21 Days of Christmas 2011: It’s not Christmas until the band plays Sleigh Ride

I admit it; I’m a band nerd. I didn’t get a slushie in my face during high school because my principal would have shoved the miscreant up against a locker and scared the crap out of him, but I loved band then and I still do. In contrast to what one sees on television, being in band in high school and college at Miami University in Ohio was a wonderful thing and allowed me to create life-long friendships and meet fun-loving, fabulous people. And, according to the studies (and I want to believe), playing multiple instruments also made me smarter.

Image via trexandme.wordpress.com

Watching my college band play in the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving just makes me cry with happiness and nostalgia.

We weren’t quite as cool as Miami’s current band when I went to Miami, although we did get to go to the other Miami to march in the Tangerine Bowl parade. This photo shows the second generation of the Miami Marching Machine that was built to fit over our band director’s Volkswagen bug. Yeah, I know. We chose to perpetuate our nerd stereotype and we were proud to wear the emblem. (I just realized that the Marching Machine has an image of a reel-to-reel tape. Can I date myself anymore than that? And is that Dr. Nick in the plaid pants?)

I still love band and one of the best things about Christmas is playing holiday music on my saxophone. At the ripe old age of — I’m not saying how old, but old enough –, I joined a concert band again after an absence of way too many years. I haven’t played in a full concert band with adults since college, and I’ve missed it. I encouraged my beloved husband to make a midlife instrument change and got him to play the trombone and euphonium, never imagining that his obsession with all things brass would shut me out of most of his musical groups. I’ve been a brass ensemble widow for years, and I didn’t like it very much. Because alto saxophone players are a dime-a-dozen in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and everyone is looking for lower brass players, it was difficult to find an ensemble in which we could play. Finally, we joined a band in the southwestern suburbs that needed both of us. As you can see from the photo, it’s a group that welcomes “experienced” bandsmen and women. It’s pretty easy to pick me out — I’m the only mature woman in the saxophone section, and as always, the saxophones are playing second fiddle to the trumpets.

We played a concert that included a series of medleys featuring pretty much all of the secular music that we hear in the malls and on the all-Christmas-all-the-time radio stations. I’ve gotta say — it was fun even if it was sappy.

The grand-daddy of all secular Christmas music transcriptions for band is Sleigh Ride, written by Leroy Anderson in 1948 and first played by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the baton of Arthur Fiedler. As far as Christmas music goes for me, Sleigh Ride is right up there with the songs from White Christmas, and I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t play it this year for our concert. Fortunately, thanks to the miracle of youtube.com, we can all hear the Boston Pops with John Williams conducting.

Of course, you can always go to your public library and pick up a copy of the CD for your listening pleasure at home and in your car!

Finally,  if you want to read what I had to say last year at this time, check out my 2010 21 Days post. See you tomorrow!

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