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  • 01/28/2020 5:25 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    by Vincent Lionti, viola, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and Board Member, International Percy Grainger Society

    How would you like to go back in time (oh, about 100 years or so), sit in Percy Grainger's living room parlor and enjoy a performance of some of this great composer's music as well as that of a few of his famous friends and colleagues? If you are intrigued by this idea, I cordially invite you to 7 Cromwell Place, White Plains, New York, for a concert that pianist Richard Masters and I will be giving on Sunday, May 3, 2020 at 2:00pm. You'll hear and see the same piano and harmonium that Percy played and composed on. You'll sit among the same furniture, pictures on the wall and furnishings that adorned Percy and his wife Ella's humble home during their lifetime. You'll see the Tiffany stained glass windows, the tasseled Victorian lampshades and the chin-up bar that hangs in the entrance foyer. House concerts were a very important facet of Percy's music-making, where he could try out new compositions in front of family and friends before publishing and performing them around the world.

          The complete program is as follows:

    GRAINGER   The Sussex Mummers' Christmas Carol

    GRAINGER  Youthful Rapture

    YORK BOWEN Phantasy, opus 54 (1918)

    ARNOLD BAX Piano Sonata in E-flat major (1921)

    FREDERICK DELIUS   Violin Sonata No. 2 (1923) arranged for Viola by Lionel Tertis

    GRAINGER  Molly on the Shore  (transcribed by Lionel Tertis, notated and edited by R. Masters)



    York Bowen's musical career spanned more than fifty years during which time he wrote over 160 works. As well as being a pianist and composer, Bowen was a talented conductor, organist, violist and horn player. Despite achieving considerable success during his lifetime, many of the composer's works remained unpublished and unperformed until after his death in 1961, the same year as Percy Grainger's death. In his book Grainger on Music, Percy writes of hearing a performance in Stockholm of "...the English composer York Bowen's melodious and effective Second Piano Concerto..."



    Sir Arnold Bax, born a year after Grainger, was an English composer, poet, and author. His prolific output includes songs, choral music, chamber pieces, and solo piano works, but he is best known for his orchestral music. Lewis Foreman has written that some "music of Bax exhibits an unexpected resemblance to Percy Grainger at his most energetic."



    Percy Grainger met Frederick Delius in London, April 1907, probably at the home of the painter John Singer Sargent; the two met and exchanged music. Upon looking at Grainger’s setting of the folksong Brigg Fair (1906), Delius declared that their harmonies were identical! The next year, Delius wrote his orchestral rhapsody Brigg Fair, and dedicated it to Grainger. In his 1952 essay on Delius, Grainger noted that Delius "…did not so much create new ideas and idioms as respond exquisitely to those brought to him…”


    Please join us for a brief journey back in time at the Percy Grainger House on May 3, 2020 at 2:00pm! A reception follows the concert.


    Tickets will be available online starting March 5th, 2020.  The Percy Grainger House is located at 7 Cromwell Place in White Plains, New York, 10601. Parking is available along the street as well as in the municipal parking garage located directly opposite the house.

  • 01/14/2020 12:55 PM | Susan Colson (Administrator)

    Fire on any scale was a concern to Percy Grainger.  In fact, he was so concerted about it and its devastating effects he had two fire proof rooms installed in his basement.  

    The devastating wild fires in eastern Australia would have been of grave concern to Grainger. He would have certainly been one of the first to support his homeland and step up to help.  He was known for his generosity, establishing a scholarship in his mother's name at University of Adelaide and playing concerts for the US Red Cross, are just two examples among many of his generosity and support for community.

    In the spirit of his concern and lifelong support of Australia, the International Percy Grainger Society is supporting the Australian Red Cross, Melbourne, in its efforts to comfort and support those how have lost homes and the volunteers that are fighting the fires.  Please click here to join us in our support.  




  • 12/31/2019 2:01 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    by Barry Peter Ould.  In the impressive roll-call of music arrangers throughout twentieth-century music, no musician looms as large in this field as the composer/pianist, Percy Aldridge Grainger. His numerous arrangements of works by other composers, as well as arrangements of his original and folk-music settings, present a body of work which is perhaps unique in the annals of music history.  Grainger’s musical interests covered a wide spectrum from medieval polyphony to the twentieth-century, which culminated in his own early experiments in producing electronic music on ‘free music’ machines.

    Grainger’s development as an arranger can be roughly divided into three periods.  His earliest work as an arranger of traditional music can be dated to 1898. when he took the song ‘Willow Willow’ from William Chappell’s ‘Old English Music’ and wrote a new accompaniment to the existing melody.  This was soon followed by 25 traditional melodies from Augener’s ‘Minstrelsy of England’ all with new accompaniments by the 16-year-old Grainger. In 1900, during a visit to West Argyllshire in Scotland, the young Grainger was heavily influenced by what he saw and heard and this was to have a profound effect on the music he produced thereafter.

    His next set of arrangements was 12 songs from the Scottish collection ‘Songs of the North’, for which he wrote new piano accompaniments.  Another two pieces from the same collection were arranged for a cappella voices, and it is in these settings that the beginnings of Grainger’s unique harmonic style can be heard.  Grainger continued to make new settings of existing source material more or less up until he embarked on collecting traditional folk songs.  The years leading up to this important phase of his life were filled with an insatiable appetite for work. 

    His first public recital as a pianist took place in 1901, but he was also very busy playing at private functions.  It was during these ‘At Homes’ recitals that Grainger came into contact with many of the leading musicians and composers of the day.  These early years in London saw the composition of his paraphrase transcription of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Flower Waltz’, his first venture into that particular art form and piano transcriptions of 4 Irish Dances by his friend and mentor, Charles Villiers Stanford.  This would in turn lead to a series of piano transcriptions on pieces he particularly adored and thus securing him a position amongst the ranks of composer-pianists who were all attracted to this genre. 

    It was also during this period that Grainger met for the first time, his musical hero, Edvard Grieg.  He had long been a fervent admirer of the Norwegian’s music.  While still a boy in Australia, he had come under the spell of Grieg’s piano music, taught to him by his mother, Rose.  His earliest orchestral arrangements were of three of Grieg’s ‘Lyric Pieces’ from op. 12. scored in July 1898, which predated his first song arrangement of ‘Willow, Willow’ by some 4 months.  In 1902, during his stay at Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, Grainger penned perhaps his most famous arrangement.  It was his choral setting of the ‘Irish Tune from County Derry’ which has in latter years been wrongly attributed the title of ‘Danny Boy’.  This sumptuous melody was to be arranged in many different ways during Grainger’s lifetime, but the first published edition of his ‘elastic’ scoring concept was a highly chromatic version of the tune.

    In 1904, a meeting with Lucy Broadwood inspired Grainger to start collecting folk songs in the field. The material he collected between 1905 and 1909 would become his new source of inspiration, leading to the creation of one of his major musical achievements: the composition of the series ‘British Folk Music Settings’, which forms the largest collection of pieces among the generic headings he gave to his compositions.  The folk songs he collected were mainly from Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire, but he also notated a number of sea chanties from John Perring and Charles Rosher, a deep sea fisherman and retired sailor respectively.  It was from Rosher that he collected ‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor’ used to great effect in his ‘Scotch Strathspey and Reel’.  Perring provided ‘Shallow Brown’, perhaps one of Grainger’s greatest settings.  Grainger also visited Denmark where he undertook several expeditions to collect material, the last being in 1922.  Again, the songs he collected in Denmark would be used in a series of compositions entitled ‘Danish Folk-Music Settings’ of which his ‘Danish Folk-Music Suite’ for orchestra is the crowning achievement. 

    A series of eight concerts between 1912-1913, organised and sponsored by Henry Balfour Gardiner, a fellow student at Hoch’s Conservatory in Frankfurt, presented Grainger with an opportunity to present some of his choral and orchestral arrangements for the first time.  At the first of these concerts, a setting of a Faeroese dance folk song ‘Father and Daughter’, with guitar ensemble was a huge success. It brought Cecil Forsyth’s attention to Grainger’s unique scoring for guitars which he later used in his book on orchestration.  The fifth concert included one of Grainger’s earliest orchestral settings from folk music sources, namely ‘Passacaglia on Green Bushes’.

    A publishing deal with Schott and Co. was secured in 1911 and, after the success of a handful of popular pieces including ‘Shepherd’s Hey’, Grainger was encouraged to make piano arrangements of them to widen their popularity. Thus the process of transcribing his own pieces began.  Whilst Grainger’s original piano works are almost without exception transcriptions (the majority of his piano versions were made after their original instrumental or orchestral scores were composed), it is in the thirty or so transcriptions of other composers’ music that his originality as a composer for the piano shines forth.

    After this period Grainger and his mother departed for the United States.  This third phase was to be the most extended. As his ideas for new works were drying up, especially so after his mother’s death in 1922, Grainger undertook the constant rearranging of previous compositions.  A brief period in the United States Army as bandsman gave him the opportunity of writing for the military band.  It was during this time that he arranged a number of his popular pieces for band.  During his London years he had acquired a thorough knowledge of wind instruments, augmented by his time as bandsman, and this would prove invaluable when he came to write such masterpieces as ‘A Lincolnshire Posy’.  However, the anonymity of army life however did not last long and it was soon discovered that his true talents lay as a concert pianist. In 1918, he was coaxed into giving a piano recital in aid of War Bonds.  For this recital he dished up the piece to which his name would be inextricably linked with for the remainder of his life. The tune had been given to him ten years earlier by Cecil Sharp who had collected it from traditional sources and his arrangement of ‘Country Gardens’ would provide Grainger with an income for life.

    After his time in the United States Army he resumed work as a concert pianist and his vigorous nature never allow him to rest.  Grainger’s remaining years in the United States were oriented towards education, and a series of teaching posts were made available to him. This provided him with the opportunity to make arrangements of pieces for multiple pianos so that his piano students would be able to play alongside him and thus accustom themselves to playing in an ensemble.  For the more gifted pupils, he made special two-piano arrangements of some of his original works and folk music settings. 

    It was at the Chicago Music College beginning in the summer of 1919, that the two first numbers of his ‘Free Settings of Favourite Melodies’ were written out.  The ‘Hornpipe’ from Handel’s ‘Water Music’, however, appears to have been thought out earlier than this.  It is a straightforward treatment of the original melody, though technically more demanding than it sounds.  The second, Brahms’s ‘Wiegenlied’ (‘Cradle Song’) op. 49 no. 4, is a contemplative study characterised by much arpeggiation.  The third piece in the series is a transcription of the song ‘Nell’ op. 18 no. 1 by Fauré.  Grainger’s filigree treatment of the melody was made in the February of the same year in which Fauré died.  The transcription of one of Fauré’s most poignant love songs, ‘Après une rêve’ op. 7 no. 1 followed in 1939.  In the twilight years of Grainger’s life, although frail, he would often be heard playing these two Fauré melodies.  Before 1920, work commenced on ‘Ramble on Love’ with the full title Ramble on the Love-duet in the Opera ‘The Rose-Bearer’ [Der Rosenkavalier] FSFM No. 4. But it was his mother’s suicide in 1922 that drove Grainger to complete this most elaborate of all his piano paraphrases, with her name obliquely enshrined in the title.

    For the Chicago Music College’ summer school in 1928, Grainger made the first of his impressive transcriptions for percussion ensemble of Debussy’s ‘Pagodes’ (Estampes) whom Grainger had first met during his years in London.   In 1932, Grainger was appointed associate professor and chairman of the music department at New York University and, through the auspices of Gustave Reese, Grainger was introduced to a recording of medieval music by the English musicologist, Dom Anselm Hughes. This experience was to bring Grainger’s attention to a body of music which would preoccupy him for the remainder of his life.  His work on arranging and trying to popularise this music lead to the publication of a series of pieces entitled ‘English Gothic Music’. 

    In the following years whilst visiting his homeland, Grainger made a series of transcriptions from recordings of ethnic music from the Pacific regions and the harmonisation of a Chinese tune, ‘Beautiful Fresh Flower’, which he had read about in A Theory of Evolving Tonality by the American musicologist, composer, organist and conductor Joseph Yasser.  The melody of ‘Beautiful Fresh Flower’ was also used by Puccini in his opera Turandot

    From 1930 onwards Grainger began lecturing and teaching at the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan, and for these annual events he turned his attention to making many arrangements of works by different composers, among whom J. S. Bach took a central role. At the same time, he began a series of masterly arrangements under the heading ‘Chosen Gems for Winds’ including works by Josquin, de Cabezon, William Lawes and Eugene Goosens as well as pieces made available to him from his collaboration with Dom Anselm Hughes.  A similar set of arrangements for strings was also undertaken, and many of these works were performed during the concerts Grainger organised at the Interlochen summer music schools.  For his final concert in the summer of 1944, he made a transcription of Ravel’s ‘La Vallée des Cloches’ for tuneful percussion and strings.  This was his second transcription of a Ravel piano work.  In 1934, he had transcribed ‘Le Gibet’ for piano and marimbas, but the score has never come to light and is presumed lost.

    Such is Grainger’s breadth and vision that if for some strange reason all music apart from Grainger’s arrangements were to disappear, we would be left with a body of work which would give us a fundamental understanding of the development of music from different cultures throughout the ages. It is unfortunate that Grainger’s reputation as a composer is largely based on a handful of popular piano arrangements, while the bulk of his inventive and highly individual settings of folk-music, together with his arrangements of a wider gamut of music from all periods, and his own original compositions, for the most part go unperformed and unheard.  The multifaceted genius of Grainger the music arranger has yet to be fully appreciated.

     

  • 11/12/2019 12:57 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    Bernard Herrmann as he appeared in the Hitchcock motion picture classic “The Man Who Knew Too Much”

    By Dana Paul Perna. It will come as no surprise to this readership that Bernard Herrmann is included amidst a shared appreciation among Grainger enthusiasts. The person to whom he was said to have once stated “Grainger changed my life” (quoted as per John Bird to me in a personal conversation), as well as “Grainger was my only true teacher”, how could he not rank high among those who could tout having been artistically nurtured by the Thunda-from-Down-Unda? Among the recordings Herrmann had planned to make had his sudden death not intervened, was one to have been devoted to Grainger in all his tuneful percussion richness and imagination. It came to pass in the hands of another conductor, but one only wishes we could have heard Herrmann bring his own original concepts and vision to the endeavor, especially if it were to have become one of his London Phase 4 discs, whereby all of it would have been captured on tape by way of that legendary audio engineer extraordinaire, Arthur Lilley.

    Without any ego attached to any of what I am about to author, in 1986, I wrote an article about - and titled - BERNARD HERRMANN - for the Grainger Society Journal, as linked here for your reading pleasure and enjoyment. Greatest examples of the Journalistic Arts? Hardly, but my intention was related in a similar mode to those of my same intentions with regard to Grainger. During this period, in a pre-YouTube, Spotfly, TCM, Social Media, TicToc - what have you - World that it was, when I were to mention Herrmann, or Grainger, or Moross even to “intelligent musicians” - and, may I add, pianists, specifically with regard to Grainger - they would look at me as if I had four eyeballs - or any other BALLS (which it took, believe me) to express such well-warranted admiration with respect to either of them. Pianists, as I was to discover, were particularly clueless in terms of Grainger’s output for their instrument. Like Percy, there was almost nothing in relation to there being any presence of Herrmann, even during his 75th birthday year that 1986 marked. It was my feeling that Percy would not have minded having devoted space within a journal he was named for to expose a spotlight on one among his more - if not the MOST - illustrious of students. 

    It was Grainger who encouraged the young musician, as Jerome Moross shared with me while expressing his similar reaction to Grainger as his informal teacher. (Moross was not “enrolled” in Percy’s NYU class - Benny, however, was.) As Moross reflected: “To Grainger, there were two kinds of people; those who were interested in Music, and those who were not. If you were ‘not’, he had no interest in you. If you “did”, like Benny and I, class began after ‘class’ had ended.” Who else but Grainger would, not only talk about Early Music in depth and specificity - at a time when that was almost unheard of - but, actually bring in to class recorders, shawms, and even a serpent, in addition to playing these instruments as demonstration to the class, sometimes with his wife Ella in tow, while dressed in whatever was left of his World War I doughboy uniform, as Moross stated, “looking more like a Hobo than the other formally attired professors we were accustomed to.” (It should be noted that Herrmann later employed a Serpent to underscore a tarantula for his score to the motion picture “White Witch Doctor.”) He also expressed his admiration for Grainger’s effusive approach to music, his expansive knowledge of the subject, and his unorthodox approach to teaching it that allowed Herrmann, Moross and others, to look at music in a more open-minded manner. (It remains to be noted that Herrmann’s other teacher at NYU was Philip James, who, among other things was the first music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra that he co-founded in 1922.) 

    In terms of the “after class” Moross mentioned, as he continued, “No music subject was off limits! He never treated us like ‘youngsters’; he always treated us like equals - just young ones. Benny was like a sponge then” adding that Grainger was especially pleased that Herrmann was so deeply interested in, enthralled and inspired by the British composers, several of whom Percy knew, or had known personally. Particular attention must be paid to their mutual admiration for Frederick Delius, stories about whom Grainger imparted to his younger colleagues. It is no wonder why some of Herrmann’s earliest efforts reflect and possess a certain “Delian Aura” about them, such as his early concert masterpiece “Aubade”, the title to which he later changed to “Silent Noon” after the Rossetti poem of the same name: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCAK_FogZS0  ….and, yes, Herrmann was present when Grainger invited Duke Ellington to visit the NYU campus, calling Moross to “GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE IMMEDIATELY!” since he did not want his DeWitt Clinton High School classmate to miss out on such a history-making event.  

    Herrmann came to know the who’s who among his contemporaries, largely due to his participation in the Young Composer’s Group, but on his desire to do so as well. Among those whom he came to know during this early period included Copland, Siegmeister, Gould, George Gershwin, Robert Russell Bennett, Oscar Levant, Brandt, Ives, Cowell (who served as his first publisher), Still, Varèse, Vernon Duke, Charles Seeger among numerous others. Grainger participated (performing “Green Bushes”) on Herrmann’s first concert of the New Chamber Orchestra of New York on May 17, 1933, an orchestra that Herrmann formed at age twenty-one! - during the Great Depression when no one had $$$$$. How crazy is that? You can read a letter Benny wrote to Henry Cowell (a musician also associated with Grainger) the day after the concert by going to: http://www.bernardherrmann.org/articles/a-letter-to-henry-cowell/ By the time he assumed a staff conductor’s position for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in 1934, confidence would never be a characteristic Herrmann would ever be accused of NOT possessing. Two years later, he was appointed music director of their Columbia Symphony Orchestra, forging a name for himself within the medium of Radio, pre-dating his future work in motion pictures, television and recordings. 

        To state that “the rest is history” would prove an understatement.

    Turning back to my previous 1986 article, what has changed since? When there were only a handful of recordings of Herrmann’s concert and chamber works on the market, including one devoted to his opera “Wuthering Heights”, these were mainly the products of Herrmann himself, either as performed under his baton, or under his supervision. Even these had become hard to come by. When YouTube began, Herrmann was not particularly present, nor was Grainger, for that matter, either. Over time, what has changed (as it has for Grainger), in a huge way is that Herrmann is very much present now. Early in TCM’s broadcasting of films that he scored, for example, mention of his contribution to their end result, unless it was one of his Hitchcock gems, was never included, which is not the case any longer. That his concert titles have been taken up in contemporary times, including the fact that his “Symphony” was finally given a long-overdue performance in Carnegie Hall (e.g. as performed by The Orchestra Now, conducted by Leon Botstein that occurred on Friday, November 3, 2017 at 7:30 pm in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage), has proven that those of us who knew of this Master’s hand would find-an-audience became confirmed. New recordings have been produced, and YouTube is bursting with Herrmannism to the extreme….and that’s just for starters. Even a selection of his “sketches” have been converted, in several instances, by way of digital representation over that medium, one that had not existed during Benny’s lifetime. There is even the online Bernard Herrmann Society website that established the Maestro with a Social Media presence he could never have imagined. Check it out for yourself by going to: http://www.bernardherrmann.org/  . 

    Orchestras that once openly looked “down” on his music are programming it - and what a list that is becoming, too. Los Angeles Philharmonic - an orchestra Herrmann was “forbidden” to conduct nor to perform his music - released one commercially made CD devoted to Herrmann’s film music under Esa-Pekka Salonen’s direction, while they have performed some of his titles in concert since; in fact,  during the inaugural week of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, selections by him were included among those historic festivities, and eventual telecast.  

    The New York Philharmonic performed Herrmann under the baton of no less than John Williams, who had also programmed Benny’s work years earlier while he was music director of the Boston Pops. Of course, Herrmann is part of their history, having received the world premiere of his “Moby Dick” under the baton of then music director, (pre-Sir) John Barbirolli. 


    photo of Bernard Herrmann discussing his score to MOBY DICK with conductor, John Barbirolli, then music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra

    More recently, the New York Philharmonic’s string section (with mutes!) performed Herrmann’s score for “Psycho” in a “live” performance while the Hitchcock classic was being screened. His “Psycho Suite”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQwzJ6VvUD0 (released under the title “Psycho (a Narrative for Orchestra)” on Benny’s recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBkuUc6Pvek) has practically become a concert staple for Halloween, or “Thriller”-themed concerts. In Bordeaux, France, a great deal of attention was paid to Herrmann over three events in which HE was the featured subject. The first concert’s audio was cybercast, meaning that I was able to listen to it while it happened - this truly supreme presentation: Thursday 7th and Friday 8th of March 2019 at 20hr – Concert “Bernard Herrmann – The Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema”.  The Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine (ONBA) conducted by David Charles Abell, and with soprano Ana Maria Labin and the pianist Tanguy de Williencourt, will offer a program that will include music from the movies Psycho, Fahrenheit 451, Citizen Kane, The Bride Wore Black, Hangover Square, Obsession, The Ghost and Mrs Muir and North by Northwest. Yet, two more events occurred during the same week, these: 1) Monday 11th of March at 20h – Music Conference “Bernard Herrmann – His life and his great scores” Thierry Jousse, film critic and French director, will speak about the life of Bernard Hermann and his great scores written for the cinema, accompanied by Jean-Michel Bernard, pianist and composer, who will musically illustrate this tribute to the great Maestro; 2) Thursday 14th & Friday 15th at 20h – Movie in concert “Vertigo” The Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine (ONBA) conducted by Ernst Van Tiel will perform live Bernard Hermann’s soundtrack for the movie “Vertigo” (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

    …and that does not even scratch the surface in any way, shape, or form! In terms of his work just for the cinema alone - excluding everything else, which is quite an “else” to exclude!!! - he has become one of the most revered, studied and influential figures to have ever graced the medium. For that reason, he can now be considered to rank among the most important composers to ever have been born on the soil of the United States of America, period.

    To fail on my own side of the coin would prove inexcusable, therefore, I prepared two episodes of my cyber-radio program devoted to Herrmann’s work, the first providing an overview of his life and career: http://mixlr.com/moog1-radio/showreel/dpp-17/ It additionally pleases me to inform readers that, years ago, I had the great privilege of “crashing” the concert and first recording session in Phoenix, Arizona devoted to Herrmann’s previously alluded to “Symphony.” (While Herrmann had recorded it, it had not been recorded in a digital form of a later vintage.) One of my fondest memories was when the trumpet player entered the sound room to check in. His T-Shirt read “I Think Before I Clam.” How reassuring!?!?!? To myself, I immediately thought, what WOULD Benny have exclaimed if he had seen that? True, he could have laughed out-loud, but, more likely, given how serious he was when it came to all matters where and when WORK was involved, I could well imagine him having yelled out: 

    “HEY, THAT’S DISRESPECTFUL! EITHER TAKE THAT SHIRT OFF, OR GET THE HELL OUT!”

    Oh, yes, and let’s not forget that Benny has even served as postage:

     

    To our great fortune, Herrmann’s contributions carry on in the 21st Century, perhaps even more musically relevant than ever. I have even heard a small combo jazz quartet - YES, a JAZZ QUARTET !!! - play his theme to “Taxi Driver” in a manner that the other standards were handled on the same gig. Too HIP for the room? You better believe it, Daddy-O. In a different version by a different artist, just to show you what I mean, DIGGETH - as BENNY’s tune ROCKS THE HOUSE ANEW! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSMmuejLMFI  Absolutely 100% delicious - just as if  Travis had stopped the meter long enough to dig into a New York Pastrami-on-Rye from Katz’s!

    In the end, what else can be learned by any of this? Whether it was Grainger, or Herrmann, or Moross, or Germaine Tailleferre, or Cyril Scott….. or any among a number of composers one feels has been neglected, vindication - not just that it comes, but when it comes - is always such a wonderful thing, indeed!!!!


         

    Postscript

    Upon completing this article, some additional news came my way, thereby making the necessity for this much-needed POSTSCRIPT. A bit macabre though it may be, yet remembering that Bernard Herrmann did compose a “Concerto Macabre” (for piano and orchestra), this latest addition, therefore, will seem wholly appropriate as you read on. 

    Upon learning that Herrmann was buried some 25 minutes from where I lived, I decided that it was only fitting for me to pay my respects by visiting his grave, which I did on two attempts. The first attempt became a wash-out, while attempt number two, fortunately aided by a groundskeeper, could not have gone any better. The weather was perfect - sunny and bright, not too warm, the air was crisp, the location appropriately quiet, if not a bit eerie, too (e.g. no one was there other than the groundskeeper [who walked away] and me). At left, how the site appeared at that time.

    I know what you are thinking, but, yes, as truly simple and direct as a demarkation could get. You would never suspect that this is the resting place for one of the Masters given its understatement. (The dot at the top left indicates that this site is to be “perpetually cared-for”, which forms, in part, the basis for this “postscript.”) In paying my respects, I included mention of Percy Grainger, Henry Cowell, Charles Ives, Jerome Moross, and Edgard Varèse within my salutation (why not?), plus all the members of any-and-all the Percy Grainger Societies, John Bird, Barry Peter Ould, William Grant Still and Kevin Scott….before adding my final gesture; the reason for this pilgrimage in the first place. 

    Some of you will know that Herrmann’s first wife was the renowned writer, Lucille Fletcher, among whose most famous works remains “Sorry, Wrong Number” having aired as a chilling radio drama in 1943 that starred Agnes Moorehead, later having been turned into the motion picture classic that starred Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster (the latter having been a classmate of Herrmann’s [and Jerome Moross, too] at DeWitt Clinton High School in New York.) Just to add this tiny touch of color onto the fabric, Ms. Fletcher’s drama formed the basis for the final stage work Jerome Moross (Benny’s classmate and childhood friend) was to complete. He was at work on it - its manuscript sitting in its working stages on his piano - when I visited Moross at his New York apartment.  At right, poster for the Motion Picture release of "SORRY, WRONG NUMBER"; the cinematic adaption of Lucille Fletcher's historic radio drama.

    Upon their marriage, the couple spent their Honeymoon at the Grand Canyon. As part of my visit to that same Natural Wonder, I picked up a piece of Arizona red rock, both as a souvenir, and as a just-in-case I were to ever visit Herrmann’s resting place (that’s truth, by the way!!!) The time had come with regard to that well intended visitation as I placed, as is customary, this most appropriate chunk of Arizona red rock on the top right of his gravestone. Two other stones (of a more local variety) had already been placed there making me realize that Benny had not been forgotten. This company of stones looked somehow very cozy together as the luminescent sunlight fully illuminated them. Having occurred on a late Tuesday morning, with my pilgrimage thus completed, I went to lunch at Rachel’s Café in Syosset before returning home. 

    While preparing this article, I planned to locate photos to enhance some of my verbiage with pictures. Among them included Benny’s resting place. Not that I was planning to use any of them, I noticed that, when I had paid-my-respects, it was just his stone and a shroud created out of a low-resting bush - exactly like all the others in the row. Since that time, it would appear that his family has stepped in, having added an additional stone at the foot of it. 

    You can almost consider it to be a “coda”; an appropriate form of expression with which to pay homage to one of the most remarkable figures Music has ever known.  Bernard Herrmann's gravesite as it appears now 


  • 09/03/2019 1:46 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    by Callum McLachlan.  For a young pianist, Grainger’s music initially seems extremely daunting on the page. It is immediately recognizable and so overwhelmingly detailed in terms of specifics (pedaling, voicing, dynamics and articulation) that the demands at times seem impossible.  The look on the page contrasts dramatically with the sound in the concert hall or on recordings, as the music has a savage directness, an immediacy and power that makes its impact seem inevitable, natural and universal. Grainger has a huge range, from touching original works filled with wonderful melodies and gorgeously rich harmonies, to vibrant reworkings of folk songs and remarkable arrangements of works of other composers, from Bach, through Faure and Tchaikovsky to Gershwin and Strauss. The one unifying factor that runs through the variety of styles in his music is that it always speaks to the heart with directness and urgent conviction.

    In April I was privileged to be invited by the esteemed pianist Sandro Russo to give a recital in the Scarsdale Concert Series which included an all-Grainger second half of 50 minutes.

    Grainger’s White Plains Home was only a half hour drive and Sandro kindly arranged for me to visit the house. What an experience it was to venture into the very same rooms that the great composer-pianist had frequented over fifty years earlier!  To see his piano, to walk around and soak up the ambience was to relive history: The house seems to have been left exactly as it had been when Grainger was last there. It was touching to see his old concert attire still there in the wardrobe! However, the most impacting memory of this trip was being afforded the opportunity to play Grainger’s upright Piano. I chose ‘To a Nordic Princess’ and ‘Bridal Lullaby’, and although the Piano was naturally out of tune, it had a wonderful charm, and the middle pedal was in fantastic condition! It was a profoundly moving, inspirational and memorable experience, and it made a lasting impression on me - one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

    Note from IPGS: We are grateful to this month's guest blogger Callum McLachlan. Callum, age 19, is an internationally known pianist and musician. After attending Chetham's School of Music, Manchester, UK, for seven years and winning all the major prizes there, he began studying in Salzburg at the Mozarteum in 2018. He has performed solo recitals in New York, Spain, Poland and Austria, as well as throughout the UK. We thank him for his perspective and wish him the best in his musical pursuits.

  • 07/21/2019 1:15 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    by Dana Paul Perna. 2019 marks the Bicentennial of WALT WHITMAN’s birth. Often referred to as “The Poet of Democracy,” his poetry has incentivized, inspired and influenced all manner of artists across the board in every corner of the world where his words have taken root to resonate. Poets, painters, composers, musicians, writers, actors, visual artists, world leaders….you name it, have placed his writings to register among those most celebrated by any of those authored in the English language. 

    Recently, a framed portrait of Walt Whitman was unearthed in the basement of Percy Grainger’s White Plains home. This should come as no surprise when one realizes how valued the Grainger’s found Whitman’s words. Among the gifts Percy presented to Ella when he proposed was a copy of “Leaves of Grass”, which he inscribed to her - paraphrasing as I will, something to the effect of “Let us discover the ‘Poet of Democracy’ together.”  

    If we limit Whitman’s influence simply to composers who have turned to Whitman, either for texts for their works, be them songs, or for more extended compositions of the (soloist-and-)chorus-with-orchestra variety, or for instrumental works drawn from them, it represents a stellar list of masters that include Holst, Vaughan Williams, Adams, Delius, Neely Bruce, Coghill, Siegmeister, Carpenter, Converse, Rorem, Hoiby, Schonthal, Weill, Hanson….and that does not even represent a beginning point for the innumerable creations that have musically flowed forth. 

    To this point, and for those readers who may be interested, save the date of 3 August 2019. Beginning at 8:00 pm - unless you arrive early when a Pre-Concert lecture is set to commence at 7:15 pm - an outdoor concert in celebration of Walt Whitman’s Bicentennial has been scheduled. The location will be at Heckscher Park, Huntington, Long Island, New York (not far from Whitman’s actual birthplace) and will include the World Premiere performance of A Walt Whitman Reader by Dana Paul Perna (Recording Secretary of Percy Grainger America, and the International Percy Grainger Society), to be performed by acclaimed bass-baritone, Robert Osborne, accompanied by renowned pianist, Jeffrey Biegel. (It is suggested that any interested attendees bring something to sit upon, and that hydration is also recommended. Please note that weather conditions can neither be determined, nor controlled.) Here is a link regarding that event: 

    http://www.huntingtonarts.org/event/huntington-summer-arts-festival-l-i-orchestra-with-david-stewart-wiley-and-jeffrey-biegel/?fbclid=IwAR2Q6d1ZCrNH5JOUTabqA-fHNrzWJcpaGyjd2CVSlS9v2AxmU6SxghUehtk 

    In terms of Percy Grainger more directly and specifically, he also numbers upon the many who turned to Whitman as inspiration for his music, leading Percy to have composed one of his most significant compositions, namely MARCHING SONG OF DEMOCRACY. For those who may wish to, or are able to attend, on this year’s “Last Night of the Proms” (e.g. Proms 75), the BBC Singers, Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, to be conducted by Sakari Oramo will be performing that Grainger masterpiece on that occasion (in this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44eizaByCS4). Scheduled to occur on 14 September 2019 at 19:15 (e.g. 7:15 pm), here is a link that will provide you with further information:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/ezcd2m 

    …..but, the final words should come from Walt Whitman, as (allegedly) heard by way of this 1890 cylinder recording, reciting a passage from his poem “America”: WALT WHITMAN 1890.mp3


  • 06/15/2019 11:15 AM | Susan Colson (Administrator)

    by Susan Edwards Colson

    In addition to the Grainger music and legacy, there is the house itself. The Percy Grainger House, 7 Cromwell Place, White Plains, is a stunning time capsule. It is an increasingly popular tourist destination, with the certainty of an immersive visit to a bygone era for delighted visitors. It is also a hold out, a 19th century house left standing in a rapidly modernizing, urban neighborhood.

    The house is filled with Percy’s things and Ella’s things too, in dusty choc-a-block stacks. Visitors comment on Percy’s extreme organization of scores and letters, box after box, and Ella’s softer approach to her own poems and sketches, tied together with a pink ribbon or two. Going through a closet now with several years of sorting experience, I feel an intuitive sense of who might have packed what when. Who cherished it, then eventually forgot it? Ella, probably. Who noticed it late in life, then, touched by the memory, added a note of explanation? Ella, certainly. Who deemed it important enough to be packed away wrapped in the October 5, 1930 New York Times edition announcing that CBS had broadcast the New York Philharmonic live over the radio for the very first time that day? Percy, no doubt.

    Preservation of the house is truly important. The IPGS board of late lives and breathes the three R’s of historic houses: rehabilitation, restoration and reconstruction. Rehabilitation is our first challenge, balancing the need to update the house to meet changing uses while retaining the property's historic character. Restoration will dictate that we depict the Grainger House at a particular place in time, packing away evidence of other periods, to tell the Grainger story in an understandable way. Reconstruction will establish a coherent interpretation, item by item.

    This is an enormous undertaking! We are grateful to those who have believed in us, invested in us, and coached us along the way. Early on, the Greater Hudson Heritage Network’s Needs Assessment Program sent site preservation experts to survey the collection. Their careful, thoughtful, recommendations initiated deep reflection and sent us in the right direction.

    In 2015, the Museum Association of New York provided a grant that allowed the IPGS board to engage its long time members, friends and board to complete a Strategic Plan. This plan has guided the house reconstruction and helped shape our plans for a celebration of Percy Grainger’s 100th year in White Plains.

    The Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services of New York provided an Archival Needs Assessment that thoroughly examined our program, identified and addressed specific needs, operational efficiencies, facility and storage concerns, and collection management issues. The assessment pinpointed problems, recommended solutions, set priorities, and helped guide the development of our archival program. Their follow-up 2018 grant allowed us to buy software to organize our collection, and a large scanner for documentation.

    A Technical Assistance Grant (“TAG”) from the Preservation League of New York State allowed us to complete a building condition survey with the help of architect Joanne Tall of KamanTall Architects. The technical survey focuses on the windows and exterior doors providing essential information for stewardship of the house.  Joanne’s thoughtful observations and helpful insights to the building structure will continue to inform the restoration plan for the entire house. There are serious considerations concerning the Percy Grainger House’s historic character as well as any intended use. She was also instructive about alterations needed to meet accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the concern of visual change to our historic building. (The Technical Assistance Grant Program is made possible by the New York State Council for the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Generous additional support for this project has been provided by the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.)

    An essential, practical question for the IPGS board is: Will the building be used strictly to house the collection and limited to interpretive tours, or will it be given a new and expanded use? We hope that any such expansion can make full use of the historic house without compromising its historic character. We work to achieve this balance and make it so.

  • 05/12/2019 11:58 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    by Cora Angier Sowa

    Springdale Arkansas, in the heart of the Ozarks

    In June, 2014, I had the good fortune to visit Springdale Arkansas, located in a lovely area of Northwestern Arkansas, deep in the Ozark Mountains. Springdale is best known as the headquarters of Tyson Foods; the headquarters of Walmart and of the J.B. Hunt trucking company are nearby. A few miles to the south is Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas. To the north, in southern Missouri, is Branson, known for its theme parks and tourist locations.

    I was in Springdale June 10-15 for the convention of the National Railway Historical Society. We were guests of the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad, which is also headquartered in Springdale. The A&M is a short-line road, only 140 miles long, that is an important connector between the BNSF Railroad to the north, and the Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern Railroads to the south, on the Arkansas River. We spent most of our time going on rail excsursions, and took plenty of photographs, in a land where wooded hills and rocky cliffs are intersected by deep valleys. There is a saying that "It's not that the mountains are so high, but the valleys are so deep." This is true, for as the Ozark Plateau was uplifted by great geologic forces, streams continued to cut their way into the land. The scenery is beautiful, but it was not a place I expected to find Percy Grainger.

    Percy Grainger's music in Springdale

    The evening of June 13, there was a banquet, preceded by a social hour where we were entertained by a quartet of saxophone players. They turned out to be students from Springdale High School and their teacher, Daniel Hodge. They played a program of light music on a full range of sizes of saxophones (with Mr. Hodge switching from alto to soprano sax at one point in their performance). As they concluded their set, I asked if they ever played Percy Grainger. They do, big time! Mr. Hodge told me that they play, among other pieces, Handel in the Strand, Tune from County Derry, and Lincolnshire Posy. They have purchased a copy of our LP of the Lincolnshire songs recorded by Grainger, "Unto Brigg Fair," which they have in their library.

    Mr Hodge and his students graciously posed for their picture, which you see above.

    Grainger's music for wind band

    I was pleased to find that The Springdale students and their teacher were so familiar with Grainger's music, so far from locations that we often think of in connection with Grainger. However, there are two reasons why this is not so surprising at all. One concerns Grainger's involvement with music for wind band, the other with his three-year residence in the Ozarks, from 1940 to 1943.

    Grainger's compositions for wind band are among his most important works, valued by wind players everywhere. Timothy Reynish writes, in the chapter on "Music for Wind Band" in Penelope Thwaites' The New Percy Grainger Companion:

    "Percy Grainger is undoubtedly the greatest composer in the past century to be involved in the wind band and its development. He is the only composer of stature to consider military bands the equal, if not the superior, in expressive potential to symphony orchestras (or as he described them 'bow-down-to-blend bands'). . . From his program note to Lincolnshire Posy (1939):

    "Why this cold-shouldering of the wind band by most composers? Is the wind band — with its varied assortment of reeds (so much richer than the reeds of the symphony orchestra), its complete saxophone family that is found nowhere else . . . its army of brass (both wide-bore and narrow-bore) — not the equal of any medium ever conceived? As a vehicle of deeply emotional expression it seems to me unrivalled."

    Grainger's years in Springfield, Missouri, 1940-1943

    During World War II, Percy and Ella abandoned their home in White Plains and moved to Springfield, Missouri, a town in southeastern Missouri located on the Springfield Plateau of the Ozarks. It is home to several universities, including Missouri State University. The reasons for their move have been speculated on. The place was centrally located for the strenuous touring about the country that Grainger was engaged in at the time. It was also far from both coasts, where there were fears of an enemy invasion. While there are no accounts of Grainger giving any concerts or workshops in the immediate area of Springdale, he toured extensively in that general part of the country, including Little Rock, Arkansas (at the other end of the state), in Columbia, Missouri (where the University of Missouri is located), and an entire series of concerts in Oklahoma, the neighboring state. He also paid a visit to Branson, Missouri.

    During their time in Springfield, the Graingers leased an apartment with a balcony on the third floor of the Wilshire Apartments, pictured below. In his journal he praises the scenery and atmosphere of the Ozarks, and in a letter to Ella in 1941 when she was out of town he says "How I love Springfield and our Missouri home! Glorious sunrise, of course, and the same balcony Missouri-Kansas breeze. Everything is choicely clean, tidy and sweet in this apartment . . . It is a rare love and art nest . . ."

    Grainger liked the song "The Arkansas Traveler" and liked to play it. A catalog of "Grainger's Collection of Music by Other Composers" at the Grainger Museum in Melbourne lists a copy of an arrangement of the tune by Frank S. Kenyon, described as an "American country dance." And the Guide to the Pianist's Repertoire by Maurice Hinson lists among folk song adaptations by composer David Guion: "Arkansas Traveler: an old folk tune heard by Guion as a fiddle 'breakdown'; often performed by Percy Grainger." The most familiar words to the song are about a clever country man who makes a fool of a city slicker who acts in a patronizing way, but there are several sets of words, all different from each other. Like another Grainger favorite, "Tune From County Derry," better known by its most familiar words as "Danny Boy," the tune of "Arkansas Traveler" is an old melody. Both are older than any of the words that have been set to them, and their origins are lost in the mists of time.

    Marissa Kyser's research on Grainger's Springfield years

    Marissa Kyser, a graduate student at Missouri State University in Springfield, has done extensive research on Grainger's years in Missouri. A trumpet player herself, she has delved deeply into her subject in both Springfield and Melbourne, examining journals, letters, newspaper articles, financial records, and whatever other pieces of information can shed light on this too little known period of Grainger's life. Many tales and rumors have circulated in Springfield about Grainger's years in their city, and Ms. Kyser's work is to untangle these rumors and bring them to light.

    Ms. Kyser will be giving a lecture at the Grainger House in White Plains on May 11 at 2:00 P.M. on Grainger's Springfield years. We invite all of you to come and hear what promises to be a fascinating talk.

    Join us to hear Marissa Kyser speak on Grainger's Springfield years !

    • Date: May 11, 2019
    • Time: 2:00 P.M.
    • Location: 7 Cromwell Place, White Plains, New York 10601
    • Donations gratefully accepted


  • 04/11/2019 6:27 PM | Susan Colson (Administrator)

    The Etude was an American print magazine published between October 1883 and 1957, roughly the lifetime of Percy Grainger.  The magazine was published by Theodore Presser, the founder of the Music Teachers National Association

    The Etude was aimed at all musicians, from novices to serious professionals. It printed articles ranging from popular interests to more-involved musical subjects --history, literature, gossip, politics—and contained write-in advice columns about musical pedagogy in general.  It also printed sheet music and discussions by famous pianists. 

    In November 1920, Percy Grainger contributed his notes on how to play Edvard Grieg’s Norwegian Bridal Procession, including discussion of “two salient point of modern pianism: (1) the sustaining pedal, (2) non-stretching fingering.”  Find the full text of the article here. 

    James Francis Cooke, editor-in-chief from 1909 to 1949, added the phrase "Music Exalts Life!" to the magazine's masthead, and The Etude became a platform for Cooke's somewhat polemical editorials. This change in editorial policy may have finished it. But in many way, the magazine moved with the times and embraced current technology, unequivocally supporting the phonograph, radio, and eventually television, and, by the late 1930s, fully embracing jazz. It was a true reflection of the heyday of piano.


  • 03/09/2019 3:32 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    Paul Jackson. Honorary Visiting Senior Fellow, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK, and International Percy Grainger Society Board Member. 

    ‘There is one thing I look down on new-timey folk for: their not being able to write A LONG LETTER.’1 So wrote Percy Grainger to his friend and fellow-musician Gustav Adolph Nelson in the summer of 1942. Among his many accomplishments – composer, pianist, conductor, writer, teacher, folk-music collector, artist, inventor – Grainger’s ability to write letters, often long letters, remains a relatively unexplored part of his life’s work. Ranging from the conversational and practical, to the ideological and autobiographical, Grainger’s letters form perhaps the largest part of his output – estimates range between 10,000-50,000 letters – and chronicle his personal and artistic life from his early years in Australia, through his formative studies in Germany from 1895-1901 and his maturation in Edwardian English concert society between 1901-1914, to his long life in America, his adopted home, from 1914 until his death in 1961. Grainger’s fame, firstly as an international concert pianist and then as a composer, opened the doors to acquaintances with composers, musicians, artists, poets, writers, folklorists, educators, society figures, royalty and even an American president. His letters detail his professional and personal activities, plotting the arc of his career, and also serve to chart the course of the development of his views on music, the creative artist, race, sex and language (among many other things). From the exuberance of his early writings, which burst forth with accounts of his voracious engagement with the world and his seminal encounters with a range of influences, through the mid years of detailed, perhaps even obsessive, self-documentation, to his old age, when an emotionally mellower Grainger enjoyed new-found recognition, the letters provide an essential insight to a thinker of distinction.

    To date, only three volumes of letters have been published: The Farthest North of Humanness: Letters of Percy Grainger 1901-14 (Palgrave Macmillan, 1985), the first and most significant presentation of Grainger’s letters from his years in London; The All-Round Man: Selected Letters of Percy Grainger, 1914-1961 (Oxford University Press, 1994), 76 letters from a wide range of areas following the composer’s move to America; and Comrades in Art: The Correspondence of Ronald Stevenson and Percy Grainger, 1957-61 (Toccata Press, 2010), correspondence between Grainger and the Scottish pianist and composer, Ronald Stevenson, covering the last four years of Grainger’s life.

    Central to Grainger’s body of writing is the group of 33 letters2  known as the ‘Round Letters’. Intended for posterity (as, indeed, was all of his output), these letters were copied and sent to fellow composers, friends, family and acquaintances periodically from 1942 until 1958, three years before his death. Grainger frequently wrote letters and articles whilst travelling by train or boat between concert engagements, often on headed hotel notepaper. As he took no other form of transport (he would not fly), such travelling could take several hours or, in the case of overseas trips, several weeks or months. Grainger used his time fruitfully on these trips, composing, attending to his business affairs, writing to friends, family and professional colleagues, and writing articles. He would generally write by hand, and then type up the draft, making several copies with his own, in-house, copying systems at White Plains. Grainger’s efforts to establish the Grainger Museum in 1938 as a study centre for Australian music meant that he not only lodged many of his letters there – a boon to modern researchers – but also asked letter recipients to send him back letters for which he had no copies (such requests were not always met with approval, particularly from ex-lovers!).

    The Round Letters are also distinguished by their use of ‘Blue-Eyed English’ (also known as ‘Nordic English’ or ‘Rosy-Race-y English’), Grainger’s attempt to formulate a language which replaced words he thought of as having Latin and Greek roots with words of his own devising based on Anglo-Saxon terminology. The preface to The Love-Life of Helen and Paris, written in 1924 when he and his future wife Ella Ström were courting, sums up his thoughts on the matter:

    The English stretches of this story are written (as well as I can) in “Nordic English”. I have always believed in the wish-for-ableness ((desirability)) of building up a mainly Anglo-saxon-Scandinavian kind of English in which all but the most un-do-withoutable ((indispensible)) of the French-begotten, Latin-begotten & Greek-begotten words should be side-stepped ((avoided)) & in which the bulk of the put-together ((compound)) words should be willfully & owned-up-to-ly ((admittedly)) hot-home-grown out of Nordic word-seeds. My nature-urge ((instinct)) tells me that speech (like tone-art ((music)) & all other arts) ought to be over-weighingly ((preponderantly)) a forth-showing ((manifestation)) of race, place & type, & that nothing is gained (at least from an artist’s mind-slant ((attitude))) by making speech a gathered-togetherness ((conglomeration)) of worn-out Europe-wide word-chains ((sentences)) such as “in commemoration of this illustrious anniversary”, “this involved situation demanded a readjustment of the entire machinery of representation”, & the like.

    Such language not only reveals something of Grainger’s character – not least, his preoccupation with notions of race – but also frequently make for patterns of expression that capture particular ideas in a revealing way. Commenting on the Declaration by United Nations in 1942, Grainger writes that:

    ‘First of all, world-haps: I have always preached that world-peace (the one thing we all yearn for, of course) could only be brought about by team-work between the British World-Realm ((Empire)), America, Russia & China. And now this team-play (almost unthinkable tho it seemed only a short while ago) is fact-fully ((actually)) happening. I have always said that the mete-ment ((measurement)) of any theed’s ((nation’s)) clear-thinkingness is its understanding of the Russian out-try-th ((experiment)). I have always longed to see the whole English-speaking world at-oned. I have always longed to see the whole Rosy-Race-y ((Nordic)) world brought together in spirit. Now all these hopes are fulfilled. So I feel more at rest than I have for many years. [Feb 15-17, 1942].

    Grainger’s hectic concert life is chronicled in some detail throughout the letters. Even in his sixties and seventies he toured throughout the US, performing at civic halls and high schools. His music enjoyed something of a renaissance during these years, and the frequent performances he took part in or attended gave him the opportunity to reflect on a lifetime of composing:

    I think I wrote you in my last Round Letter that this season was proving a somewhat dull one for me, from my tone-wright’s ((composer’s)) angle. This dullness has somewhat lifted, toward the end of the season. The other day in Boston I heard Green Bushes & To a Nordic Princess very finely given – & I think highly of the last-named piece, as being truly string-&-wind-band ((orchestra))-minded. Ella & I have just come from Oberlin College, Ohio, where I gave Hillsong II (22 single winds), a stunningly played & sung group of English Gothic Music (13th to 17th year-hundreds), my seldom-done County Derry Air (which is the setting of Irish Tune from Co. Derry written in 1920 for sing-band ((chorus)), organ & band—a setting which has nothing in common with the 1902 setting. The 1920 setting has a Handel-like bredth & grandness about it) … So I have nothing to grumble about, just now, on the ground of non-forth-played-ness ((non-performance)). To hear Hillsong II (first scoring, 1907) is enough to at-rest-set me for some time. [May 17, 1944].

    Whilst an uncharacteristically humorous Percy noted in 1958, after hearing a performance of the piano-only version of Random Round, that:

    At Cincinnati I heard for the first time a properly worked out perform[ance] of my Random Round in the dish-up for 6 pianists at 2 pianos (the original form is 3 voices, 3 strings, 2 guitars, flute, xylophone, wooden Marimba, ukulele etc): 6 elderly ladies, all with immense backsides, romped away at terrific speed & quite note-perfect. The sound is utterly unlike anything else. [March 25, 1958] 3

    On a more serious note, Grainger frequently makes the case that the creative artist’s works should be judged in the light of a full understanding of their whole life, that youthful output is every bit as valid as mature work, and that we hear music in the light of previous experience and earlier knowledge:

    In dealing with an oversoul [genius] 4 we must, I feel, sense the truth of Goethe’s saw “Art is who-th” ((personality)). We listen to Meistersinger without forgetting that Wagner before it wrote the Ring & Tristan. If Wagner had done away with all his earlier works before writing Parsifal, we would listen to Parsifal in a poorer mood. When we listen to the Minuet of a Symphony we are still somewhat swayed by the soldierliness of the first movement; as we listen to the bustle of the last movement, we are still somewhat under the spell of the slow movement’s dream-world. Art cannot be sundered from its hap-lore ((history)) any more than can a tree from its roots. And the greater the oversoul, the truer this is of his art; for we judge him by his whole art-life & by the breadth of his lifelong intake. [May 17, 1944].

    The Round Letters – all 85,000 words of them – are currently being edited and prepared for publication. To date, only 4 Round Letters have been published in full, in The All Round Man (Oxford University Press, 1994) and Grainger on Music (Oxford University Press, 1999) and publication of the full set of letters will provide another useful resource to researchers and to the general public who want to better understand the thoughts behind Grainger’s ever-fascinating, and sometimes perplexing, music!

    Letter dated 11 June 1942 from Grainger to Gustav Adolph Nelson (1900-1979), pianist, organist and conductor, and music director of the Gustavus Choir at Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, Minnesota from 1930-45.

    2 The Granger Museum’s (incomplete) collection of Round Letters suggests there are 39 letters in the collection. However, my research has shown that the first six letters in the collection, dated between 1924 and 1940, are not part of the Round Letters proper, which Grainger identifies as beginning on 15 Feb, 1942 in his own cataloguing system.

    3 Concert given on 11 March 1958 at the Wilson Auditorium, University of Cincinnati, with Grainger’s former pupil, Dorothy Stolzenbach Payne, and members of The Keyboard Club. The ‘6 elderly ladies’ were identified as Mrs. Robert Pugh, Mrs. Elmer Hess, Mrs. Ranald West, Mrs. Ford Larrabee, Mrs. Luke Jacobs and Mrs. Raymond P. Myers.

    4 ‘Oversoul’ is generally translated as ‘genius’, although the latter term is neither as poetic, not perhaps as nuanced, as the former.

"My art sets out to celebrate the beauty of bravery."        

                                       -Percy Grainger

Address:

7 Cromwell Place

White Plains, NY  10601


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