Grainger, Percy (1882 – 1961)

Percy Aldridge Grainger  was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist. In the course of a long and innovative career, he played a prominent role in the revival of interest in British folk music in the early years of the 20th century. He also made many adaptations of other composers’ works. Although much of his work was experimental and unusual, the piece with which he is most generally associated is his piano arrangement of the folk-dance tune “Country Gardens”.

Grainger left Australia at the age of 13 to attend the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. Between 1901 and 1914 he was based in London, where he established himself first as a society pianist and later as a concert performer, composer and collector of original folk melodies. As his reputation grew he met many of the significant figures in European music, forming important friendships with Frederick Delius and Edvard Grieg. He became a champion of Nordic music and culture, his enthusiasm for which he often expressed in private letters.

In 1914, Grainger moved to the United States, where he lived for the rest of his life, though he travelled widely in Europe and in Australia. He served briefly as a bandsman in the United States Army during 1917–18, and took American citizenship in 1918. After his mother’s suicide in 1922 he became increasingly involved in educational work. He also experimented with music machines that he hoped would supersede human interpretation. In the 1930s he set up the Grainger Museum in Melbourne, his birthplace, as a monument to his life and works and as a future research archive. As he grew older he continued to give concerts and to revise and rearrange his own compositions, while writing little new music. After the Second World War, ill health reduced his levels of activity, and he considered his career a failure. He gave his last concert in 1960, less than a year before his death. (source: Wikipedia)

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Colonial Song
BB BE 900402 – $42.00
5′ 20″ – advanced

Grainger writes “No traditional tunes of any kind are made use of in this piece, in which I have wished to express feelings aroused by thoughts of the scenery and people of my native land (Australia), and also to voice a certain kind of emotion that seems to me not untypical of native-born Colonials in general.”

Originally scored in 1911 for soprano, tenor, harp and full orchestra in 1911 – arranged by Michael Allen from Grainger’s piano score for (423.11) – B flat Piccolo Trumpet, E flat Trumpet, B flat Trumpet, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba

Handel in the Strand
BB BE 170501 – $38.00
4′ 00″ – difficult

The composer writes “My title was originally “Clog Dance”. But my dear friend William Gair Rathbone (to whom the piece is dedicated) suggested the title “Handel in the Strand,” because the music seemed to reflect both Handel and English musical comedy [the “Strand” — a street in London — is the home of London musical comedy] — as if jovial old Handel were careering down the Strand to the strains of modern English popular music.”

Trumpet in E flat, Trumpet in B flat, 2 Flugelhorns, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, Percussion

Irish Tune from County Derry
BB BE 890202 – $38.00
3′ 30″ – medium

George Petrie writes (1855) “For the following beautiful air I have to express my very grateful acknowledgement to Miss J. Ross of New Town, Limavady, in the county of Londonderry – a lady who has made a large collection of the popular unpublished melodies of the county, which she has very kindly placed at my disposal, and which has added very considerably to the stock of tunes which I had previously acquired from that still very Irish county.  I say still very Irish, for though it has been planted for more than two centuries by English and Scottish settlers, the old Irish race still forms the great majority of the peasant inhabitants; and there are few, if any counties in which, with less foreign admixture, the ancient melodies of the country have been so extensively preserved.  The name of the tune unfortunately was not ascertained by Miss Ross, who sent it to me with the simple remark that it was ‘very old,’ in the correctness of which statement I have no hesitation in expressing my perfect concurrence.”

The lyrics for the popular tune Danny Boy were not written until 1910 (for a very different melody) – they were not adapted for this particular folk tune tune until 1913 – 2 years after Grainger’s first setting of it.

Originally scored by Grainger for piano in 1911 and arranged by Michael Allen from the composer’s piano score for (423.11) – 2 B flat Trumpets, 2 Flugelhorns, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba

Lincolnshire Posy

Considered Grainger’s masterpiece, the 16-minute-long work is composed of six movements, each adapted from folk songs that Grainger had collected on a 1905–1906 trip to Lincolnshire, England. The work debuted with three of the movements on March 7, 1937 by the Milwaukee Symphonic Band, a group composed of members from several bands including the Blatz Brewery and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer factory worker bands in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Unlike other composers that attempted to alter and modernize folk music for band, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Grainger wished to maintain the exact sense of stylizing that he experienced from the singers. Grainger wrote: “Each number is intended to be a kind of musical portrait of the singer who sang its underlying melody… a musical portrait of the singer’s personality no less than of his habits of song, his regular or irregular wonts of rhythm, his preference for gaunt or ornately arabesque delivery, his contrasts of legato and staccato, his tendency towards breadth or delicacy of tone.”

Grainger dedicated his “bunch of Wildflowers” to “the old folksingers who sang so sweetly to me.”

Brisk Young Sailor
BB BE 170104 – $28.00
1′ 30″ – difficult

The Brisk Young Sailor (Who Returned to wed his True Love) is a simple, short, jaunty tune meant to evoke the image of a strapping young lad striding up the road to meet his sweetheart. This movement is considered one of the most difficult movements of the piece because of its speed and need for accuracy. The trumpet runs and interplay at tempo are quite difficult.

Trumpet in E flat, Trumpet in B flat (doubles piccolo), Trumpet in B flat (doubles Flugelhorn), Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, Percussion

Horkstow Grange
BB BE 170102 – $38.00
2′ 30″ – difficult

Horkstow Grange (subtitled “A Miser and his Man – a Local Tragedy”) is the second movement and presents a slow, legato, repeating, re-harmonizing motif, shifting mostly between 4/4 and 5/4 time. This is the most well-known movement of the piece, and is considered by many in the concert band world to be one of the best-written, best-orchestrated, and most beautiful pieces in the repertoire.

Trumpet in E flat, Trumpet in B flat, Off stage B flat Cornet, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, Percussion

BB BE 170101 – $28.00
1′ 30″ – difficult

Lisbon (aka Dublin Bay) is the the first movement of a Lincolnshire Posy and is the shortest—a brisk, simple, lilted melody in 6/8 time. This movement ends in a serene, suspended pianissimo that contrasts the general tone of the movement as a whole.

Trumpet in E flat, 2 Trumpets in B flat, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, Timpani

Lord Melbourne
BB BE 170105 – $38.00
2′ 30″ – difficult

Lord Melbourne is a fierce and heavy war song that opens in free time. This movement slides rapidly into different time signatures including unconventional ones such as 5/8 and 3/8, as well as having sections of free time.

Trumpet in E flat, 2 Trumpets in B flat, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, Percussion

Lost Lady Found
BB BE 170106 – $38.00
2′ 30″ – difficult

The Lost Lady Found is a quick, jumpy, straight 3/4 melody with usual accompaniment patterns. Every section is featured with the melody in this fast-paced finale.

Trumpet in E flat, Piccolo in B flat, Trumpet in B flat, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, Percussion (2)

Molly on the Shore – Irish Reel
BB BE 981201 – $38.00
4′ 30″ – advanced

From the 1918 piano setting: “based on two Cork Reel tunes, ‘Temple Hill’ and ‘Molly on the Shore’ respectively Nos. 901 and 902 of the Complete Petrie Collection of Ancient Irish Music (1855).”

Grainger’s first setting was written in 1907 for string four-some and subsequently arranged by the composer for orchestra, violin and piano, solo piano, and later for wind band.

arranged by Michael Allen from the composer’s string quartet version for (423.11) E flat Trumpet, B flat Trumpet (doubling piccolo), B flat Trumpet (doubling Flugelhorn), Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba

Shepherd’s Hey
BB BE 890201 – $38.00
2′ 10″ – medium

English Morris Dance Tune

“Morris Dances are still danced by teams of ‘Morris Men’ decked out with bells and quaint ornaments to the music of the fiddle or ‘the pipe and tabor’ (a sort of drum and fife) in several agricultural districts in England.  The tune of ‘Shepherd’s Hey’ (which is akin to the North England air ‘Keel Row’) is very widely found through England.  The word Hey denotes a particular figure in Morris dancing.”

arranged by Michael Allen from the composer’s 1913 piano score for (423.11 p) – B flat Piccolo, 2 B flat Trumpets, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium Tuba – 2 Percussion parts are optional

Spoon River
BB BE 080302 – $38.00
4′ 20″ – medium

American Folk Dance – ‘heard played by a fiddler at a country dance at Bradford Illinois, in 1857, by Captain Charles H. Robinson.’

arranged by Michael Allen from the composer’s 1919 piano score for (423.11) – B flat Piccolo, E flat Trumpet, B flat Trumpet, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns 3 Trombones, Euphonium, Tuba

Sussex Mummers Christmas Carol
BB BE 880511 – $28.00
2′ 00″ – medium

Pretty little folk tune set by Percy Grainger and arranged by Michael Allen

Recorded by the Burning River Brass – Christmas Around the World

Piccolo in B flat, 2 Trumpets in B flat, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 3 Trombones, Euphonium, Tuba

Willow Willow
BB BE 141010 – $38.00
3′ 00″ – difficult

Percy Grainger set this work in 1898 from William Chappell’s Old English Popular Music. This pensive and emotional work arranged by Mike Allen features the trombone throughout.

Piccolo in B flat, Trumpet in E flat, Trumpet in B flat, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones (1 is solo), Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba