studied composition with Walter Piston and Georges Enesco. He also studied organ with Henry Gideon of Boston and double bass with Gaston Dufresne of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1930 he received an M.A. in music and then taught for two years in the Division of Music at Radcliffe College.
At the same time, from 1929 to 1935, he served as church organist and choirmaster at the East Congregational Church, Milton, Massachusetts, was director of the Haqrvard University Band (1929-30 and 1932-36), and played in radio and dance orchestras in and around Boston, particularly those managed by Ruby Newman and by Roy Lamson. One summer he conducted an orchestra on the roof of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. In these orchestras he played piano, double bass, and tuba, and occasionally played solo engagements on accordion. When he first joined the Harvard Band he played trombone, the instrument that his father had selected for him in order that, when he went to Harvard, he would be in the front row of the band when they marched at football games.
Unable to decide whether to make music or language teaching his career, Mr. Anderson continued graduate studies at Harvard toward a Ph.D. in German and Scandinavian languages, until he attracted the attention of Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.
In 1936, Mr. George Judd, the manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, told him that he had heard his arrangements for the Harvard Band and asked him to make a symphonic setting of Harvard songs for the 25th reunion of Mr. Judd's class and to conduct the number at the class's special night at the Pops. Mr. Fiedler conducted the concert except for the "Harvard Fantasy" to which he listened off-stage. After the concert Fiedler urged Anderson to write more for the Pops concerts, especially original compositions, and promised to perform the music if he thought it suitable. Two years later Anderson came back to conduct again and brought a piece called "Jazz Pizzicato" to use as an encore. Fiedler played it often, and a long association between Anderson and Fiedler had begun. Anderson became an orchestrator and arranger for the Pops, and Fiedler with the Pops premiered many of Anderson's works almost as soon as he completed them.
"Jazz Pizzicato", the first of Anderson's pieces to be published, was published in 1939, and recorded that same year. "Jazz Legato" was written for the recording as a companion piece to fill out the three-minute side of the record.
"Promenade" and "The Syncopated Clock" were written in 1945, while Anderson was in the Army, living in Arlington, Virginia and stationed in Washington, D.C. Anderson wrote "The Syncopated Clock" in about two days: he worked on "Fiddle-Faddle" off and on for six months, writing and re-writing. In 1946 "The Syncopated Clock" was adopted as the theme for CBS-TV's "The Late Show", and in 1976 it was still being used.
Other compositions written from 1946 through 1953 were: "Chicken Reel", "Serenata", "Irish Suite" (in six movements, a symphonic setting of folk tunes), "Saraband", "Sleigh Ride", "A Trumpeter's Lullaby", "The Waltzing Cat", "A Christmas Festival" (a symphonic setting of Christmas carols), and "The Typewriter".
Almost all of Anderson's compositions were written for orchestra, and almost all were about three minutes in length. Robert Sherman, program director of radio station WQXR in New York, said, " 'Concert music with a pop quality' is how Anderson himself described his work, and probably that is as close as we are going to get to a proper definition of his indefinable style. All I know is that an Anderson miniature is as immediately recognizable as a Strauss waltz, and most often just as captivating". Some of the most popular pieces incorporate familiar sounds - "The Typewriter" uses an actual typewriter and a carriage bell, "The Syncopated Clock" includes the ring of an alarm clock, and in "Sandpaper Ballet" medium, fine and coarse sandpaper duplicate the sound of vaudeville soft-shoe dancers. Many of the pieces have humorous touches, such as the horse whinny at the end of "Sleigh Ride", others are humorous ideas, as "The Waltzing Cat".
Lyrics were added to some of the pieces by Mitchell Parish.
"Blue Tango" was written in 1951 and recorded the same year. It sold over a million records (Anderson received a gold record) and became the first instrumental piece to reach the number one position on the "Hit Parade", the radio-television show. Other pieces which Anderson wrote in 1951 are: "China Doll", "Belle Of The Ball", "The Phantom Regiment", "The Penny-Whistle Song", "Horse And Buggy", "Plink, Plank, Plunk!". Completed for a recording in 1953 were "Song Of The Bells", "Summer Skies", "The Girl In Satin", and completed in 1954, also for a recording were "Forgotten Dreams", "Turn Ye To Me" and "The Bluebells Of Scotland" (two numbers which were part of a projected Scottish Suite), "The First Day Of Spring", "Sandpaper Ballet", and "Bugler's Holiday". Also written that year was "Alma Mater", a revision of the "Harvard Sketches" written and performed in 1939.
In 1955 he wrote three "Suite Of Carols", one for brass choir, one for string orchestra, and the third for woodwind ensemble.
In 1959 Anderson wrote the score for the Broadway musical "Goldilocks", with book by Jean and Walter Kerr and lyrics by Jean and Walter Kerr and Joan Ford.
During Leroy Anderson's career he was a guest conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra and many other symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Canada, among them the Hollywood Bowl, St. Louis, Toronto, cleveland, Chicago and Miami orchestras. He also was a guest conductor of various bands, including the U.S. Air Force Band, the Purdue University Band, and the Goldman Band in New York City.
Anderson conducted eight recording sessions, from 1950 to 1962, for Decca records, in which he conducted his own compositions. His music was also recorded in its original symphonic form by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, and in the 50's and 60's by Frederick Fennell and the Eastman-Rochester "Pops" Orchestra, the Utah Symphony with Maurice Abravanel, conductor, and Werner Muller and his Orchestra. In the 1980's the Rochester Pops recorded two digital records of Leroy Anderson music, one with Erich Kunzel conducting, the second with Newton Wayland. Others, using various arrangements of Anderson's music, made hundreds of individual recordings. Columbia Records released the original recording of "Goldilocks".
Leroy Anderson entered the Army in World War II as a private in 1942 and was released in 1946 as Captain. In 1942 he was sent to Iceland where he served as translator and interpreter. In 1943 he returned to the United States to attend Signal Corps Officer Candidate School at Ft. Monmouth, N.J. After receiving a commission he was assigned to Military Intelligence Service in Washington, D.C. where he was Chief of Scandinavian desk. He was recalled to active duty in the Korean War during 1951-52. Sent first to Ft. Riley, Kansas with the 525th Military Intelligence Group, he was transferred to Ft. Bragg, N.C. where he managed an officer's club. Transferred in May, 1952 to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, Washington, D.C., he was released in December, 1952.
Mr. Anderson from 1968-75 was a member of the board of the Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury, Connecticut Symphony Orchestras. He was chairman of the Board of Review of ASCAP 1962-64, and served on the board of the American Symphony Orchestra League.
In 1968 he was quoted about composing. "It is important to keep in mind the fact that music should be truly different and unique so that a contribution to musical literature is being made when it is written". (Purdue Esponet, Feb. 13, 1968)
Leroy Anderson died in Woodbury, Connecticut, May 18, 1975.
In September, 1986, a new gazebo-type band-stand on the North Green in Woodbury, Connecticut was dedicated to Leroy Anderson. That fall a new recording of his music was released which went to the top of the Billboard charts. Leroy Anderson was inducted, in April, 1988, into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York.
Leroy Anderson's Recording Career
Leroy Anderson conducted his own music in recording sessions for Decca Records from 1950 to 1962. These two discs contain all of his compositions that he recorded, except for the Suites Of Carols and A Christmas Festival.
George Wright Briggs, Jr., Anderson's long-time friend from Wellesley, Massachusetts has written, "On December 11, 1950 an event took place which was to mean a great deal in the career of Leroy Anderson. He was put into that select circle of composers who have had made available to them, from time to time, an orchestra of symphonic proportions in a recording studio for which to write for and conduct at will.
"By 1950 Anderson's stature in the field had grown to the point where the Decca Recording Company became persuaded that it would be profitable to afford him these special facilities. a large orchestra was necessary because his music was couched almost entirely in the basic European symphonic instrumentation of strings (1st and 2nd violins, violas, cellos, and string basses) plus woodwinds, brass and percussion. The musicians employed were the pick of New York's 'Local #802' and one can be sure that Leroy Anderson wasted little time at rehearsals; efficiency, as well as musical excellence, was his watchword. Roland Dupont, one of the trombonists, remembers the recording sessions as being held in an enthusiastic yet orderly atmosphere, the players enjoying the material they were performing and Anderson conducting fluently and precisely, knowing exactly what he wanted".
Many of the pieces were first performed when they were recorded by Decca.
(Eleanor Anderson, from the original liner notes)