Orchestra and Chorale Pops Concert celebrates 100 years of Leroy Anderson

By Karen Greer
Special to the Journal Inquirer
May 29, 2008

The Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale’s annual Pops concert on Saturday, June 7, “A Tribute to Leroy Anderson” at 7:30 p.m., marks the centennial of the birth of the composer of such favorites as “Sleigh Ride” and “The Syncopated Clock”.

Perhaps no other popular songs evoke as many memories as Leroy Anderson’s. Barry Simons has some remarkable memories of the music, and also of the man himself.

Now a resident of Tolland and a member of MSOC’s board of directors, Sir Barry had a long career as a musical theater producer in his native England. Sometime in the mid-1960’s, he recalls, “The company that published Leroy Anderson’s music invited me up to a reception one day, and the reception was to honor Leroy Anderson.”

By then, Anderson was perhaps the world’s leading composer of light classical music. His collaboration with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops included enormously successful songs such as “Blue Tango,” released in 1951 and the first instrumental recording ever to sell one million copies. Simons admired Anderson ’s music – elegant and amusing at the same time –and used it frequently in his musical productions.

At that time, Denmark Street in London was England ’s equivalent of Tin Pan Alley. Music publishers had pianos in their offices, where producers and performers would visit in person to hear new songs and have orchestral arrangements made to order.

Anderson had come to the United Kingdom for a concert tour. “Everybody wanted to hear the man who wrote it, play it,” said Simons. “It was not a reception open to the public, it was purely people within the profession – very strictly so.”

“We had a brief chat, and he sat and played a couple of pieces of music in the music publisher’s office. He did 16 bars of this and 32 bars of that, just playing around. He enjoyed having fun at the piano.”

His impression of Mr. Anderson was of “a very unassuming, modest man who loved music. He had this very deep love of music, and he had this very deep sense of humor which comes out in his music.”

“A Tribute to Leroy Anderson” is the final concert in the MSOC’s 48th season. In addition to many works by Leroy Anderson, the program, conducted by Lewis J. Buckley and Kevin L. Mack, includes Rossini’s William Tell Overture and a medley of songs by Irving Berlin.

The June 7 concert is immediately preceded by “Celebration of the Arts”, a free event sponsored by The Manchester Arts Association. This festival of art, poetry, music, and dance will start at 6 p.m. in the AST Building of Manchester Community College, adjacent to the SBM Charitable Foundation Auditorium, where the concert will be held at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for the concert can be purchased at the door. Admission is $15; $12 for seniors and students; and free for those under 18 years of age. For further information, phone 860-228-2921, E-mail MusicSix [at] cox.net, or visit the MSOC Web site at www.msoc.org.