Holiday Pops Concert

December 9 & 10, 2018 – Holiday Pops

Sleigh Ride, Blue Tango, Sandpaper Ballet, Trumpeter’s Lullaby

Leroy Anderson

Born – June 29, 1908 in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Died – May 18, 1975 in Woodbury, Connecticut

Sandpaper Ballet and Trumpeter’s Lullaby were first recorded in 1945, Sleigh Ride in 1949, and Blue Tango in 1951, all by Anderson and his orchestra for Decca records.

Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence in the Pentagon, translator for the US Army, and composer of over 200 short orchestral pieces and an opera, Leroy Anderson enjoyed a long composer-performer relationship with Arthur Ziegler of the Boston Pops Orchestra.  When the principal trumpet of the Pops requested a solo piece that was not loud, martial, nor triumphant, Trumpeter’s Lullaby was born.

Anderson is known for his use of unconventional “instruments” and non-musical sounds. Percussionists in Sandpaper Ballet must use three grades of sandpaper to mimic the sounds of a vaudeville soft-shoe dance.

Few pieces are more popular than Anderson’s Sleigh Ride and Blue Tango. Sleigh Ride was written to convey a winter scene during a scorching July and became one of the top holiday songs today. Combining the blues and a tango, Blue Tango was the number one hit song for 15 weeks in 1952.

Christmas Music from the Movies: Polar Express

Believe, The Polar Express, When Christmas Comes to Town, Spirit of the Season

Alan Silvestri

Born – March 26, 1950 in New York City

Jerry Brubaker – Arranger

Born -1946 in Altoona, Pennsylvania

The Polar Express was released on October 21, 2004 at the Chicago International Film Festival. 

 Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express follows the story of a doubting young boy who journeys to the North Pole on a magical steam engine, making friends and rekindling his belief in Christmas along the way.  Although the style of animation met with some criticism, the film was a box office success and hailed as a Christmas classic.  Composer Alan Silvestri collaborated with director Robert Zemeckis on Forrest Gump, the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Castaway.  The song, “Believe”, was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards in 2005 and won a Grammy Award in 2006.

A Woman’s Heart

Josef Strauss

Born – August 20, 1827 in Vienna, Austria

Died –  July 22, 1870 in Vienna, Austria

A Woman’s Heart was debuted at the Volksgarten, in Vienna on September 6, 1864. 

Although he never achieved the fame of his father, Johann Strauss Sr., or younger brother, Johann Strauss Jr., it is often noted that Josef was the most poetic of his musical family and his dances have the most musical value. He made a living as an engineer; one of his inventions was a horse-drawn street-cleaning machine.  Nonetheless, his ability to step in as conductor for the family orchestra made for a busy travel schedule.

As an expression of concern for the social issues of women, he composed this polka-mazurkafor his beloved wife. There are three beats to a bar with emphasis on the first beat and a contrasting, march-like middle section. As elegant as any of his father’s or brother’s waltzes, Strauss, Jr. wrote “Josef is the more gifted of us two; I am merely the more popular.”

On a trip to Poland,

The polka refers to the form of the dance,

Santa’s Reindeer Team, a Christmas Story

Poem by John Miller

Music by Frank Milholland

This work was first performed in Miami on December 6, 2015  by the Southwestern Ohio Symphonic Band, with Miller narrating.This performance is the Northwest premier. 

In the tradition of “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” this narrated symphonic work is the result of a collaboration between two Miami University alumni, John Miller and Frank Milholland.  Miller owns a theatrical company and publishes children’s Christmas stories, and Milholland composes and arranges music for orchestra, band, and choir. Miller’s poem describes the special talent of each reindeer Santa selects to be on his team.

Indigo March

Johann Strauss II

Born – October 25, 1825 in Vienna, Austria

Died – June 3, 1899 in Vienna, Austria

Eduard Strauss conducted the first performance of this march on April 9, 1871 in Vienna.

Although the Viennese public admired both Johann Strauss, Senior and Johann, Junior, the rivalry between father and son was no secret. For many years it was difficult for young Strauss Jr. to find work because so many dance halls were committed to his father.

The march is a compilation of melodies from the operetta, Indigo and the Forty Thieves, which is based on the tale of Ali Baba in A Thousand and One Nights.

Chanukah Medley

Arranged by Robin Seletsky

Orchestrated by Ed Marcus

Klezmer originated in Romania and Moldavia with Ashkenazi Jews and in the early 20thcentury mixed with American jazz.  Klezmer bands traditionally include violins, clarinets, accordions, a hammered string instrument like a dulcimer or cimbalom, with minimal percussion, such as wood blocks or snare drum.

A Klezmer clarinetist herself, Robin Seletsky showcases the sounds of Eastern European Jewish song and dance music.  The variety of melodies and dances –  tango, waltz, polka, as well as the more regional czardas, freylekhs, and shers. express a range of emotions from crying to laughing.

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing and Deck the Halls

William Ryden

Born – December 19, 1939 in New York City

Died –  January 21, 2018 in Forest Hills, New York

The lyrics for Hark, the Herald Angels Singwere written in 1758 by George Whitefield, one of the founders of the Methodist church, and set to a slow and somber tune. In 1855, English tenor, William Hayman Cummings, combined Whitefield’s lyrics with the melody composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840 as a part of his secularGutenberg Cantata to form the Christmas carol we hear today in this festive arrangement.

Deck the Halls was a Welsh melody from the 1600’s, with words translated into English by Thomas Oliphant in 1862.  Originally carols were not hymns but dances; the “Fa La La “section between lines in the carol functioned as an interlude between competing singers and dancers.  Mozart allegedly used this tune in his 18thviolin sonata, as did Haydn in his “New Year’s Night.”

Whitefield’s nearly a hundred years earlier,was,unlike the joyful melody sung today

La Virgen de la Macarena

Rafael Mendez

Born – March 26, 1906 in Jiquilpan, Mexico

Died – September 15, 1981 in Encino, California

Known as the Heifetz of the trumpet, Rafael Mendez was recognized as a virtuoso when very young. He began his trumpet studies at age five in order to join the family band.  When Rafael was only 10 years old, Pancho Villa invaded his village and conscripted the band into his army.  When he was 20, he emigrated to the United States and worked in a Buick factory in Detroit until he “caught a break” as soloist for the Michigan Theater. Eventually, he became the principal trumpet for MGM recording studios.

Mendez set the standard for trumpet artistry and technical brilliance. He had unparalleled technique and – aided by circular breathing – impossibly long phrases!

In addition to teaching, arranging, and promoting the arts he was known for his mix of classical, jazz, and Mexican traditions. This piece is based on a traditional Spanish bull-fighting tune and named for the patron saint of bullfighters.

Christmas Music for Orchestra

John Cacavas

Born – August 13, 1930 in Aberdeen, South Dakota

Died – January 28, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California

This medley of Christmas songs was published in 1964.

Born in a small Midwestern town, Cacavas started his musical career by arranging music for his high school band. After college, he became the chief arranger for the United States Army Band and eventually worked his way to composing and arranging music for Hollywood.

Soaring countermelodies accompany the beloved Christmas carols in this easily singable medley of   O Come all ye Faithful, Silent Night, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and Angels We Have Heard on High.

Many of his compositions reflect his Midwest roots and variety of musical genres from classical to jazz, for example his Redfield Concertino and Bowdle Town Blues refer to two small South Dakota towns

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Chris Ridenhour

The exact origins of this Christmas carol are unknown, but it was first notated in England in the early 18thcentury.  Thanks to Bristol composer Arther Warrell, the carol gained popularity when he arranged it for his choir in 1935. It was published under the title “A Merry Christmas: West Country traditional song.”

As Chris Ridenhour is primarily a film composer, this festive version opens with a flourish and the holiday melody is adorned by cinematic stylings.

  • notes by Caroline Faflak
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