You won’t know the name, and you’d never pick him out of a police lineup. But composer Leroy Anderson left a musical legacy unlike few before or after him. He wrote the songs that sounded like everyday life, songs that have made people smile…for years!
The reason we publish stories on music, and forgotten hits from the past, is because so many of you write to say that you simply like music, yes, but more…the story behind the song. As more than one has told me, “I always wondered who played (or sang) that song.”
So on this 4th of July week a fellow Piqua High School bandsman, Eric Barringer, from circa 1969, reminded me of the old days of my playing songs like Bugler’s Holiday, the old cornet trio performed by many concert or community bands to celebrate patriotic holidays…or as an encore at the end of a performance.
And indeed, when I was in high school I often played the Bugler’s Holiday trumpet trio with then conductor Bob Hance, and long-time associate, Jerry McCullough, who owned an insurance agency in Piqua at that time. It was a 4th of July staple and a highlight at many of the summer concerts at the old Fountain Park band shell.
Everyone in America will recognize Bugler’s Holiday when they hear it, one of the most popular compositions by one of the country’s most popular composers of light concert music during the early to mid-20th century, Leroy Anderson.
Anderson made a living – and a good living, at that – writing recognizable favorites like “A Trumpeter’s Lullaby”, “The Syncopated Clock”, and “Bugler’s Holiday” And for the season presently at hand, he will always be remembered for having composed “Sleigh Ride”, a winter composition that featured sleigh bells and the visualization of a horse-drawn sleigh, popularized by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra with three separate recordings, in 1949, 1963, and 1970.
Ironically, Anderson would later admit that he wrote Sleigh Ride during a New England heat wave in the summer of 1947. It debuted in 1948, and with its subsequent recording by Fiedler, and its popularity on radio, it became a national Christmas classic by the winter of 1950. It still is!
But Anderson was anything but a one-hit wonder, and within his fertile composing mind he had designs on an endless variety of tunes, featuring an endless variety of instrumentation. Bugler’s Holiday was one of those inspirations.
He wrote it during the summer of 1954 at his home in Woodbury, Connecticut, as an instrumental “fun piece” that would show off the virtuosity of both the accomplished and amateur trumpet players. He wanted his music to be played and enjoyed by everyone, and he wrote to facilitate every level of musician. Bugler’s Holiday was written in a range so that even the better-than-average high schooler could play it (it sounds harder to play than it actually is) and the piano accompaniment he provided was actually more challenging, he would later claim.
It was a bright, happy-sounding piece that immediately found favor with concert bands and orchestras alike. It became a popular encore piece for all of the country’s popular performing groups – symphonic bands, symphony orchestras, and even the president’s own…the White House Marine Band.
And yes, it was a piece that many municipal bands, like the Piqua Civic Band, would use to dress up a performance and leave the audience whistling as they left the building. I’ve embedded Fiedler’s 1970 version of the Boston Pops’ recording here for your consideration, and enjoyment – a photo tribute to generations of military buglers and trumpet players.
Born on June 29, 1908, Leroy Anderson became one of America’s musical icons for his imagination and ability to always trump his last-known composition – legendary for his knack of leaving his audience wanting more, and his aptitude for delivering. His 1952 composition, Plink, Plank, Plunk, became the theme for the popular TV show, I’ve Got A Secret. And The Typewriter would become a favorite for a variety of radio news productions.
He died in 1975 at the age of 67 and his contemporaries, like composer/director John Williams would compare his legacy and popularity to greatest of the greats. What John Phillip Sousa was to marches…Leroy Anderson was to the whimsical and happy tunes of his day – songs that sounded like everyday life, songs that made people happy, and to this day as popular and recognizable as The Stars and Stripes Forever.
And if you’re wondering…no, there is no more Bugler’s Holiday performed at my house. Nowadays, like you, I just listen to it!