Let’s take that road before us, and sing a chorus or two…

Taken by a Globe photographer in the mid-70s, this is a picture of Boston’s annual Christmas tree lighting. Then held at the Prudential Center, the big draw was the presence of Arthur Fiedler who, with the help of a local chorus, was there to lead everyone in singing carols.  In 1976, having convinced my college buddy, Perry to join me, I was there too.

In the days of Hi Fi consoles, the Boston Pops were like musical guests in our house and when the Evening at Pops series began on PBS, they were like televised musical guests.  In fact, going to Symphony Hall to see Arthur Fiedler and the Pops was every bit as exciting as going to the Boston Garden to see Bobby Orr and the Bruins. A thrill indeed.

On this particular evening the plan was to see the Maestro up close and personal. Unfortunately it hadn’t occurred to us that half of Boston might have the same idea. Nor were we prepared for the cold, and while the final carol was being sung we inched our way into the Pru to find some warmth.

Huddled near a bank of elevators we were considering where to go next when in tramped the entire chorus, on their way – as we quickly learned – to an after-event for some cookies and hot chocolate. Well “Ho, Ho, Ho, Who Wouldn’t Go?” 

With just enough room on one of the elevators, Perry and I soon found ourselves in a partially crowded room filled with tables. On one end there was a stage, on the other was a welcoming spread of cocoa and cookies. Nobody seemed to mind so we helped ourselves and, finding it empty, sat at a table that abutted the stage.

We were feeling very pleased with ourselves until a man in a red, white and blue lumberman’s jacket brushed past and clambered onto the stage. It was Arthur Fiedler and he wanted everyone to get up and sing a few more carols!

And there we were, with everyone looking our way (so that’s why the table was empty) including the great man himself.  Down went the cookies and up we rose, while not five feet away Arthur Fiedler began to lead the room in a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells, followed by this song.

Conceived during a heat wave in July, Sleigh Ride was written by Fiedler’s good friend Leroy Anderson in the late 1940s. Anderson, as any Evening at Pops fan may recall,  occasionally appeared as a musical guest to conduct some of his own works, such as The Syncopated Clock, Bugler’s Holiday, and (my favorite) The Typewriter, in which Fiedler would roll up his sleeves and dawn a green eyeshade to “play” an old typewriter while the orchestra played behind him.

But it’s Sleigh Ride that has served as the Pops seasonal signature tune since its initial release (on red vinyl no less) as a single in 1949. With Fiedler conducting, it was the first orchestral piece ever to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Music chart. Written by Mitchell Parish, the lyrics were published the following year.

Despite an “unusually modulated middle section” that’s difficult to sing (the section is omitted in many recordings, such as the Ronnettes’ version produced by Phil Spector), Sleigh Ride has been performed and recorded by a wider array of musical artists than any other piece in the history of Western music.

While Johnny Mathis’ version is the most popular, this track from (1961’s) Holiday Sing Along With Mitch was the version heard (and sung) in our house. In fact, after the Boston Pops, Mitch Miller (who occasionally conducted the Pops in Fiedler’s absence) and the Gang were easily the most prominently featured artists in the console.

Perhaps you remember Sing Along With Mitch, the television show which (“Please, don’t just sit there, come on and sing”), featured lyrics at the bottom of the screen. If so, you might be surprised to learn that contrary to popular memory, the show did NOT have a bouncing ball to keep time.

Only featured in movie theatre sing-alongs (and the occasional cartoon), Perry and I certainly could have used one of those. Instead we lip-sang with all the gusto we could muster and, with cookies in our pockets and nerves a-jingling more than any sleigh bell, made a beeline for the door as soon as Arthur Fiedler had left the stage.

Sleigh Ride

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,

Ring-ting-tingling too,

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For a sleigh ride together with you,

Outside the snow is falling

And friends are calling, “Yoo hoo”,

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For a sleigh ride together with you.

Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up,

Let’s go…let’s look at the show,

We’re riding in a wonderland of snow.

Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up,

It’s grand… just holding your hand,

We’re riding along with a song

Of a wintry fairy land.

Our cheeks are nice and rosy,

And comfy cozy are we,

We’re snuggled up together

Like two birds of a feather would be,

Let’s take that road before us,

And sing a chorus or two,

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For a sleigh ride together with you.

There’s a birthday party

At the home of Farmer Gray,

It’ll be the perfect ending of a perfect day,

We’ll be singing the songs

We love to sing without a single stop,

At the fireplace while we watch

The chestnuts pop; Pop! Pop! Pop!

There’s a happy feeling

Nothing in this world can buy,

When they pass around the coffee

And the pumpkin pie,

It’ll nearly be like a picture print

By Currier and Ives,

These wonderful things are the things

We remember all through our lives!

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,

Ring-ting-tingling too,

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For a sleigh ride together with you,

Outside the snow is falling

And friends are calling, “Yoo hoo”,

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For a sleigh ride together with you.

Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up,

Let’s go…let’s look at the show,

We’re riding in a wonderland of snow.

Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up,

It’s grand…just holding your hand,

We’re riding along with a song

Of a wintry fairy land.

Our cheeks are nice and rosy,

And comfy cozy are we,

We’re snuggled up together

Like two birds of a feather would be,

Let’s take that road before us

And sing a chorus or two,

Come on it’s lovely weather

For a sleigh ride together with you.

It’s lovely weather

For a sleigh ride together with you.

One thought on “Let’s take that road before us, and sing a chorus or two…

  1. haha! Cute story. You always have a Winslow attitude about everything, lots of adventure, no fear outwardly, and just ploughing ahead. 🙂

    Nancy is happy to have two weeks off but QUinn will hate it. She loves school too much. Have a great time with the kids home, n/q

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