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Leroy Anderson was the composer behind light music classics such as 'The Typewriter', and the Christmas favourite, 'Sleigh Ride'. Championed by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Anderson has been dubbed by John Williams as "one of the great American masters of light orchestral music."
Born to Swedish parents on 29 June 1908 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the young Leroy Anderson was given his first piano lessons by his mother, a church organist. When he was 11, he began studying piano at the New England Conservatory of Music. Within six years he was composing, orchestrating and conducting the school orchestra.
In 1925 Anderson entered Harvard, where he played trombone, organ and double bass, and studied composition and orchestration. He received a Masters degree in Music in 1930 and continued working towards a PhD in languages. He spoke English and Swedish and eventually became fluent in Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese.
Anderson - pictured centre - led the Harvard University Band and conducted and arranged for dance bands around Boston. His arrangements came to the attention of Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, who asked to see Anderson's original compositions. Fiedler's recordings of Anderson's 1938 'Jazz Pizzicato' went on to become one of the composer's signature works.
Fiedler - pictured right - and the Boston Pops were the first orchestra to perform and record many of Anderson's compositions. During these years Anderson also performed alongside his brother in various dance orchestras. They also performed on cruise ships of the Norwegian Line crossing the Atlantic.
In 1942 Anderson joined the U.S. Army, and was assigned to Iceland with the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps as a translator and interpreter. He married Eleanor Firke before shipping off to Iceland. In 1945 he was moved to the Pentagon as Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence. However his duties did not prevent him from composing, and he wrote 'The Syncopated Clock' and 'Promenade.' Leroy Anderson is pictured here with wife Eleanor and daughter Jane in 1945.
Anderson was released from active army duty in 1945 and moved to New York to pursue his composing career. The family spent the summer of 1946 in Connecticut, where Anderson began composing Sleigh Ride - during a heat wave! The Boston Pops' single of it was originally issued on red vinyl.
Anderson's Concerto in C for Piano and Orchestra was premiered in 1954. After receiving mixed reviews, the composer withdrew it, intending to revise it. He never got round to making the changes and the work was released posthumously and unedited in 1988. It is now a popular addition to the piano concerto repertoire.
In 1958, Anderson composed the music for a Broadway show Goldilocks. Even though it earned two Tony awards and his score was well-received, the story was criticised as being weak. Goldilocks was not a commercial success and Anderson never wrote another musical. Pictured are Leroy Anderson with music director Lehman Engel at the studio recording of Goldilocks in 1958
In 1951 Anderson composed 'Blue Tango', the first instrumental recording ever to sell a million copies, earning the composer a Gold Disc and the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts.
Anderson died of cancer in 1975 and was buried in Connecticut. Movie maestro John Williams, today the laureate conductor of the Boston Pops, has said, "Anderson's music remains as young and fresh as the very day on which it is composed."