Leroy Anderson, American Composer and More

Michael J. Fox arrives on the red carpet for an award ceremony in Berlin, February 5, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

My Impromptus today begins with cussin’ – not that I do it myself (in this column). I cite others from our recent political past: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, George HW Bush, Al Haig, Jimmy Carter, et al. The topic was sparked by Joe Biden and Anthony Fauci and their recent “pledges”. Nothing like a “hot-mic moment” to spice up our lives.

What else in Impromptus? Well, there’s Michael J. Fox – who’s on the cover of AARP magazine. Already? Alex P. Keaton and Marty McFly, a poster boy for AARP? Yeah. I call it “a sip moment.” One reader writes, “Mary Lou Retton advertises menopause medicine.” Drink again. On the internet, I found this ad: “Mary Lou Retton Gives Amberen a Perfect 10!”

There are also other subjects in Impromptus, of course. If you’re in the mood for music – at least some writing about it – here is a review of Maxim Vengerov, the Russian-Israeli violinist, and Simon Trpčeski, the Macedonian pianist, in recital at Carnegie Hall last week. And here is the last episode of Music for a whilemy music podcast.

This episode includes one movement from a new piece — a violin concerto — by Scott Wheeler, an American composer. He’s a friend of mine, I’m happy to say. (I’m not criticizing Scott or any other friends, but I’m allowed to say, “Hey, go ahead and listen for yourself!”). It also includes a Leroy Anderson classic: Bugler’s Vacation.

Leroy Anderson was loaded with talent and he lived a very interesting life. Born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1908 to Swedish parents. I went to Harvard. Served in military intelligence (he was a master of languages, among other things). Wrote enduring “lightweight classics”, including blue tango and The typewriteroutraged Bugler’s Vacation.

And don’t forget this Christmas favourite, Sleigh ride.

Scott Wheeler is calling Bugler’s Vacation “brilliant.” He continues, “What always amazes me is how inventive and surprising the middle section is.” He adds: “I wrote a rave review of an Anderson compilation CD, probably in the 90s, which prompted Anderson’s widow to write to me. At his request, I wrote a letter supporting the effort to have the post office issue a Leroy Anderson stamp. I don’t think that ever happened, but it should have.

Hear hear.

Stay on the music for a minute. In response to my “Nashville Journal” of a few weeks ago, my friend Glen writes,

Your photos bring back memories.

As an entrepreneur in nearby Fort Campbell, I spent a few weekends on Broadway. I remember the World Famous Orchid Lounge in Tootsie, where I sat one night watching the bands spin.

The bands, I was told, were all Music Row live performers, playing for tips. (Tips were collected in large jars of mayonnaise, which may be a tradition). They toured for two hour sets. The best, for me, was a band that announced, “We don’t have a playlist. You name it, we can play it. And for two hours they did.

Another memory sits in another living room on a Sunday afternoon in fall. A solo guitarist was doing his set. He stopped because a young woman came in crying. When asked what was wrong, she announced out loud, “I was supposed to debut at X across the street. But this owner said there weren’t enough customers, because everyone was at the football game, so he canceled my set. And my mom came just to hear me!

“Well, honey, come over here,” the guitarist said. To classify.

I’ve had a few notes on New England accents lately. Here is another, from my friend Joseph:

In college, I had a biochemistry professor with a heavy Greater Boston accent. He was trying to refer to an iron ion, and he stumbled a bit as he said the words.

He smiled. “‘Iron’, ‘ion’ – until I was in college I thought it was the same word.”

Great stuff. Thank’s everyone.

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