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30 November 2012

More Sleigh Bell!

Were the classic Saturday Night Live cowbell sketch with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken executed in a Christmas setting, Walken would be Arthur Fiedler and Ferrell would be the person who played the sleigh bells on the quintessential Christmas favorite " Sleigh Ride." Of course, Blue Öyster Cult would be the Boston Pops Orchestra. (If you're not familiar with the SNL sketch, click here to see an excerpt at NBC's website. Mild language warning .)

"I've got a fevah (fever)... and the only prescription is more sleigh bell!" Although I'm not sure Arthur Fiedler put it that way, this is what comes across in the Boston Pops recording (link goes to's MP3 store), and although one rarely hears a percussion instrument droning in an orchestral song from start to finish, I'd have a hard time imagining "Sleigh Ride" without it.

The 1867 lithograph "A Brush for the Lead" by Currier and Ives
For this post I made a moderate effort to find the name of the Boston Pops member who played the sleigh bells on this song but I came up empty. If you know, I'd love to hear from you. It's a little odd; the person who has one of the most important parts in the song has gone relatively anonymous since 1949.

Fiedler has enjoyed fame as a conductor, the Boston Pops Orchestra has been in the limelight (if you consider orchestras as being in the limelight), and according to a reference at Wikipedia, "'Sleigh Ride' ... has been performed and recorded by a wider array of musical artists than any other piece in the history of Western music."

But for all that, the sleigh bell player remains an unknown. He did his job, did it quite well, and his effort has assumed its place in history. If he could have foreseen the popularity of the song (written in 1948, lyrics added in 1950), do you think he would have said to himself, "I can't see the benefit for myself in this. It will just promote the conductor, the orchestra, and the record company will make loads while I'll remain a nobody," and as a result decided to let someone else play on the record? I rather doubt it.

Raise your hand if you can tell that I'm about to draw a really obvious parallel here.

As we put our gifts to use as one of many parts of the body of Christ, we are called to play our part and do so to the best of our ability. We are not given direction or license to envy someone who has a seemingly more important role or to have resentment if someone else gets credit for what we think was our work or our accomplishment. That's not easy.

"Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ." - Colossians 3:23-24 (NLT)

"In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary." - 1 Corinthians 12:22 (NLT)

I've got a fevah... and the only prescription is more sleigh bell!


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