At the store yesterday, I had the opportunity to hear a bunch of Top 40 Christmas music. Yesterday’s mail brought the first Christmas card (it also brought a magnificent stir-fry skillet from Central Office. #2 son was so impressed by the sheer size of this pan that he called me at the store to say that my prize had arrived. “You could stir-fry a whole chicken in it!” he assured me. That boy is always hungry). In class last night, we heard that we ought to work hard. I, having come directly from an 11-hour workday, was too tired to appreciate that suggestion completely.
If you have ever thought that I was dogmatic and intolerant about Christmas music, then you should check out this guy. His links don’t always work and he is not always sound on music history, but I enjoyed reading his rant. If you’re in the mood for a good rant, you might enjoy it, too.
Still, I want to offer you for today a song which I have previously found irritating: “Sleigh Ride.” Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish wrote this thing in the late 1940s, during the 20th century Christmas Carol Renaissance. This was the time period that brought you pretty much all the great cheesy Christmas songs: “Frosty the Snowman,” “Marshmallow World,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” all that. “Sleigh Ride” is the one with friends calling “Yoo Hoo!” You’ve heard it, I’m sure.
The thing is, when you listen to these pieces being performed by people of that vintage, they have a level of sincerity to them that is quite appealing, or at least begins to seem that way after you’ve been listening to 21st century renditions of the stuff for a while.
So “Sleigh Ride,” originally a brief orchestral piece, sounds pretty good when sung by Bing Crosby or Ella Fitzgerald. And I even kind of like it sung by Ronnie Spector. You can click on the link at the beginning of this paragraph and find an interesting article on the history of the piece, and also links to download 51 different versions of the song, in case you were writing a thesis on it or something. That irritable guy I linked you to at the beginning says, “Musically, it throws notes at the listener in bunches as rapidly as possible, hoping to invigorate him.”
If you are tired, go ahead and download one of those 51 versions. Maybe it will invigorate you. I’m hoping it will do that for me. I think this song does need an orchestra, so I am not proposing that you sing it yourself. If you do, you may need to enlist some friends to supply the orchestral sounds. Or just think them as you sing. Especially the whip crack, which is really not optional.