|Frederick Fennell, founder of the Eastman Wind
Ensemble and long time conductor of the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, shares these insights
into the music of Leroy Anderson.
Anderson's success didn't just happen; there were reasons. The composer had a classical
education in all the facets of music at the hands of distinguished and demanding teachers.
His was an unusual talent, fed by curiosity and marked by all unmistakable instinct to do
what was uniquely his. Missing no opportunity, he always seemed to possess the ability not
just to learn but also to remember and to apply. After his success he remained a shy
individual, So I am told, though he guest conducted widely.
I never met Leroy Anderson, and we never exchanged letters or calls, but I did know him as
he probably wanted to be reached, having recorded all but 2 of his 40 published titles in
both his originals for orchestra and the settings for band. Anderson arranged most of the
band transcriptions too, scoring them with the same special care that professionals in the
orchestral world so admired.
Rehearsal of the Anderson pieces, whether for band or orchestra, takes time, regardless of
how familiar they seem; but his deceivingly simple sounding music was conceived for those
who can play. From my own experience at the Pops, with its absolute minimum rehearsal
schedule, I remember that these miniature orchestral masterpieces came as close as we can
imagine to being, and I say this affectionately, conductor proof!
As I got to know each new composition over the airwaves, I believe I frequently shared a
reaction with others hearing a new, piece for the first time, saying to myself, "Oh,
yes, I think I know that one." As the music played on, however, I had to say,
"I've not heard that, I don't know it or what it is, but I sure do like it; that has
to be music by Leroy Anderson." That part of the identity was immediate. He called
one of his list compositions, Golden Years. Thank you for yours, Leroy Anderson, Unique
composer, distinguished American.