Music in the Graveyard
While walking through the graveyard I noticed a marker with the name Erik Leidzén, Composer. I was not familiar with the name, but a bit of curiosity sent this writer on a search to find out who this person was.
Many of us are familiar with members of the Salvation Army playing their instruments during the Christmas holidays.
Their tradition of having large bands lead to the Salvation Army USA Eastern Territory publishing a book called the American Band Journal in the mid-1950’s. Subtitled “Brass Music for Evangelism”, it was intended for use by groups small enough to perform in the open air, as well as in regular meetings and concerts. The Journal featured music by American composers and American themes. However in the early days the Journal featured the music of Erik Leidzén, who emigrated from Sweden to the U.S. and became a passionate American patriot. According to the Journal Leidzén’s influence over the music played by Salvation Army bands in
the United States was profound. Entire generations of Salvationist musicians were influenced by him, including well-known brass composers such as Stephen Bulla and Bruce Broughton.
Leidzén also contributed eight pages of tunes to Carolers’ Favorites in 1953. The original tunes included Christmas carols. By 1957 he had written several Easter Carols. By the 1980s Carolers’ Favorite was updated, not just with new songs but with updates to some of the original songs. The noted brass band arranger and composer, Stephen Bulla, added an optional fifth part (for euphonium) to the
original Leidzén arrangements, and created 21 new arrangements for songs such as The Christmas Song (sometimes referred to as Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire). The new edition of Carolers’ Favorites was published in 1994.
Concertino for Band and Trombone, another brass band classic by Leidzen, has been a staple since it was written in the 1950’s. Erik Leidzén has contributed hundreds of pieces to the concert band and brass band repertoire since the 1920’s. This work is not just an accompaniment. The band and trombonist must work well together throughout the piece. Erik Leidzén, born in Stockholm in 1894, died in New York in 1962, buried at Old Swedes.
(Riverside, July–August 2008)