’Tis the Symphony

A winter celebration

The Lesher Center for the Arts

1 hour 50 minutes, with intermission

What’s Interesting About This Concert

  • The Snowman is an animated short film about a young boy and the snowman he builds, who comes to life. The audience watches on the big screen as the California Symphony and Pacific Boychoir Academy perform the soundtrack live.
  • Nominated for an Academy Award in 1983, The Snowman lost out to Tango. (No, we’d never heard of it either.)
  • Featuring an audience sing-along and festive favorites, the holiday concerts are the most popular of the year—perfect for all ages looking to get into the spirit of the season.

The Program

AndersonA Christmas Festival

Holiday SelectionsFeaturing the Pacific Boychoir Academy

The Pacific Boychoir was formed in 1998 with 6 boys, and it now includes more than 175 singers from ages 4 to 18. The New York Times said the PBA goes “beyond the reach of most youth choirs” and the Los Angeles Times described the PBA quality of sound and musicianship as “astonishing.”

The PBA has appeared frequently with the San Francisco Symphony, performing under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, Kurt Masur, Robert Spano, David Robertson, , James Conlon, Charles Dutoit, Herbert Blomstedt, and Vance George, performing works by Beethoven, Britten, Orff, Wagner, Mahler, Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Berlioz. Along with the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the PBA recorded Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with the SFS, which won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Album in 2004. In January 2010, the San Francisco Symphony recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8, featuring the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, and the PBA, was awarded Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance and Best Classical Album.

The success of the chorus led to the formation in 2004 of the Pacific Boychoir Academy, the only full-time boys' chorus school on the west coast of North America. The choir school integrates a full academic curriculum with daily musical instruction for boys in grades 4-8. The choir school students learn sightreading, music theory and repertoire, as well as Math, English, History, Science, Art, PE, and Languages. The choir school has one of the lowest student:teacher ratios for independent schools in the Bay Area, and is a member of the East Bay Independent Schools Association (EBISA).

The chorus is divided into multiple groups: three training groups, two performing groups, and two groups for older boys whose voices have begun to change. The after school choirs rehearse up to four hours per week, and the day school choristers rehearse up to 15 hours per week.

The PBA has performed at venues such as Davies Symphony Hall, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, Basilica San Marco in Venice, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Teatro Polyteama in Jundiai Brasil, in Prague, Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center in Davis California, in San Francisco, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Chartres Cathedral, Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg, Sala São Paulo, Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, Yoshi's (jazz club), on Public Radio International (PRI), on Danish National Radio, at Grace Cathedral, at professional sporting events, and also has several self-produced concerts annually. In 2007, the PBA presented the first performances of (originally written for boys choir) by an American boys choir.

Choirs from the PBA have performed in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii, Kentucky, Washington, Oregon, Washington DC, Maryland, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, and have traveled to France, Germany, the Czech Republic, China, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Russia, Estonia, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, and Brazil. They have multiple CDs, a live CD, Christmas music by Benjamin Britten, two spirituals CDs, and a recording of two of Bach's "Lutheran Masses". They have sung with the San Francisco Symphony, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, , , , the orchestras of UC Berkeley and UC Davis, as well as with several top boy's choirs around the world, including the Vienna Boys' Choir and the Drakensberg Boys Choir.

The PBA has also performed with comedian Zach Galifianakis, is the voice of the Yahoo! yodel, has sung for the , performs dozens of free school performances every year, and published quite possibly the first ever choir tour blog, in July 2001

The Founding Music Director is Kevin Fox, who sings with the American Bach Soloists and the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys.

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TchaikovskySelections from the Nutcracker Suite


Tchaikovsky compiled his Suite from the ballet "The Nutcracker" (Сюита из бадета «Щелкунчик»), Op. 71a (TH 35 ; ČW 32), popularly known as The Nutcracker Suite, in January and February 1892. It was the only one of his three ballet suites to have been compiled an published during the composer's lifetime.


The Suite is scored for an orchestra consisting of 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets (in A, B-flat), bass clarinet (in B-flat), 2 bassoons + 4 horns (in F), 2 trumpets (in A), 3 trombones, tuba + 3 timpani, tambourine, triangle, cymbals, glockenspiel + celesta (or piano) + harp, violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses.

Movements and Duration

The Suite consists of eight numbers, grouped in three movements:

  • I. Ouverture miniature. Allegro giusto (B-flat major, 182 bars)
  • II. Danses caractéristiques:
    • (a) Marche. Tempo di marcia viva (G major, 88 bars)
    • (b) Danse de la Fée Dragée. Andante non troppo (E minor, 52 bars)
    • (c) Danse russe. Trépak. Tempo di trépak, molto vivace (G major, 84 bars)
    • (d) Danse arabe. Allegro (G minor, 102 bars)
    • (e) Danse chinoise. Allegro moderato (B-flat major, 32 bars)
    • (f) Danse des mirlitons. Allegro (D major, 77 bars)
  • III. Valse des fleurs. Tempo di valse (D major, 353 bars)

In the ballet these eight numbers correspond to the Overture; March (Act I, No. 2); the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy (Act II, No. 14, 2nd variation) [abridged]; Russian Dance (Trepak) (Act II, No. 12d); Coffee (Arab Dance) (Act II, No. 12b); Tea (Chinese Dance) (Act II, No. 12c); Dance of the Reed Flutes (Act II, No. 12e); and Waltz of the Flowers (Act II, No. 13).

A complete performance of the Suite last around 20 to 25 minutes.


The Suite from the ballet The Nutcracker was compiled as a substitute for the symphonic ballad The Voyevoda on the programme of a Russian Musical Society concert in Saint Petersburg scheduled for 29 February/12 March 1892, at which Tchaikovsky was due to conduct his own works. Having destroyed the score of the ballad The Voyevoda following its premiere in November 1891, Tchaikovsky suggested replacing a suite of numbers from his new ballet The Nutcracker, which he was preparing to orchestrate [1].

Among the surviving rough sketches of the ballet, and also among notes on the manuscripts and other documents, are a number of variants of titles of the Suite. Originally Tchaikovsky intended to call it 'Suite from the ballet "The Fir Tree" (Сюита из балета «Елка») [2], or Suite from the ballet "The Christmas Tree" (Сюита из балета «Рождественская елка») [3], suggesting that the title of the ballet had not yet been settled upon [4].

The earliest lists of numbers for the Suite also contained Chocolate (Spanish Dance) and Final Waltz. The second movement — Danses caractéristiques — was to be called In the Kingdom of Sweets and Toys (В царстве лакомств и игруншек). The Danse des mirlitons was originally Reed Pipes (Свирелки), and the Danse de la Fée Dragée was to have been The Sweet Fairy (Фея конфект).

Tchaikovsky had begun orchestrating the numbers in the Suite by 28 January/9 February 1892 [5]. By 31 January/12 February 1892 the first number of the Suite was ready [6]. According to the author's note on the manuscript score, the orchestration was completed on 8/20 February, at Maydanovo.


The Suite was performed a week later than intended, at the ninth symphony concert of the Saint Petersburg branch of the Russian Musical Society on 7/19 March 1892, with Tchaikovsky conducting. The Suite quickly became a popular favourite, and other notable early performances included:

  • Moscow, 1st Electrical Exhibition concert, 4/16 July 1892, conducted by Vojtěch Hlaváč
  • Chicago, Auditorium, 10/22 October 1892, conducted by Theodore Thomas
  • Brussels, 2/14 January 1893, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Odessa, 1st RMS symphony concert, 16/28 January 1893, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Odessa, Rishelyevskaya School charity concert, 21 January 1893/2 February, conducted by Tchaikovsky (2 unspecified movements only)
  • Odessa, 3rd RMS symphony concert, 24 January/5 February 1893, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Moscow, special RMS symphony concert, 14/28 February 1893, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Moscow, 1st Imperial Theatres symphony concert, 7/19 March 1893, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • London, Queen's Hall, 5/17 October 1896, conducted by Henry Wood.


On 9/21 March the composer wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson: "The suite from the ballet was successful. I don't think it would hurt to print it" [7]. The full score of the suite was issued by Jurgenson in May 1892, and the orchestral parts the following month.

The score of the Suite was not published separately from the ballet in Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works.


At the request of the Russian Musical Society, Tchaikovsky donated the manuscript full score of the Suite to the library of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, and it carries the inscriptions: "To the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, as a souvenir of the concert on 7 March 1892. P. Tchaikovsky" [8].

For many years the full score was believed to have been lost, until it was discovered by chance by the conductor Yevgeny Zablotsky among some unrelated papers in 1946. It is now preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive (a1, No. 46), and consists of pages extracted from the full score of the ballet.


See: The Nutcracker (suite): Recordings

Related Works

See The Nutcracker.

External Links

Notes and References

  1. See Letter 4604 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 25 January/6 February 1892.
  2. See the sketchbook for the ballet — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  3. See the title page of the manuscript full score of the Suite.
  4. See Letter 4634 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 6/18 March 1892.
  5. See Letter 4606 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 28 January/9 February 1892.
  6. See Letter 4610 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 31 January/12 February 1892.
  7. See Letter 4641 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 9/21 March 1892.
  8. See also Letter 4643 to Pyotr Jurgenson. 14/26 March 1892.

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BlakeThe Snowman (Film viewing with score performed live)

The Snowman is a 1982 British animated television film and symphonic poem based on Raymond Briggs' 1978 picture book The Snowman. It was directed by Dianne Jackson for the British public service Channel 4. It was first shown on 26 December 1982, and was an immediate success. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and won a BAFTA TV Award.

The story is told through pictures, action and music, scored by Howard Blake, and is wordless, with the exception of the central song "Walking in the Air". The orchestral score was performed in the film by the Sinfonia of London and the song was performed by Peter Auty, a St Paul's Cathedral choirboy.[1]

The special ranked at number 71 on the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, based on a vote by industry professionals.[2] It was voted number 4 in UKTV Gold's Greatest TV Christmas Moments. It came third in Channel 4's poll of 100 Greatest Christmas Moments in 2004. Its broadcast, usually on Christmas Eve, has become an annual festive event.[3]


Source book

The Snowman is a wordless children's picture book by Raymond Briggs, first published in 1978 by Hamish Hamilton in the United Kingdom, and published by Random House in the United States in November of the same year. In the United Kingdom, it was the runner-up for the Kate Greenaway Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book illustration by a British writer.[4] In the United States, it was named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list in 1979.


Iain Harvey, the film's executive producer and publisher at Hamish Hamilton, recalls that the book had initially sold well, but a second print had been less successful with 50,000 unsold copies sitting in a warehouse, which he attributes to the lack of dialogue which prevented it being read as a bedtime story.[5] In 1980 he was contacted by producer John Coates from TVC (Television Cartoons) with an idea of adapting the book for an animated film, for which he gave his consent.[5][6]

In March 1982, Coates presented an "animatic" storyboard version with a basic piano track by Howard Blake, including an early version of "Walking in the Air" to commissioning executives at the fledgeling Channel 4, a new public service television company which was due to begin broadcasting in November 1982.[6] The director Dianne Jackson had worked with Coates on The Beatles' Yellow Submarine and had mainly worked on short animations and commercials; this was her first time directing a longer animated film. As a result, the experienced animator Jimmy T. Murakami was brought in to supervise.[5] The film was produced using traditional animation techniques, consisting of pastels, crayons and other colouring tools drawn on pieces of celluloid, which were traced over hand drawn frames. For continuity purposes, the background artwork was painted using the same tools.[5]

The story was expanded to fill 26 minutes and include a longer flying sequence which takes the boy to the North Pole and a party with Father Christmas which is not present in the picture book. The animators also brought in personal touches - a static sequence with a car is replaced by a motorcycle ride, as one of the animators was a keen motorcyclist and it was noted by Iain Harvey that this sequence kept "the action flowing after all the fun and comedy of the boy and the Snowman exploring the house and forming a friendship – and what could be better than a midnight run in a snowy landscape".[5] Similarly, although the boy in the book is unnamed, in the film he is named "James" on his present tag, added by animator Joanna Harrison as it was her boyfriend's (later her husband) name.[6][7] Interviewed in 2012, Raymond Briggs recalls that he thought "'It's a bit corny and twee, dragging in Christmas', as The Snowman had nothing to do with that, but it worked extremely well."[8]

The boy's home appears to be located in the South Downs of England, near to Brighton; he and Snowman fly over the Royal Pavilion and Palace Pier. Raymond Briggs has lived in Sussex since 1961, and the composer Howard Blake was also a native of the county.[1][9]


The production team contacted Howard Blake early in the production, as they were having difficulties finding the right tone for adapting the wordless picture book. Blake suggested that the whole film should not feature dialogue, but instead a through-composed orchestral soundtrack. He recalls the song "Walking in the Air" was written some years earlier during a difficult period in his life, and the song formed the main theme for the work.[1]

Howard Blake's orchestral score was performed in the film by the Sinfonia of London.[1] The song "Walking in the Air" is sung in the film by chorister Peter Auty,[10] who was not credited in the original version. He was given a credit on the 20th anniversary version.

The song was covered three years later by Welsh chorister Aled Jones in a single which reached #5 in the charts in the United Kingdom. Jones is sometimes incorrectly credited with having sung the song in the film.[11] Blake's soundtrack for The Snowman is often performed as a standalone concert work, often accompanying a projection of the film or sometimes with a narrator (the version for narrator was first performed by Bernard Cribbins in Summer 1983).[12]


"I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snow I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day... and it was on that day I made The Snowman." - Raymond Briggs in the original introduction to the film.

After a night of heavy snowfall, a boy named James wakes up and plays in the snow, eventually building a large snowman. At the stroke of midnight, he sneaks downstairs to find the snowman magically comes to life. James shows the snowman around his house, playing with appliances, toys and other bric-a-brac, all while keeping quiet enough not to wake James' parents. The two find a sheeted-down motorcycle in the house's garden and go for a ride on it through the woods. Its engine heat starts to melt the snowman and he cools off in the garage freezer.

Seeing a picture of the arctic on a packet in the freezer, the snowman is agitated and takes the boy in hand, running through the garden until they take flight. They fly over the South Downs towards the coast, seeing the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Palace Pier, and north along the coast of Norway. They continue through an arctic landscape and into the aurora borealis. They land in a snow-covered forest where they join a party of snowmen. They eventually meet Father Christmas along with his reindeer; he gives the boy a card and a scarf with a snowman pattern. The snowman returns home with James before the sun rises and the two bid farewell for the night.

On Christmas Day the following morning, James wakes up to find that the snowman has melted, leaving only his hat, scarf, coal eyes, tangerine nose, and coal buttons in a pile of melted snow. James kneels down by the snowman's remains while holding his scarf, mourning the loss of him.

Alternative introductions

The original introduction on Channel 4 features the author Raymond Briggs walking through a field in rural Sussex describing his inspiration for the story, which then transitions into the animated landscape of the film. The film's executive producer Iain Harvey had received interest in the film from U.S. networks and for a VHS release. However, he noted that "in the US programmes were sponsored, and to be sponsored you needed a big name". Various names such as Sir Laurence Olivier and Julie Andrews were suggested, but a request for a rock star led to David Bowie being involved. He was a fan of Briggs' story When the Wind Blows and later provided a song for its animated adaptation. In the sequence, Bowie was filmed in the attic of 'his' childhood home and discovering a scarf in a drawer closely resembling the one given to the boy towards the end of the film.[6]

To celebrate the film's 20th anniversary, Channel 4 created an alternative opening directed by Roger Mainwood, with Raymond Briggs' interpretation of Father Christmas recounting how he met the boy.[13] Comedian Mel Smith reprises Father Christmas in this opening. This version is also cropped to fit a 16:9 widescreen format. Channel 4 used this opening from 2002 until Mel Smith's death in 2013, after which they began using the Bowie opening, which in turn returned the film to its original 4:3 aspect ratio.


The film was nominated as Best Short Film, Animated at the 55th Academy Awards in 1983.[14] It won a BAFTA for best Children's Programme (Entertainment/Drama) in 1983 BAFTA Awards 1983, and was also nominated for Best Graphics. It won the Grand Prix at the Tampere Film Festival in 1984.[14]

In the British Film Institute's 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, based on a vote by industry professionals it was listed as #71.[2] It was voted #4 in UKTV Gold's Greatest TV Christmas Moments. It came third in Channel 4's poll of 100 Greatest Christmas Moments in 2004.

Home media

The Snowman was originally released on VHS in 1982 by Palace Video. It has been re-released various times by Palace and later PolyGram Video, and Universal Studios Home Entertainment UK after Palace went out of business.

The Snowman was re-released in 2002 as a DVD special edition and again as a DVD and Blu-ray 30th anniversary edition in the United Kingdom on 5 November 2012 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment UK. The 2002 special edition peaked at No.3 in the video charts. The 2012 home video release includes four extra features: a "Snow Business" documentary, "The Story of The Snowman," storyboard, and the introductions used throughout the film's first 20 years. The film re-entered at No.14 on the UK Official children’s Video Chart on 11 November 2012, eventually peaking at No.5 on 16 December 2012 based on sales of DVDs and other physical formats.

The Universal DVD The Snowman & Father Christmas (902 030 – 11), released in the United Kingdom in 2000, uses the Bowie opening.[15]


The Snowman and the Snowdog

A new 25-minute special titled The Snowman and the Snowdog aired on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve 2012 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original short and of Channel 4.[16] Produced at the London-based animation company Lupus Films,[17] with many of the original team returning, the sequel was made in the same traditional techniques as the first film, and features the Snowman, a new young boy named Billy and a snow dog flying over landmarks and going to another party.[18]

The idea of a sequel had been resisted by Raymond Briggs for several years, but he gave his permission for the film in 2012.[19] Howard Blake was one of the few crew members not asked to return; he was allegedly asked to "send a demo", which he refused citing the success of the original score.[20] The film instead features a largely pop-music orientated soundtrack featuring a song called "Light the Night" by former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows and incidental music by Ilan Eshkeri.[21]

The sequel was dedicated to the memory of producer John Coates,[22] who died in September 2012, during its production.[23]

Stage version

The Snowman has been made into a stage show. It was first produced by Contact Theatre, Manchester in 1986[24] and was adapted and produced by Anthony Clark. It had a full script and used Howard Blake's music and lyrics. In 1993, Birmingham Repertory Company produced a version, with music and lyrics by Howard Blake, scenario by Blake, with Bill Alexander and choreography by Robert North.

Since 1997, Sadler's Wells has presented it every year as the Christmas Show at the Peacock Theatre. As in the book and the film, there are no words, apart from the lyrics of the song "Walking in the Air". The story is told through images and movement.

Special effects include the Snowman and boy flying high over the stage (with assistance of wires and harnesses) and 'snow' falling in part of the auditorium. The production has had several revisions – the most extensive happening in 2000, when major changes were made to the second act, introducing new characters: The Ice Princess and Jack Frost.

Video game

Quicksilva published an official video game in 1984, for the ZX Spectrum,[25] Commodore 64, and MSX.

See also

  • Granpa, Dianne Jackson's second animated film for Channel 4, with music by Howard Blake.
  • Father Christmas – Briggs' earlier two works Father Christmas and Father Christmas Goes on Holiday were combined into a film which was released in 1991. It features the snowmen's party at the North Pole from this film, about a year or so after this film's events. The young boy and the snowman from this film are seen in the background during this segment.
  • The Bear – another book by Raymond Briggs which was also adapted into a 26-minute animated version and like this film was conveyed through music and action.


  1. ^ a b c d "The Snowman". Howard Blake website. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b "The BFI TV 100 at the BFI website". Archived from the original on 11 September 2011.
  3. ^ "The Snowman". BFI screenonline. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  4. ^ "Kate Greenaway Medal". Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e "How The Snowman was built". BFI. 17 December 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d "How The Snowman melted David Bowie's heart". The Guardian. 22 December 2016.
  7. ^ Interview with Hilary Andus and Joanna Harrison in "Snow Business" included on the 2004 20th Anniversary DVD
  8. ^ "Snowman creator Raymond Briggs – grumpy old man or great big softie?". Radio Times. 24 December 2012.
  9. ^ John Walsh (21 December 2012). "Raymond Briggs: Seasonal torment for The Snowman creator". The Independent. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  10. ^ Interviews with Peter Auty, Aled Jones, Raymond Briggs and John Coates on the making of documentary titled "Snow Business" included on the 2004 20th Anniversary DVD
  11. ^ For example: Barclay, Ali (4 December 2000). "The Snowman (1982)". BBC – Films. BBC. Retrieved 24 May 2008.
  12. ^ "The Snowman concert version". Howard Blake website. 23 November 2019.
  13. ^ "The Snowman". Toonhound. 23 November 2019.
  14. ^ a b "Awards". IMDb. 24 November 2019.
  15. ^ (Despite being featured on the packaging. Some of the United States DVDs from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment don't have the David Bowie opening) "Customer Discussions: Review Comment Thread". Amazon.com. November 2006. Retrieved 24 May 2008.
  16. ^ Crump, William D. (2019). Happy Holidays—Animated! A Worldwide Encyclopedia of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Cartoons on Television and Film. McFarland & Co. p. 289. ISBN 9781476672939.
  17. ^ "The Snowman and the Snow Dog". Lupus Films. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  18. ^ Singh, Anita. "The Snowman and the Snowdog: a first look". Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  19. ^ "The Snowman and The Snowdog animator revisits classic". BBC News. 24 December 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  20. ^ "Snowman composer told to submit demo tape for sequel". The Telegraph. 12 December 2012.
  21. ^ "Andy Burrows Announces Music Soundtrack To Channel 4'S The Snowman and the Snowdog". Contactmusic.com. 29 November 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  22. ^ Barber, Martin (24 December 2012). "The Snowman and The Snowdog animator revisits classic". BBC News Online. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  23. ^ "Snowman producer John Coates dies". BBC News Online. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  24. ^ ""The Snowman @ The Lowry"". manchestereveningnews.co.uk. 16 April 2010. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  25. ^ "Snowman, The – World of Spectrum". worldofspectrum.org. Retrieved 24 December 2020.

External links

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VariousAudience Sing-Along

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AndersonSleigh Ride

"Sleigh Ride" is a light orchestra standard whose music was composed by Leroy Anderson. The composer had formed the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946, and he finished the work in February 1948. The original recordings were instrumental versions. The lyrics, about riding in a sleigh and other fun wintertime activities, were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950.[2]

The orchestral version was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.[3] "Sleigh Ride" was a hit record on RCA Victor Red Seal 49-0515 (45 rpm) / 10-1484 (78 rpm), and has become one of the orchestra's signature songs. The 45 rpm version was originally issued on red vinyl. The Pops have also recorded the song with John Williams, their conductor from 1979 to 1995, and Keith Lockhart, their current conductor.

The Ronettes recorded a cover of "Sleigh Ride" in 1963 for Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift for You, which was commercially successful in the United States and featured in various media. American singer and songwriter Gwen Stefani recorded a cover in October 2020 for the reissued deluxe edition of her fourth studio album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas (2017).


"American Homestead, Winter," a lithograph by Currier and Ives, 1867. The song's lyrics refer to a "picture print by Currier and Ives," whose lithographs were popular in the 19th century.
"Sleigh Ride" performed instrumentally by the United States Navy Band in December 2012

Leroy Anderson's own 1950 recording of "Sleigh Ride" on Decca 9-16000 (45 rpm) and 16000 (78 rpm) reached Cashbox magazine's bestsellers chart when re-released in 1952.

The main melody of "Sleigh Ride" was used, but without crediting Anderson, as the main theme of Victor Young's score for the 1949 western Streets of Laredo. Mitchell Parish worked with Young at this approximate time, writing the lyrics for Young's version of Hoagy Carmichael's previously instrumental "Stardust." In 1950, The Andrews Sisters recorded the first vocal version of "Sleigh Ride," using the lyrics Parish had written.

Although "Sleigh Ride" is often associated with Christmas and appears on Christmas compilation albums, its lyrics do not mention any holidays. (Certain recordings, such as those by the Carpenters, Walter Schumann, and Air Supply, substitute "Christmas party" for "birthday party" in the song's bridge.) The song is noted for the sounds of a horse clip-clopping, and a whip used to get the horse moving. In most performances, a percussionist provides these sounds on temple blocks and a slapstick (or occasionally, drum rim shots), respectively. Toward the end of the piece, a trumpet imitates the sound of a horse whinnying.

According to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) review of Christmas music, "Sleigh Ride" consistently ranks as one of the top 10 most-performed songs written by ASCAP members.[4] ASCAP named "Sleigh Ride" the most popular piece of Christmas music in the U.S. in 2009–2012, based on performance data from over 2,500 radio stations. Anderson's recording remains the most popular instrumental version, while Johnny Mathis's has become the most popular vocal version.[5]

In his book Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography [Praeger 2004], Steve Metcalf says "'Sleigh Ride' ... has been performed and recorded by a wider array of musical artists than any other piece in the history of Western music."

"Sleigh Ride" is in seven-part rondo form.[6] The first rondo episode utilizes an unusual, unprepared modulation to the mediant, then the supertonic. The difficulty of singing this[citation needed] has caused several recordings to alter the harmonies or omit this section altogether, as in Phil Spector's production of the Ronettes's version.

The Ronettes version

"Sleigh Ride" was covered by the American girl group the Ronettes. The Phil Spector-produced recording has become the most popular version outside the traditional pop standard genre, charting yearly in Billboard's Top Ten U.S. Holiday 100 and was #26 in 2018 in the Hot 100.[7] After achieving a new peak of #21 in 2020, it became the group's second-highest chart hit in the US after "Be My Baby". It features the well-known "Ring-a-ling-a-ling, ding-dong-ding" background vocals, and the clip-clop and whinny of a horse at its beginning and end. Both Bridge sections were omitted from this version, leaving only the refrains intact.

In media

The song was also featured in the episode Holidays of Future Passed from the American comedy The Simpsons, during a scene involving a compilation of Christmas cards.[8][9]


Chart (1963–2020) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[10] 29
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[11] 17
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[12] 30
France (SNEP)[13] 175
Germany (Official German Charts)[14] 55
Billboard Global 200[15] 24
Hungary (Stream Top 40)[16] 13
Ireland (IRMA)[17] 31
Italy (FIMI)[18] 67
Latvia (LAIPA)[19] 21
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[20] 16
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[21] 22
Portugal (AFP)[22] 28
Scotland (OCC)[23] 65
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[24] 23
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[25] 50
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[26] 30
UK Singles (OCC)[27] 33
US Billboard Hot 100[28] 13
US Holiday 100 (Billboard)[29] 10
US Rolling Stone Top 100[30] 10

Certifications and sales

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[31] Gold 400,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Gwen Stefani version

Background and release

Stefani released her fourth studio album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas through Interscope Records, on October 6, 2017, a collection of six original songs and six cover versions of Christmas standards.[32] The album was preceded by the release of lead single "You Make It Feel Like Christmas", a duet with her boyfriend, American singer Blake Shelton.[33] According to Stefani, the album's initial release generated a positive response, allowing her to return to the studio with collaborators busbee and Justin Tranter.[34][35] The following year, You Make It Feel Like Christmas was reissued with five new bonus tracks and a proper music video for the title track was released.[36][37]

In 2019, Stefani duetted with Shelton again on "Nobody but You", a new track recorded for his compilation album, Fully Loaded: God's Country.[38] The song was released as a single and distributed to US country radio outlets on January 21, 2020.[39] It became a hit, topping Billboard's Country Airplay and Digital Songs charts and becoming Stefani's highest-charting effort on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2007.[40][41][42] In late 2020, rumors of new solo music from Stefani circulated after it was announced she would be returning as a judge to the American television series The Voice.[43] Stefani then confirmed plans to release new music during a promotional advertisement made for the show.[44] Her cover of "Sleigh Ride" was announced as a surprise to her fans on October 12, 2020, the day before its scheduled release. It is expected to appear as the eighteenth track on an upcoming reissue of You Make It Feel Like Christmas, due for release later in 2020.[45]

"Sleigh Ride" was produced by American musicians Brent Kutzle and Brandon Collins.[45] It is the first track from You Make It Feel Like Christmas that was not produced by busbee or Eric Valentine; busbee had previously co-written all of the original songs on the parent album with Stefani and Tranter, but passed away in September 2019 after a battle with glioblastoma.[46][47] Stefani's cover of "Sleigh Ride" credits Anderson and Parish as composers.[48] The song was released to music retailers for digital download and streaming on October 13, 2020 through Interscope Records.[49] A promotional audio video of the song was uploaded to Stefani's YouTube channel the same day of its release.[50] It serves as first solo release since the rest of You Make It Feel Like Christmas.[51] Alongside the release of "Sleigh Ride", Stefani teased that there was "more to come" the following week.[52]


Stefani's version of "Sleigh Ride" has been described as a holiday-themed song with a "lushly"-arranged orchestra.[51] American musician Ryan Tedder, who along with Kutzle are founding members of the band OneRepublic, contributes as a vocal producer of the song, and Stefani is accompanied by American singer Laura Cooksey for background vocals. The song uses various forms of instrumentation in its production, and was supported by orchestral arrangements; Kutzle and Grant Pittman play keyboards, Luke Sullivant performs on both acoustic guitar and electric guitar, Matt Melton plays bass, Paul Nelson plays the cello, Jon Hyrkas plays drums, and Collins is credited as the song's strings contractor. Violinists David Angell, David Davidson, and Betsy Lamb also perform, and Lamb additionally contributes to the track on viola.[48]

Critical reception

Sophie Smith from the entertainment website uDiscover Music was positive about Stefani's cover, calling it a "cheery" and "festive" new track.[51] A contributor to WSRW felt that Stefani got "in the holiday spirit" with her cover, but felt that it was released too early before the holiday season.[52]

Credits and personnel

Credits adapted from AllMusic.[48]

  • Gwen Stefani – primary artist
  • Brandon Collins – producer, strings contractor
  • Brent Kutzle – producer, keyboards
  • Leroy Anderson – composer
  • Mitchell Parish – composer
  • Ryan Tedder – vocal producer
  • John Nathaniel – vocal producer, mixing
  • Grant Pittman – engineer, keyboards
  • Doug Sarrett – engineer
  • Tyler Spry – engineer
  • Mike Wilson – engineer
  • Chris Gehringer – mastering engineer
  • Laura Cooksey – background vocals
  • Luke Sullivant – acoustic guitar, electric guitar
  • Matt Melton – bass
  • Paul Nelson – cello
  • Jon Hyrkas – drums
  • Betsy Lamb – viola, violin
  • David Angell – violin
  • David Davidson – violin


Chart performance for "Sleigh Ride"
Chart (2020) Peak
US Holiday Digital Song Sales (Billboard)[53] 6

Release history

Release dates and formats for "Sleigh Ride"
Region Date Format(s) Label Ref.
Various October 13, 2020 Interscope [49]

Other recordings

  • 1949 – Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops.[54] The original hit recording, this version has never been available on CD. Other Boston Pops recordings have been made under conductors Fiedler (1959,[54] 1970,[55] 1972,[citation needed] and 1976[54]), John Williams (1991[54]), and Keith Lockhart (1998,[56] 2004,[54] and 2011[54]).
  • 1950 – Leroy Anderson. The Decca Gold Label Series singles (#16000, both 45 and 78 rpm) referenced above were not issued as individual records, but were part of the four-disc set Leroy Anderson Conducts His Own Compositions. This version is played mostly during the holiday season, and has appeared in various compilations. Anderson re-recorded "Sleigh Ride" in stereo for the 1959 Decca LP Leroy Anderson Conducts Leroy Anderson.
  • 1950 – The Andrews Sisters (first vocal version)
  • 1958 – Johnny MathisMerry Christmas
  • 1960 – Ella FitzgeraldElla Wishes You a Swinging Christmas; this version was later featured in the 2003 film Elf.
  • 1965 - The Ventures arranged an instrumental version of the song in the style of their hit recording of "Walk: Don't Run!" and made it, "Sleigh-ride" the leadoff track on their
        popular LP, "The Ventures Christmas Album".  It was also released as a Ventures 45RPM record and was then, still is, a mainstay in seasonal radio music.
        Later, at least 2 other popular versions that are inspired by The Ventures have been recorded, by Los Straitjackets, and by Jon and The Nightriders.

Mariah Carey version

In 2020, American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey recorded a cover of "Sleigh Ride" for her second soundtrack album, Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special (2020).


Chart (2020) Peak
Hungary (Single Top 40)[59] 25

Other charting recordings

Ella Fitzgerald version

Chart (2020) Peak
Portugal (AFP)[60] 162

Classical "Sleigh Ride" pieces

"Die Schlittenfahrt" ("Sleigh Ride") is also the popular name of one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Three German Dances. It is sometimes mistakenly attributed to Wolfgang's father, Leopold Mozart, whose own Divertimento in F major is popularly known as "Musical Sleigh Ride".[citation needed]

The "Winter Night" segment of Frederick Delius's Three Small Tonepoems is also commonly known as "Sleigh Ride".[citation needed]

The "Troika" movement of Lieutenant Kijé by Sergei Prokofiev is also a musical sleigh ride, referring to a three-horse team drawing a carriage (troika means "group of three"). Christmas carol expert William Studwell wrote that Prokofiev's work was "even better" than "Sleigh Ride", having a more "exhilarating" style and imagery.[61]

"Caribbean Sleigh Ride" is a work for symphony orchestra by Robert Wendel in the style of a fast Latin merengue.[citation needed]


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