Band has been playing “Sleigh Ride” for 35 years


Lexi Basil

After Santa rode into the Great Hall on his sleigh, the band played “Sleigh Ride” for the 35th year in a row.

Students and staff of BSM just can’t stop hearing those sleigh bells jingling and ring-ting-tingling when the band plays “Sleigh Ride” year after year at the Christmas Concert and all-school Christmas Mass.

BSM Band Director Paul Keefe has been working at BSM for 35 years, and for 35 years, the band has annually performed “Sleigh Ride” without fault. Besides the school’s rouser and Alma Mater, “Sleigh Ride” is the only song that is played every year. Sleigh Ride has become a part of BSM tradition, and students come to Christmas Mass excited to hear the band’s rendition of this special Christmas carol.

Despite students’ love for the song, Keefe has tried and failed to cut “Sleigh Ride” out of the band’s schedule, only to be met with backlash from band students. “For a few years, I said ‘Ok, we’re not going to do it,’ but the students were very adamant that we play it,” Keefe said.

Last year was the final time Keefe has tried veto “Sleigh Ride.” Keefe has now admitted defeat, declaring that “Sleigh Ride” and Benilde-St. Margaret’s will forever be inseparable, even after Keefe’s time as band director has passed. “I think it’s so much a staple of the school that it will have to be standard repertoire for whoever is here,” Keefe said.

“Sleigh Ride” has a special place in the community of BSM, and students make their appreciation of the song very clear, represented through a standing ovation and deafening cheers after every performance. The song features many special effects that make the song stand out, including a whip crack, horse whinny, and clip-clop sound of horse hooves. Students especially love the slapstick imitating the sound of a whip cracking, and thus the slapstick is a role that is sometimes disputed among percussionists.

This year, the slapstick will be played by two students, junior Dmitri Houle and senior Johnny Freytag. Keefe has requested the Houle and Freytag be more theatrical with the whip crack during the performance. “Mr. Keefe wants to do this thing where people hand [the slapstick] off and make a big scene where you jump up and do the whip cracks,” Houle said.

The other sound effects are created by the percussionists playing a variety of instruments. One student uses tempo blocks to imitate the sound of horse hooves clopping on pavement, and another student shakes sleigh bells to contribute to the imagery of a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Additionally, near the end of the performance, a solo trumpeter plays their instrument with the valves halfway down to make the sound of a horse whinny. These unique sounds always yield a strong, loving response from students. “I think the students like [“Sleigh Ride”] because of the whip crack and the horse whinny and all the little special effects in there,” Keefe said.