Last night Paula and I went to the symphony. Actually it was a concert by Orchestra Kentucky. An organization of local professional musicians who perform concerts several times a year. Their concerts are held in Van Meter Hall on the campus of Western Kentucky University.
This concert, the orchestra's first for 2011, featured the music of Leroy Anderson (pronounced "Lah-Roy" not "Lee-Roy") a composer/arranger famous in the 1950's & 60's.
I am familiar with Mr. Anderson's music for several reasons. When I was a kid and I used to to our local movie theaters (there were 2 of them: "The Boyd" and "The State") I would hear Leroy Anderson records being played over the sound system before the movie started.
In addition the most vivid memory with Leroy Anderson music came at Christmas time; again when I was a kid. From the time I was 5 until I was about 12, every Christmas, I would go to a special "private" Christmas party given by the Ingersol Rand company; a local manufacturer of industrial pumps. They employed a lot of people at that time and party was given for the children of the employees. My dad didn't work for them but friends who did always gave us a pair of tickets to go.
The party was a variety show with different types of acts. Each year the show usually included a magician, an animal act and a novelty act such as acrobats, a juggler or a ventriloquist.
There was a small band that included a trumpet player giving musical accompaniment to the acts. They would also play when the MC led everyone to sing a Christmas song or two.
The start of the show was signaled when the band would play Leroy Anderson's most famous song: Sleigh Ride. The instrumental version of the song still brings back memories of those great Christmas party shows. There's also another special connection between the song Sleigh Ride and me that has to do with my dad. You can read about that in my blog post titled "A Father's Encouragement. Posted on December 19, 2009.
Anderson's novelty composition "The Typewriter" is one of my favorite parts of one of my top 5 favorite Jerry Lewis movies, "Who's Minding The Store". You can see several versions of Lewis' comedic pantomime of this song on You Tube.
As you can see I'm very familiar with Leroy Anderson's music. I looked forward to this concert since last summer when I first heard it was on the Orchestra's schedule for 2011.
Paula went with me to the concert. However a bit of miscommunication on my part led her to believe that she seeing Mr. Anderson perform and not just going to a concert. That would have been an extremely unique experience due to the fact that he died in 1995.
Despite getting something totally different than she expected my wife said that she "enjoyed it more than she expected" and that she wouldn't mind having one of the songs played during the performance, "Forgotten Dreams", added to her the music library on her I-Touch.
I knew I would enjoy the concert. It was my first live orchestral experience since high school, I think. But I didn't expect the night to impact me to the degree that it did. Let me try to explain.
As I've mentioned Leroy Anderson's music was something I'd been hearing nearly all of my life. It was music I'd known as being from the past. I had it on my Ipod but when listening to it it only evoked memories and wasn't the least bit engaging. It was novel and entertaining but something from my parent's generation not mine.
But when I heard the music in that beautiful concert hall and saw the musicians actually playing their instruments; I experience the Leroy Anderson's talents in an all together new way. Watching the violinists plucking the instrument's strings during "Plink Plank Plunk" and seeing that the melody line of "Trumpeter's Lullaby" was made by 3 different trumpet players playing in harmony made the music come to life for me. It was an incredible feeling of something that I perceived to from the past, becoming real to my senses.
I likened it to the scene in the movie "Jurassic Park" when the paleontologist, Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant( played by Laura Dern and Sam Neil) saw the real live dinosaurs for the first time. They were awed over the experience of something they'd only imagined becoming real.
That's what the concert did for me. It made the music real. It was a thrill that I've only experienced before at Disney World. Surreal.
Leroy Anderson's music will from now on have a new spirit for me. That may sound strange and I may not be communicating what I mean very well. But the way it felt being at that concert was something I'll remember as a truly unique experience.