This piece of music by Leroy Anderson (Sleighride, The Syncopated Clock, and so many others) has always excited my imagination. Who were The Phantom Regiment? When did they live? But of course Mr. Anderson never answered any of those questions. I think he wanted it to haunt you. “A shadow portrait of valor, echoing down through eternity,” one critic said of it. Yeah: we can’t identify it because it’s timeless.
Written in 1951, The Phantom Regiment kept cropping up on radio programs in my childhood. In a high school assembly, a jazz combo performed it for us–that’s how I finally learned its name. But the music itself was always there.
Close your eyes and listen. What do you see?