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A Christmas Festival

Composed for orchestra, A Christmas Festival was completed June 1950. It is 9 minutes exactly in its original version. It is 5 minutes and 45 seconds long in its shortened printed version. It was first performed on June 12, 1950 as an extra at the Boston Pops, Arthur Fiedler conducting. A Christmas Festival was first recorded on June 19, 1950 by Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops, in analog mono sound. 1950. The first half of the original arrangement and the second half were recorded separately to fit the length limitations of the recordings used in 1950 (see composer quotes below for more information).

A Christmas Festival was first recorded by the composer on October 27, 1952, in analog mono sound. It was re-recorded by the composer in analog stereo sound on June 3, 1959. The Fiedler and Anderson recordings are of the original long version. Fiedler's early stereo recording for RCA used the specified organ in the final measures. Some of Fielder's later stereo recordings use optional timpani in the final measures, instead of the specified organ.

A Christmas Festival was shortened by the composer for print publication. See composer quote below for more information.

Composer quotes:
(From a 1960's interview with Dick Bertel of WTIC Radio, Hartford, Connecticut)

Question: When you wrote "The Christmas Festival", what were you trying to achieve?

Leroy Anderson: "Well, I was trying to write a Christmas festival. You see, there are all types of things that have been written for various occasions and in this particular case I was working at the time for the Boston Pops, I was the arranger and orchestrator for them for years, and they wanted to record a special concert number, using Christmas songs, carols and other Christmas music, for records, so they asked, Arthur Fiedler asked me to do a concert overture, and this is how it came about. I selected the ones that were the most popular and best known, and then I took them and tried to give instrumental treatment to them; in other words, it's not a medley, that isn't what we wanted to do here, certainly what I didn't want to do. I rather took the themes and built you might say a concert overture, around the Christmas songs. They're not just carols because in this we end with "Jingle Bells", that is, of course, a secular song, it's not a carol, but it's associated so much with the gaiety and spirit of Christmas that you certainly couldn't leave it out."

Question: You were telling me earlier that the days of 78 rpm records presented a problem to you as far as composing was concerned.

Leroy Anderson: "That's right, when this was done, I think it was in 1950 or 1951, they still had single records as the main part of the market; LP's were just about coming in. so while it was played all the way through, that is, when it was recorded, for the LP, we also had to make a split after four minutes - the Christmas Festival runs about 8 minutes so that meant that when I wrote it I had to make a place in the middle where you could stop and this is a problem I had with many other things I did for the Boston Pops such as the musical comedy selections, where they ran 7 or 8 minutes and had to go on two sides of a record, it was necessary to write so there was a spot in the middle where you could make a logical break, and at the same time also pick up again for the other side, and it had to be as satisfactory as it could for that purpose; but, at the same time, it had to be done so it wasn't noticeable when you played the whole thing all the way through. In other words, you couldn't have the seams showing. This was done in the Christmas Festival and if I may brag a bit, I defy anybody to find out the exact spot where that occurred because, of course, we don't play it stopping any more, it's played all the way through be cause now with LP records we don't have to stop every three or four minutes."

Composer Quote: "I wrote A Christmas Festival originally for recording on two side of a single record, which had a playing time of eight minutes. In preparing it for publication, I realized most conductors would not want a selection of this length, so I made a shorter version myself, rather than have them try to make makeshift cuts. This also reduced the amount of engraving and printing so that it could be made available at a lower price. The full version is available in manuscript from Mills Music for anyone who wishes to perform it." (note, now it is available from G. Schirmer rental department)