SHS Band: “Sleigh Ride” New Alumni Tradition

Jack Nelson, Staff Writer

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The holiday season means many things: decorations, hot chocolate, ugly sweaters, gifts, family, and joy, to name a few. One of the more hyped up parts of the Christmas season is Christmas music, which can range from Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to the soundtrack of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  There’s something about the music of the holidays that hits you differently than other genres, and whether you start listening to it immediately after Halloween or post-Thanksgiving, it always reminds you of the joy and celebration that the holidays bring.    

For SHS b.and students, the holiday season has become synonymous with one particularly festive tune: “Sleigh Ride.”  Arranged by Leroy Anderson for symphonic band, it was introduced in the repertoire of the 2017 Winter Concert and has been a mainstay each December since.  The piece is iconic for its whip cracks and horse whinny, which are traditionally played by the wooden clapper and muted trumpet. The SHS band typically finishes their winter concert performance with the piece, as it is a classic crowd-pleaser.

Last year, the band performed “Sleigh Ride” for the entire SHS student body–a truly memorable experience. Band director Adam Gruschow and sophomore Willie Todd walked out to the front of the stage before the performance to show the audience how the whip crack worked and encouraged them all to clap along when the time came. This was (mostly) successful during the song, and much to the delight of the band students, the crowd really got engaged and soon shouted demands for an encore.

All of this spontaneous enthusiasm around “Sleigh Ride” has led the band to add an exciting new twist to this year’s upcoming winter concert: SHS band alumni will be encouraged to attend the winter concert and play with the band during the performance of “Sleigh Ride.” The piece will become an official staple of the winter concert repertoire every year from this point on, and alumni will be invited back yearly.  Current section leaders, along with the band directors, will be contacting former band students and encouraging them to come and celebrate the occasion. Although this will appeal most specifically to recent alumni who have played the piece before, any and all former SHS band members are welcome to participate. The new tradition presents a unique opportunity for today’s band students to reconnect with their band friends of old, and bond over the song that so many have grown to love.

Ideally, the new “Sleigh Ride” alumni tradition will create strong chemistry with the SHS choir’s long-standing tradition of inviting alumni up on stage for a performance of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.” SHS choir director Bill Richter came up with the idea years ago, and it has been part of the winter concert ever since.  The overarching goal between the two traditions is to unite the Scituate music community through a shared love of festive music and to rekindle laughter and joy among them during the happiest time of the year.

This year’s Winter Concert II (Chorale, Select Choir, Symphonic Band) is scheduled for December 17th at 7:00 p.m. in the PAC, with Winter Concert I (Men’s Choir, Women’s Choir, Jazz Choir, Jazz Band, Wind Ensemble) set for December 11th at the same time.  Even if you’re not an alumnus of the band or chorus, come and join what is sure to be a festive night of music-making!