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Sleigh Ride - Leroy Anderson Foundation
Leroy Anderson's Home
Updated March 23, 2023
Leroy Anderson, his wife Eleanor, and their young daughter Jane Margareta first came to Woodbury, Connecticut in 1946 to spend the summer in a cottage on Painter Hill Road. (They were not on vacation as some journalists have written.) 1 Captain Leroy Anderson had been released from active duty in the U.S. Army as Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence. There was a severe housing shortage in the United States in the years immediately following World War 2. The cottage in Woodbury was on land that Eleanor's mother and her two sisters had recently purchased as a place to live when they retired. (This was not where Eleanor Anderson was born and raised as some journalists have written.) 2 During a July heat wave and drought in 1946, Leroy was digging trenches to try to find some old pipes coming from a spring. He began composing several tunes, including Sleigh Ride (Sleðaferð), in which he envisioned as a musical depiction of the winter season long ago.
Since the cottage was not winterized, was not insulated and had no heat, the Andersons could not stay at Painter Hill Road for the following winter. Leroy and Eleanor moved to New York City in the Autumn of 1946 where they lived at 19 Parade Place in Brooklyn in an apartment that had been rented by Eleanor's uncle who had recently died. Leroy Anderson completed Sleigh Ride in Brooklyn on February 10, 1948. Sleigh Ride received its premiere on May 4,1948 with Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston. According to BPO Conductor Keith Lockhart, Sleigh Ride is the Pops' signature work.
Meanwhile, Eleanor's mother and aunts decided to have an old barn on their Painter Hill Road property converted into a house. When the house was completed, Leroy and Eleanor moved to Painter Hill Road in 1949, making Woodbury their permanent home.
According to the composer's widow Eleanor Anderson, "Leroy didn't set out to write a Christmas piece when he wrote 'Sleigh Ride.' His intentions were to convey the entire winter season through the imagery of a sleigh ride, much in the way that Mozart did with his piece of the same name."
Eleanor Anderson remembers hearing Sleigh Ride in New York City department stores right after the first recording was released in 1949. Composer's intentions aside, this winter composition quickly became associated with the holiday.
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In Leroy Anderson's words
Sleigh Ride in the summer of 1946 in a cottage in Woodbury, Connecticut, where my wife and I were spending the summer with our 18-month-old daughter. The original version began with what later became the middle section. I recall working on it in the middle of a heat wave, so there is no basis for the music except the title itself.
That same summer I also worked on
Serenata. After moving to Brooklyn, New York in the fall I finished
Fiddle-Faddle on January 1, 1947 and
Serenata on February 12, 1947 in addition to making arrangements for the Boston Pops concerts in the spring.
I had felt that the original theme of
Sleigh Ride was not strong enough to start the number but would make a good middle section. I finally worked out a satisfactory main theme, introduction and coda and finished the orchestra score on February 10, 1948.
Sleigh Ride was first performed on May 4, 1948 in Symphony Hall, Boston as an extra at a Pops concert conducted by Arthur Fiedler. Lyrics by Mitchell Parish were added in 1950.
Sincerely, Leroy Anderson 3
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Some 75 years after Leroy Anderson created Sleigh Ride, the composition is still ranked as one of the 10 most popular pieces of Christmas music worldwide and frequently the #1 most popular holiday song in the United States according to ASCAP. This is in spite of the fact that the word "Christmas" is never mentioned in the lyrics which Mitchell Parish wrote several years after Anderson finished the composition.
ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, named Sleigh Ride the most popular piece of Christmas music in the USA in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 [Sleigh-Ride-is-Most-Popular-Holiday-Song-2012.pdf], 2015 [Sleigh-Ride-is-Most-Popular-Holiday-Song-2015.pdf] and again in 2021. [The Top 25 ASCAP Holiday Songs of 2021.pdf]. Leroy Anderson's original recording of Sleigh Ride (© 1948) was the version most often played in 2010 based on performance data tracked by airplay monitoring service, Mediaguide, from over 2,500 radio stations nationwide. Sleigh Ride was aired 174,758 times in 2010, making it the most-played holiday song on radio in that year. Sleigh Ride was played 118,918 times during the same time period in 2009. In most years it is the vocal version with music by Leroy Anderson and lyrics by Mitchell Parish (© 1950) - which is the most frequently heard.
Translations of Sleigh Ride in other languages
With Leroy Anderson's permission, the publisher arranged for lyrics to be written for
Sleigh Ride in several languages. The French version is called
Promenade en traineau French lyrics were written by Jacques Plante. The German version is called
Die Schlittenfahrt. In Finland there are two authorized versions of Sleigh Ride with different lyrics. One of them is called
Rekiretki. Our Finnish friend tells us that the horse-drawn sleigh is a strong national cultural symbol in Finland. We are told that this adds to the song's popularity. In Sweden there are three versions of
Sleigh Ride. One is called
Slädfärd på tva (Sleighride for two.) In Swedish
Sleigh Ride is written as one word. So when Swedes print the name of the piece in English in a program, they often write
Sleighride. There are also Norwegian lyrics by Jan Vincents Johannessen (Sledeturen), Spanish (Paseo en Trineo), Dutch (Slee Rit) and Italian versions (Sulla in slitta, Corsa in slutta, Gita in slutta, . 5
Also visit the official website for Leroy Anderson maintained by his family.
The link to the page for " Sleigh Ride" includes affiliated pages in French, Italian and Finnish
with lyrics to "Sleigh Ride" in those languages.