Why is Grainger's music soooo good???
I never get tired of listening to, performing or studying the music of Percy Grainger!
I remember the first time I programmed a piece written by Percy Grainger with my band at King George High School (VA). It was Bainum's arrangement of Australian Up-Country Tune. This beautiful melody was a favorite of Grainger.
The original composition was for voice and was sung at his wedding, an event that was held at the famed Hollywood Bowl. Grainger, ever the showman, composed the piece for his bride and shared it with the huge crowd that attended his wedding.
This composition started a musical love affair for me with Grainger's music. I continued to program his music with my band. We would go on to perform Shepherd's Hey, Colonial Song, and other musical gems by this giant of wind band composition. As the program grew in numbers and musical ability, I eventual programmed Lincolnshire Posy. My students, too, fell in love with the music of Percy Grainger.
Today, I regularly program the music of Percy Grainger with the Mid-Atlantic Wind Symphony and various youth ensembles. One of my favorite memories was programming Larry Clark's arrangement of The Sussex Mummers' Christmas Carol for a holiday concert in a local church with MAWS. It was amazing to fill that house of worship with such an incredible arrangement. The moment was spiritual in many ways and the audience loved the beauty and grandeur of the composition.
So how can his music, much of which is approaching (or has surpassed!) its 100th anniversary, still capture the hearts of band directors, musicians, students and audiences?
I hate to sound cliche.... but, Percy Grainger's music is timeless and ahead of his time.
He embraced the newness of the 20th century and continually strived to push the limits of the wind band idiom. We see this most evident in the debut of Lincolnshire Posy. Many directors weren't ready for the unconventional harmonies, complex and open time signatures, challenging rhythms, or the demands placed on the musicians.
To which Grainger (in his blunt and direct manor) responded, "The only players that are likely to balk at those rhythms are seasoned professional bandsmen, who think more of their beer than of their music." (Source: Lincolnshire Posy full score edition by Frederick Fennell - "To Bandleaders," August 1939)
The music of Percy Grainger challenged and inspired the bands of the early 20th Century. But the beauty and artistry of his compositions have transcended the decades and his composition continue to inspire band members of all ages, today!
When we look at the life of Percy Grainger, we see that he was a tragically flawed character...
...but his music will live for many ages to come.
What's you favorite composition by Percy Grainger?