Musical Tribute To My Mom In 12 Albums

After I lost my dad in August of 2017 I did an easy listening blog post as a tribute to the kind of music he loved.  Having just lost my mom, sadly it is time to do a musical tribute to the types of records she loved – ’60s show tunes and symphonic classics mainly.  I am sure my sister Cheryl would agree with me that some sort of music was always playing in our Broomfield home even up till mom’s passing.  While dad was the parent with musical talent, mom most certainly taught me how to listen to it.  Mom and dad had season tickets to the now defunct Denver Symphony and I was lucky enough to occasionally get to attend a concert myself.  As a child of the ’50s and ’60s I love classic rock and roll.  The great thing about that era, however, is you got exposed to every other style of music and learned to appreciate that excellent music comes in many forms  – not just the music of your generation.  My friend Dan reported to me that before his dad’s passing, he mentioned that he feared for the future of classical music.  I must say that I too worry that today’s hip hop generation won’t have the inclination to fund orchestras since they don’t seem to have the patience for that kind of music (prove me wrong kids!).   I salute my elementary school music teacher Miss Buckley at Kohl School for fueling the flame for the classics started by my parents.  To this day, one of my favorite pieces of music was introduced to me by her in class some 56 years ago – Prokofiev’s march from “The Love For Three Oranges”.  What follows is a listing of my favorite albums from mom’s record collection.  A large portion of the records in my parents’ collection, by the way, were from the Columbia  record club which rewarded you with something like 10 LPs for a penny (or some such nonsense) then hooked you in on future releases they figured you would want.  I still remember mom commenting favorably about two records I played from my collection back in the ’60s – “North To Alaska” by Johnny Horton and the classic Moody Blues LP Days Of Future Passed which wedded orchestrations with rock stylings.  I mention that since it was only a little gesture, but still makes me happy to know that she didn’t hate all the music of my generation.  I love you and miss you mom – this is for you.

1.The Sound Of Music – An Original Soundtrack Recording

Anyone who knew my mom knows that I would not be a card-carrying Krieger if I didn’t list this album first.  I think mom had this classic 1965 Julie Andrews soundtrack on continuous play at times.  Oscar Hammerstein II  and Richard Rodgers wrote the original Broadway score.  In addition to the stirring title song there are classics like “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, “My Favorite Things” and mom’s favorite “Edelweiss” which many people mistakingly assume is an old Austrian song.  As he died in 1960, Hammerstein never saw the huge success of the movie and soundtrack (over 20 million worldwide sales estimated).  For the movie Rodgers wrote two new songs.  Julie Andrews’ marvelous singing voice and sweetness wedded her forever in your mind with Maria Von Trapp (who was nothing like her in real life).  While Christopher Plummer starred as Captain Von Trapp, his singing voice on “Edelweiss” was dubbed by Bill Lee in the movie.

2.Balalaika Favorites – Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra

Founded in 1919, the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra on this enchanting Mercury records LP play their native music on instruments very foreign to U.S. musicians.  They leaven it with a classical music style.  Fifty plus years after it was recorded, it still sounds fresh and enchanting.  At the time it was recorded, the Soviets were seen as a scary presence bent on nuclear destruction of the U.S. so it opened up a world very few of us Westerners had any knowledge of.

3.Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer – Original Soundtrack And Music

1964 was a memorable year musically with the explosion of the Beatles and British rock and roll in the U.S.  December of that year saw another release that has become a mainstay lasting so far over five decades and thrilling generation after generation – the Videocraft TV special Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.  The stop-motion figures and the story combined well with Burl Ives and an elf that wants to be a Dentist (of course I approve – it’s rare that shows don’t make fun of us tooth-tinkerers).  Johnny Marks outdid himself in composing  a group of memorable songs that any kid can learn to sing after just a few spins of the turntable.  This record got trotted out every year for Christmas and it is still that way around our household.  “Silver & Gold”, “Jingle, Jingle, Jingle” and of course “A Holly Jolly Christmas” are just a few of the goodies found in these grooves.

4.Fiddle Faddle & 14 Other Leroy Anderson Favorites – Maurice Abravanel/Utah Symphony Orchestra

While you may not know the names of the songs or the composer, folks of a certain age know just about every classic pop song the Harvard grad Leroy Anderson wrote.  His music was always used as background themes for TV shows it seemed.  I certainly can’t think of another piece of music that made the typewriter a lead instrument as his “The Typewriter” did (of course nobody has a clue what those even are anymore).  Born in 1908, Anderson was arranger for Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.  Anderson had a surprise chart hit in 1952 with “Blue Tango”.  “Sleigh Ride”, “Syncopated Clock”, “Bugler’s Holiday” – on and on – great music that holds up well even today and can still bring a smile to your face.

5.How The West Was Won – Original Soundtrack

What a stirring epic theme Alfred Newman (Randy’s uncle) created for this sweeping 1962 Cinerama movie about the taming of the West.  Newman’s credits are amazing having composed music for over 200 movies including Wuthering Heights, The Prisoner of Zenda, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, etc.  Any movie with stars the caliber of John Wayne, Gregory Peck and James Stewart demanded great music.  The album was a mix of orchestral themes, Americana styles and Debbie Reynolds sung rousers like “Raise a Ruckus Tonight”.

6.My Fair Lady – The Original Soundtrack Recording

From 1964 the year of the Beatles, it seemed like all the movies back in the ’60s were chock full of classic music.  This Lerner and Loewe musical was no exception with great songs like “I Could Have Danced All Night”, “Get Me To The Church On Time” and “With A Little Bit Of Luck”.  The movie was based on Shaw’s 1913 play  Pygmalion about turning a street urchin into a proper British lady.  With Camelot, Gigi, Paint Your Wagon, etc. to their credit, lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe created some wonderful music over their careers.  Audrey Hepburn’s singing voice was dubbed in the movie by the very talented Marnie Nixon.

7.Magnificent Marches – A Glorious Sound Spectacular – Eugene Ormandy/The Philadelphia Orchestra

This LP is a ten track olio of popular and stirring march music from the baton of Ormandy who lead the Philadelphia Orchestra for 44 years beginning in 1936.  The Mendelssohn “Wedding March”, Purcell’s (now listed as by Clarke) “Trumpet Voluntary”, Rimsky-Korsakov “Procession Of The Nobles”, etc. – all march music to stir the blood

8.Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture & Capriccio Italien – Antal Dorati/Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra

The “1812 Overture” may well at it’s climax be the most stirring piece of music every performed.  Clanging bells, an orchestra ablaze with fire and a cavalcade of cannon blasts all combine to bring chills to your spine.  Of course all us boomer kids remember this was the theme to ‘the cereal that was shot from guns’ – Puffed Rice.  The piece was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1880 to commemorate the Russian victory over a Napoleon lead invasion attempt on their homeland.  In addition to the two main pieces of music on the LP, there was commentary by critic Deems Taylor about the music on the disc.  Many will remember Taylor as the master of ceremonies for the classic Disney movie Fantasia.

9.Today’s Golden Hits – Andre Kostelanetz & His Orchestra

Well this was about as wild as the music got in our household when my parents had control of the turntable.  I suspect that it being on Columbia was the only reason we owned it (due to the record club membership), but I liked the fact that there were three originals by Lennon & McCartney (“Help!”, “Yesterday” and “Michelle”) plus some other well-know tracks like “A Taste Of Honey” and “Mame”.  Not as good as a Tijuana Brass record, but at least it was contemporary.  Andre Kostelanetz was a Russian Jew who escaped to the U.S. in 1922 and became one of the biggest stars of pop orchestral music.

10.The Age Of Elegance – Eugene Ormandy/The Philadelphia Orchestra

Another compilation LP, this album had the more sedate but well-loved melodies from the late 18th century.  Composers like Mozart, Handel, Haydn and Beethoven populate this record.  Ormandy showed a light touch in leading one of the top five national orchestras – The Philadelphia Orchestra which was started in 1900.

11.Dvorak-New World Symphony – Bernstein/New York Philharmonic

This piece of music dates back to late in 1893 and was written by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak as his tribute to early Americana music – Negro Spirituals and Native American songs.  Harvard educated Leonard Bernstein (who conducted this piece) was the first truly acclaimed U.S. born conductors and was certainly the best known of that era of conductors.

12.Three Favorite Ballets-Chopin:Les Sylphides, Delibes-Sylvia Suite, Coppelia Suite – Ormandy/The Philadelphia Orchestra

Ballet is of course a delicate style of dance and so generally demands a lighter touch musically.  Ormandy did a fine job on this record of keeping things gentle and stirring.  The Chopin piece has several themes that are just slightly less well-known than Tchaikovsky’s ballet – “Nutcracker” (which would have made this list, but I don’t recall mom owning that record).