The son of Russian immigrants, George Gershwin was born in 1898 in Brooklyn, New York. Fueled with a love for music, he began studying the piano at the age of 12. Not being academically inclined, he convinced his parents to let him quit school at 15 and became a pianist in “Tin Pan Alley,” demonstrating songs for the Remick Publishing Company. In this position, he was exposed to thousands of songs and gained a sense for quality music. He tried writing songs and at 20, he wrote his first complete Broadway musical, La La Lucille. A fifteen minute effort produced Swanee, made famous by Al Jolson. The team of George and older brother, Ira, as lyricist, wrote more than a dozen successful musicals, including Oh Kay!, Strike Up the Band, Funny Face, and Girl Crazy, between 1919 and 1933. In 1924, he forgot a commitment he made to bandleader Paul Whiteman and was compelled to compose his Rhapsody in Blue in just 3 weeks. Of Thee I Sing, staged in 1932, became the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize. He had less success with Porgy and Bess (1935), which closed shortly after opening, but later became a great success. He was not able to see that, as he was diagnosed in 1937 with a brain tumor and did not survive the surgery.
An American in Paris
After the completion of his Rhapsody in Blue and Piano Concerto in F, George Gershwin went to Paris in 1928 in search of more thorough training in composition. What he found, or had already conceived by the time he arrived, was the idea for this composition, which he described as follows:
I have not endeavored to present any definite scenes in this music. The rhapsody is programmatic in a general impressionistic sort of way, so that the individual listener can read into the m;usic such episodes as his imagination pictures for him. The opening section is followed by a rich “blues” with a strong rhythmic undercurrent. Our American friend, perhaps after strolling into a cafe, has suddenly succumbed to a spasm of homesickness. The blues rises to a climax followed by a coda in which the spirit of the music returns to the vivacity and bubbling exuberance of the opening part with its impressions of Paris.
George Gershwin possessed a gift for composing works with a distinctive melody that has hardly ever been equaled. Fascinating Rhythm, from "Lady be Good" (1924), starts off this enjoyable medley of his earlier tunes arranged by well known composer and Hollywood arranger, Warren Barker (b. 1923). The 1930 production of "Girl Crazy" gives us the next number, Embraceable You and the finale I Got Rhythm. Somebody Loves Me was a contribution to "George White's Scandals of 1924." The romantic theme is continued with Someone to Watch Over Me from "Oh Kay" (1926).
Porgy and Bess
It was eight years after George Gershwin had read DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy that Gershwin had time in his schedule to begin work on this American folk opera. In the summer of 1934, the Gershwins spent the summer at Folly Beach, on a barrier island near Charleston, South Carolina, to collaborate with Heyward, who wrote the libretto and worked with Ira Gershwin on the song lyrics. Gershwin drew inspiration from the street cries, work songs, and spirituals that pervaded the life of the James Island Gullah community. Porgy and Bess opened in New York in 1935, setting a precedent of using an entire cast of classically trained African-American singers. Purposely choosing a Broadway opening and avoiding the word opera, Gershwin had hoped for a longer run. It had a disappointing run of 124 performances and the backers didn’t see a return on their investments until much later with the show’s revivals. The setting is a sultry summer on Catfish Row, a run down fishing village near Charleston. Porgy, a crippled beggar, falls in love with Bess, a woman of uncertain reputation who is dominated by Crown, a dealer of narcotics. Competition, conflicts, and passion add up to murder and endearing, but unrequited, love. This masterful arrangement by Robert Russell Bennett conveys the story in some of the most popular songs, including “Summertime”, “A Woman Is A Sometime Thing,”, “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin”, “Bess, You Is My Woman Now”, “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, and “O Lawd, I’m On My Way.”
Rhapsody in Blue
The Rhapsody in Blue was written in 1924 for Paul Whiteman's jazz orchestra. Gershwin played the piano part himself, as he said, "from the music in my mind," since he hadn't yet scored the music for piano. About the Rhapsody, Gershwin himself wrote:
"There had been so much talk about the limitations of jazz...Jazz, they said, had to be in strict time. It had to cling to dance rhythms. I resolved, if possible, to kill that misconception ... I had no set plan, no structure. The Rhapsody, you see, began as a purpose, not a plan. I worked out a few themes, but just at this time I had to appear in Boston for the premiere of Sweet Little Devil. It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattly-band ... (I frequently hear music in the very heart of noise), that I suddenly heard -- even saw on paper -- the complete construction of the Rhapsody from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind, and tried to conceive the composition as a whole ... By the time I reached Boston, I had the definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance."
Strike Up The Band
Strike Up The Band is the title song for a musical interpretation of George S. Kaufman’s satire about a proud American owner of a cheese factory who is outraged when Switzerland protests a tariff on imported cheese and convinces the US government to declare a war he would finance. George and Ira Gershwin saw this as an opportunity to write in the style of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The 1927 production never made it out of Philadelphia, as political satire was a hard sell even in an operetta style. The inevitable boy-meets-girl story did produce the classic love song “The Man I Love.”
Vittorio Giannini was born in Philadelphia in 1903 into a home with strong musical background. He learned to play the violin from his mother. At the age of 9, he received a scholarship to the Royal Conservatory in Milan, Italy. In 1917, he returned to New York to complete his graduate studies in composition at the Juilliard School of Music. From 1939 to 1965, he served concurrently at the Juilliard School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Curtis Institute. He became one of the country’s most active composition teachers. His students have included Alfred Reed, Anthony Iannaccone, John Corigliano, and Nancy Bloomer Deussen. He served as the first president of the North Carolina School of the Arts, which he helped found, until his untimely death in 1966. Giannini wrote five major works for band, including the Symphony No. 3. He also wrote eleven operas, several large choral works, songs, madrigals, chamber music, works for piano, and numerous orchestral works.
Vittorio Giannini was one of the founders of the North Carolina School of the Arts and served as its first president. He composed the Dedication Overture for the commencement ceremony of the first graduating class in 1966, comprising 55 high school seniors. The Overture begins with ascending runs in the woodwinds. The brass add drama with sonorous, romantic themes. The mood shifts as the saxophones provide a soft cantabile passage. The opening tempo and themes are recalled and the energy increases. This energy gets restrained in final triumphal chords.
Symphony No. 3
This symphony, written in 1961 on a commission from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, represents Giannini’s second venture in writing for the concert band. Giannini commented: “I can give no other reason for choosing to write a symphony, than ‘I felt like it,’ and the thought of doing it interested me a great deal. When I compose, I try to project and communicate a feeling, a thought that is in me at the time … [and] the band is simply another medium for which I try to make music.” The first movement is romantic in nature, with a main theme derived from consecutive ascending fourths, and is in clear sonata form. The second movement opens with an oboe solo accompanied only by a quartet of trombones and develops a gentle lyric mood with predominant use of woodwinds and horns throughout. The third movement is based on the interplay of 6/8 and ¾ meters in consecutive and contiguous relationships, and features the soli alto sax and bassoon in frequent metric opposition to the prevailing rhythmic background. The fourth movement is developed through the juxtaposition of two broad themes of distinct thematic similarity, with periodic rhythmic punctuations in the brass and sweeping scalar passages in the woodwinds providing contrasts. The conclusion of the movement achieves a tremendous feeling of vitality and utilizes all of the tonal resources of wind and percussion to provide a thrilling climax.
Born in Missouri and educated in Kansas, Don Gillis (1912 - 1978) received the B.A., B.M., and honorary Mus. D. from Texas Christian University and the M.M. degree from North Texas State University. He served as musical director for NBC radio during a long series of Toscanini broadcasts and was a promoter for the National Music Camp. Composing over 200 works for choral and instrumental ensembles, popular scores include Tulsa, Ballet for Band, and The Man Who Invented Music. At the time of his death, Gillis was the director of the Center for Media Arts Studies and composer-in-residence at the University of South Carolina.
With its catchy title, this march is a delightful concert piece. Vibrant with energy, the theme passes several times from the brass to the woodwinds. Gillis often based his music on American subject matter and popular and traditional musical source materials.
Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore was born in Ballygar, County Galway, Ireland, in 1829. September 24, 1992 marked the centennial of the passing of Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore. The U. S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp on that date to honor the man acknowledged as the Father of the American Concert Band.
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Beginning his career as a cornet player, Gilmore came to the US at the age of 20. This, his most popular composition, first appeared as a part of The Soldier's Return March and was later published separately under the pen name of Lewis Lambert. Gilmore gained fame as an impresario who led an orchestra of 1000, a choir of 10,000, and 6 bands in a 50,000-seat auditorium at the 1872 World Peach Jubilee and International Music Festival in Boston. This arrangement by Gordon Jacob conveys both the happy spirit of the successful troops returning from the Civil War and the sad funeral dirge for the boys who would not be returning home.
Julie Ann Giroux-West was born in 1961 in Fairhaven, Massachusetts and raised in Phoenix, Arizona and Monroe, Louisiana. She received her formal education from Louisiana State University and Boston University. She has studied composition with John Williams, Bill Conti and Jerry Goldsmith, to name a few. Although an accomplished performer on piano and horn, her first love is composition. She began playing the piano at the age of three and published her first piece at the age of ten. In 1985, she began composing, orchestrating, and conducting music for television and films and now has over 100 film and television credits. She has received three Emmy Awards. Giroux currently resides in Jackson, MS, coexisting with 3 chihuahuas, 1 pomeranian, 1 chow, 1 slobber-hound-gas machine (mutt), 7 cats of varying colors and temperament, 17 birds in an aviary and too many fish to count. An avid animal rescue member who ends up keeping more than she should, Julie composes in between feedings! Her hobbies include: gardening, model building, cooking, and collecting.
Julie Giroux's Home Page: http://juliegiroux.www2.50megs.com/
A Symphony of Fables
Commissioned by and premiered in 2008 by The United States Air Force Band of Flight, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, this symphony musically describes five well known fables. Composer Julie Giroux related:
Once I had decided upon composing a work based on fables and had chosen the five fables that I would musically tell, I was faced with the decision of style. Taking to heart the often spoken phrase “write what you know about,” I decided after great debate to compose all the fables in what I consider to be “old school” style. What I mean by that is to say I used styles with which I believe I would have heard as “background” music in my head or at the movies when I was young. Keep in mind that when I was a child, my favorite musical story compilation was Disney’s “Fantasia.”
The fables included: The Lion and the Mouse, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, The Hare and the Tortoise, The Ugly Duckling, and The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The last two movements will be performed today.
The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian AndersonOne day, a Swan laid an egg by accident in the nest of a duck. It went unnoticed by the mother duck and eventually the eggs all hatched. The mother duck and all the ducklings noticed that one of the ducklings was quite ugly indeed.
It was big and gangly and different in color. Since it could swim as well as the rest of them, the duck family accepted it with reluctance. The ugly duckling endured much teasing and harassment by not only the ducks, but by all the creatures of and near the pond as well. This went on for several months, causing the ugly duckling much grief and sorrow. One day, several swans returned to the pond. Everybody could see that the ugly duckling was not an ugly duck at all, but in fact, was a beautiful swan. The moral: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
The Three Billy Goats Gruff of Scandinavian origin (Norwegian version)Once upon a time, there were three billy goats named Gruff. The best grazing place known to them was up on top of a mountain. On the way up was a bridge they had to cross and under the bridge lived a great ugly Troll. The youngest Billy Goat Gruff was the first to cross the bridge. “Trip, Trap, Trip, Trap!” went the bridge. “Who’s that tripping over my bridge?” roared the Troll. “Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff,” said the billy goat with such a small voice. “I am going to EAT YOU,” growled the Troll. “No, please don’t! If you wait a bit, the second Billy Goat Gruff will come. He’s much bigger and will make a better meal than I,” cried the goat. Being greedy in nature, the Troll let the first Billy Goat Gruff pass. A little while later, the second Billy goat Gruff came along. Trip, trap, trip went the bridge. “Who’s that tripping over my bridge?” roared the Troll. “Oh, it is only I, the middle Billy Goat Gruff,” said the billy goat with medium voice. “I am going to EAT YOU,” growled the Troll. “No, please don’t! If you wait a bit, the Big Billy Goat Gruff will come. He’s much bigger and will make a better meal than I,” cried the goat. Being greedy in nature, the Troll let the second Billy Goat Gruff pass. A little while later, the third and largest Billy Goat Gruff came along. Trip, trap, trip, trap, trip, trap went the bridge. “Who’s that tripping over my bridge?” roared the Troll. “It is I!” the Billy Goat Gruff said in a booming voice. “I am going to EAT YOU,” growled the Troll. “You can try!” said the big billy goat and he flew at the Troll. A ferocious fight ensued and the Big Billy Goat Gruff defeated the Troll, who shamed and beaten, ran off and was never seen again. The three Billy Goats Gruff rejoiced in their cleverness on top of the mountain.
Mystery On Mena Mountain
This composition, written in 1985, is based on a legend told in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas sparked by the disappearance of two children in the area in 1940. The composer provided the following comments:
According to that legend, the children, having heard old stories, set out to meet the angels, who were believed to live in the clouds that hang in the sky above Mena Mountain. As the work opens, the sun is rising over the mountain top with the main theme representing the power of the mountain itself. The children begin their climb up the mountain. They continue climbing and begin to tire just as they reach the cloud line. The two wander through the foggy morning air and just as they are about to turn back, the mist clears and before them stand 200 white-robed angels, singing and playing golden instruments. The angels call out, entreating the children to join them. As the children walk on the clouds toward the host, a jeweled crown is placed on each child’s head, then they accompany the angels up to heaven. As the piece closes, the clouds rise and float slowly out of sight leaving Mena Mountain as it was before.”
To Walk With Wings, Fanfare and Overture
This work was commissioned by The United States Air Force Band of the Rockies, Colonel H. Bruce Gilkes, Commander and Conductor. It is dedicated “With grateful appreciation to my friend and mentor, Bill Conti”, who assisted Giroux in 1985 in starting a career in Hollywood as a composer and orchestrator. She provided the following program notes:
To Walk With Wings, Fanfare & Overture, is a musical epic of man’s quest for flight. From the early beginnings of cloth and wooden wings through the exploration of space, this highly programmatic piece takes the listener on a musical tour through aeronautic history.
It captures mental images of men jumping off cliffs with fabric wings, the first true flight, trials and errors, the comical age of contraptions, the cold, brutal strength of fabricated metal machines, the whirring of the computer age, the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and the overall spirit of man and his desire to travel through space and beyond.
Though the piece tells the tale of the mastering of flight, the real driving force behind the music is found in the questions: “Who are we?” and “What is out there?”
Reinhold Glière (1875 - 1956) was born in Kiev, the son of a wind instrument craftsman. He became proficient at the violin at an early age and was admitted to the Kiev school of Music at the age of 16. Three years later, he entered the Moscow Conservatory where his interest in composition flourished under Sergei Taneev and Michael Ippolitov-Ivanov. After graduation, he accepted a teaching post, later spending a year studying conducting in Berlin. As Director of the Kiev Conservatory (1913 - 20), Glière was motivated into a prolonged study of the folklore and music of Azerbaijan. He moved to Baku, where he composed several operas and collected background information for his popular ballet “The Red Poppy.” Following his return to Moscow, he composed symphonies, concerti, and marches in addition to operas and ballets. Much honored, he escaped the condemnation from the Russian government that many of his fellow composers endured.
Russian Sailor's Dance
The Russian Sailors’ Dance is the best known excerpt from Glière’s landmark ballet “The Red Poppy” (1926-7). The scene depicts an uprising on a Chinese ship and the successful intervention of the Russian sailors. This energetic dance music is based on Yablochka (Little Angel), a popular Russian folk tune, and it takes the form of a series of variations in this work.
Born in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, in 1958, Adam Gorb first tried his hand at composing at the age of 10. A set of piano pieces, written when he was 15, were broadcast by BBC Radio. In 1977, he entered Cambridge University to study music and continued on to the Royal Academy of Music, gaining a MMus degree with highest honors in 1993. Since 2000, he has served as Head of the School of Composition at the Royal College of Music in Manchester. Gorb is equally comfortable and accomplished at writing technically challenging works of more accessible, yet still entertaining, instructional compositions. His Metropolis (1992) quickly gained international recognition. The Tokyo Kosei Wind Ensemble premiered Towards Nirvana, which led to the first of his three British Composer Awards. In his more than 35 works for wind ensemble, he has tried to infuse his music with elements of popular music, including big band, jazz, and rock, to provide contrasts and content to which modern audiences can relate.
Bridgewater BreezeInvoking a play on words, Bridgewater Breeze is the composer’s full band transcription of his early work, Suite for Winds. It was commissioned by Timothy Reynish for and premiered by the Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, England, in 1996. The five movements are like lessons in styles of music, ranging from light to serious to raucous. Leading off is the Foxtrot, the smooth flow of the dance punctuated by some fancy footwork. A Latin rhythm is invoked by the Brazilian Samba. Memories of childhood return with the up and down flow of the horses around the Merry-go-round and toots of the organ pipes. The mood becomes more somber with the Lament conveying grief or disappointment. Finally, the country music of a Hoe down brings us back to the happy and quick steps of a community drawn together to dance and to enjoy their accomplishments and companionship.
Born in Akita, Japan, in 1958, Yo Goto received his Bachelor of Musical Education degree from Yamagata University. He later studied with Shin-ichiro Ikebe at the Tokyo College of Music, Completing a Performance Diploma. Active as a composer, arranger, and clinician in Japan, he moved to Texas to study with Cindy McTee at the University of North Texas. He received a Masters in Music in composition and a Masters of Musical Education from that university. His notable works for concert band include Quadrille for Band, A Poetry of Breeze, WINGS, and Lux Aeterna. He has also composed for percussion. He won second place in the 2006 Contest for a Solo Harp Composition for the USA International Harp Competition. In 2000, for excellence in clinics and wind literature research, Goto received the Academy Award from the Academic Society of Japan for Winds and Band.
Fantasma LunareFantasma Lunare was written under a commission from the Kanazwa (Japan) Municipal Technical High School Symphonic Band for performance at the 2008 La Folle Journee held in their city. The festival featured music of Beethoven, so the composer chose to create a fantasy based on the Piano Sonata op. 27 No. 2, the famous Moonlight Sonata. Notes to the score relate: “The composer feels that moonlight obscures one’s view, in an even fearful way. It is his intention to guide the audience towards that world of uncertainty.” The motives of the original have been modified and reconstructed in this modern and darker treatment, but fragments of that sonata can be recognized.
Morton Gould was a life-long resident of Long Island. Born in 1913 in a suburban section of Queens, his musical life was notable from completion of his first composition for piano at the age of 6 to his receipt of the Pulitzer Prize as an octogenarian. He was an eclectic composer of more than 1000 works including popular music, film scores, children’s songs, and Broadway shows. During the Depression, he dropped out of high school to earn money for his family by working in vaudeville and movie theaters as a pianist. At 21, he conducted and arranged orchestral programming for WOR radio in New York. During the 30s and 40s, his works were heard on the radio by millions of listeners. Gould served as a director of ASCAP for 35 years, retiring as president in 1994. A supporter of education, he believed that the arts are what make us civilized. In a 1953 interview, he explained: “I’ve always felt that music should be a normal part of the experience that surrounds people. It’s not a special taste. An American composer should have something to say to a cab driver.” He was 82 when he died in his sleep after attending a concert of his works at the Disney Institute in Orlando, Florida, where he’d received a standing ovation.
Ballad for BandThe composer offered the following commentary: “Ballad for Band is basically an introverted piece that starts slowly, is linear, and has a quiet lyricism; it is not big band in the sense that there is little razzle-dazzle. A discerning listener who is programmed to appreciate the nuances and subtlety of a contemporary piece would respond favorably to this, but others merely find it from relatively pleasant to slightly boring. Only certain listeners respond to what this piece represents musically.” The Ballad was written in 1946, at a time when many people did not think that the band was a legitimate medium for serious work. Gould, himself, had held a similar opinion prior to having his Cowboy Rhapsody premiered by William Revelli’s University of Michigan Band in 1940. The romanticism of folk music is strongly evident in Ballad for Band. It also captures the spirit of popular music and dance forms. The beauty of the melody can hide the complexities of theme exchanges within the sections of the band. Antecedent-consequent phrases play off each other and build tension. Accents, syncopation, and lively rhythmic patterns complement the lush harmonies of the chord structures.
The pavane was a stately dance in slow duple time dating from the 16th century that took its name from the Middle French word for a peacock. Morton Gould intentionally misspelled the title to match the usage of most people. Pavanne is the middle movement of Gould’s Symphonette #2, written in 1938. Its slow, bouncy style is both simple and elegant. The theme is introduced by a muted trumpet and it blossoms into a range of instrumental colors as the whole ensemble joins in. The Pavanne was one of four of Gould’s works performed at a special tribute concert held at Carnegie Hall four weeks after the composer’s death in 1996.
Symphony for Band
Subtitled the West Point Symphony, this work was commissioned for the West Point Sesquicentennial Celebration of 1952 and was premiered under the baton of the composer. There are two movements, Epitaphs and Marches, about which Gould has commented:
"The first movement is lyrical and dramatic. The work starts with a quiet and melodic statement of the main theme and motifs that are used and expanded through the entire piece. The general character is elegaic. There is contrast between sonorous brass statements and poignant and contemplative reflections in the woodwinds. This resolves into a broad and noble exposition of one of the motifs, followed by a transition to what serves as both an extended Coda of the movement and a transformation and peroration of the preceding sections. The form here is a passacaglia based on a martial theme first stated in the tuba. On this is built a series of variations that grow in intensity. They mount to a dynamic peak, and after a final climatic variation the movement recalls the previous lyricisms, but with the passacaglia motif hovering in the background. The movement finishes quietly."
The second and final movement is lusty and gay in character. The texture is a stylization of marching tunes that parades past in an array of embellishments and rhythmic variants. at one point there is a simulation of a Fife and Drum Corps which, incidentally, was the instrumentation of the original West Point Band. After a brief transformed restatement of the themes in the first movement, the work finishes in a virtuoso Coda of martial fanfares and flourishes.
The words of Yankee Doodle, as known in the United States, were written by an English Army surgeon, Dr. Richard Schuckburgh. The song made fun of the untrained American troops during the French and Indian War in 1755. The soldiers liked the song, instead, and it became well known by the time of the Revolutionary War. It was often sung by the colonists in battle and it was played as the British left after the surrender of Yorktown. The early settlers of New York were Dutch and the name for Johnny was Janke, pronounced Yankee. Doodle meant “a simple, foolish person.” The word macaroni was a reference, in those days, to the young men of London who dressed in odd Italian styles. Like much of Morton Gould's music, Yankee Doodle is semi-serious in nature and reflects Gould's uncanny skill in thematic development. Using only the historic song for melodic resources, he contrives a brilliant fantasy.
Claudio S. Grafulla was born in 1810 on Minorca, a Spanish island off the coast of Spain. At the age of 28, he emigrated to the United States, where he became a member of the Lothiers Brass Band in New York City. This band was attached to the 7th Regiment of the New York National Guard, which was honored in 1922 by Sousa’s The Gallant Seventh march. Grafulla was a quiet, unassuming man who never married; his whole life centered around his music. His remarkable technical and musical skills allowed him to become well known as a composer, often writing music on order, and as an arranger. The hallmark “Port Royal Band Books” were composed and arranged for the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment Band, when it was formed for service during the Civil War. As a director of the 7th Regiment Band, his fame spread widely. In 1860, he added woodwinds to a reorganized band and continued to serve as its director (without pay) until his death in 1880.
Written in 1861 for the 8th Regiment, New York State Militia, this work has been called a march masterpiece, a band classic, and the prototype of the concert march. Showing the stylistic influence of both German and Italian marches, the march has a marvelous balance of technique and melody in a continuous flow of musical ideas. It dared to break the old formulas, however, because it has no introduction, no break strain, and no stinger.
Percy Grainger (1882 -1961) was a picturesque nationalist who tried to retain something of the original flavor of British folk songs and their singers by strict observance of peculiarities of performance, such as varying beat lengths and the use of “primitive” techniques such as parallelism. Born the son of an architect in Brighton, Victoria, Australia, Percy Grainger was a precocious pianist, and the proceeds of a series of concerts, given at the age of twelve, enabled him to study at Frankfurt for six years. After that, he began his European career as a concert pianist, settling in London in 1901. He came to the U. S. in 1915 and enlisted as an army bandsman at the outbreak of World War I. He became a United States citizen in 1919. It was during his stay in England that he became passionately involved in collecting and arranging folk songs and country dances. It has been related that “Percy never had the slightest hesitation in pumping anybody he came across. He would go up to a man ploughing and ask him if he knew any songs and as often as not the man would stand for a minute or two and sing him a song in the most natural way in the world.”
Born in 1882, the son of an architect in Brighton, Victoria, Australia, Percy Grainger was a precocious pianist, and the proceeds of a series of concerts, given at the age of twelve, enabled him to go and study at Frankfurt for six years, after which he began his European career as a concert pianist, settling in London in 1901. He came to the U. S. in 1915 and enlisted as an army bandsman at the outbreak of World War I. He became a United States citizen in 1919. It was during his stay in England that he became passionately involved in collecting and arranging folk songs and country dances. It has been related that "Percy never had the slightest hesitation in pumping anybody he came across. He would go up to a man ploughing and ask him if he knew any songs and as often as not the man would stand for a minute or two and sing him a song in the most natural way in the world." Grainger's works retain something of the original flavor of British folk songs and their singers by strict observance of peculiarities of performance, such as varying beat lengths and the use of "primitive" techniques such as parallelism.
Handel in the Strand
The composer provided the following information on this work: “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 careening down the Strand to the strains of modern English popular music.”
Irish Tune from County Derry
The Irish Tune is based on a tune collected by a Miss J. Ross of New Town, Limavaday, County Derry, Ireland, and published in “The Petri Collection of Ancient Music of Ireland” in 1885. The original setting was an a capella version for mixed voices, which was much admired by Edward Grieg, with whom Grainger developed a strong friendship. An orchestral version followed and the military band version was completed in 1918. Grainger’s knowledge of instrumental voicings lends a richness to the sound and a blending of the interwoven melodies. The score is unique in that the principal melody is found on the top staff even though written in bass clef. The treble and counter melodies are found in the two staffs below.
Conceived and scored for wind band early in 1937, this bunch of ``musical wildflowers'' (hence the title Lincolnshire Posy) is based on folk songs collected in Lincolnshire, England. Each of the movements is intended to be a kind of musical portrait of the singer who sang its underlying melody. The composition begins with Lisbon Bay, a sailor's song in a brisk meter with plenty of ``lilt.'' Horkstow Grange, the second movement, is named for a pleasantly situated eighteenth-century farm house that stands beside the B-204 road to South Ferriby. Subtitled The Miser and his Man - a local Tragedy, the tune is a requiem for an oppressive overseer and his ``man'', who couldn't take the abuse any longer and used a club on the miser. Next, The Brisk Young Sailor is a simple tune that tells of one ``who returned to wed his True Love.'' Lord Melbourne is a war song with the lyrics ``I am a noble Englishman, Lord Melbourne is my name. I never lost any battle, but won great victory.'' The set is completedwith The Lost Lady Found, a ``Dance Song'' that tells the story of a woman stolen by gypsies. Her uncle is suspected of doing away with her in order to acquire her estate. Her sweetheart, searching everywhere, eventually finds her in Dublin. Returning home, the pair arrives in time to prevent the uncle's hanging for the alleged crime. The town rejoices.
The Morris dance is an English traditional dance that is bouyant and rhythmic with a "jog-trot" feeling. One story says that dancers once wore blackface and resembled Moors; hence the name Moorish (or Morris) dance. PercyGrainger produced several versions of Mock Morris for different media. This transcription is based on the string orchestra version, composed in 1910, but takes several scoring ideas from the 1950 version, which Grainger made for Leopold Stokowski. Grainger describes the composition in his preface to the string orchestra score: "No folk-music tune stuffs at all are used herein. The rhythmic cast of the piece is Morris-like, but neither the build of the tunes nor the general lay-out of the form keeps to the Morris dance shape." This composition was influenced by the London music hall song Always merry and bright.
Molly on the Shore
Of this work, Grainger wrote:
"In setting Molly on the Shore I strove to imbue the accompanying parts that made up the harmonic texture with a melodic character not too unlike that of the underlying reel tune. Melody seems to me to provide music with an initiative, whereas rhythm appears to me to exert an enslaving influence. For that reason I have tried to avoid rhythmic domination in my music -- always excepting irregular rhythms, such as those of Gregorian Chant, which seem to me to make for freedom. Equally with melody I prize discordant harmony, because of the emotional and compassionate sway it exerts." August 6, 1959
"Shepherd's Hey" English Morris Dance
Shepherd's Hey was scored for wind band in 1918. The word 'Hey' denotes a particular figure in Morris Dancing. 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 is similar to the North English air The Keel Row that is very widely found throughout England. The ‘hey’ involves the interweaving of generally two lines of dancers, which may be symbolized by the use by Grainger of two parallel lines of music at the opening of the composition, rather than a simple statement of a theme that then moves into variants.
During the decade before 1929, while his band versions of Irish
Tune from Country Derry, Children’s
March, Molly on the Shore,
and Colonial Song were being
eagerly pursued by band musicians, Percy Grainger was conceiving a
version of an early American fiddle tune. Grainger’s orchestral setting
detailed an “elastic scoring” that permitted performance by any
instrumental combination from as few as three to a full ensemble, as
long as proper balance was achieved. Employing a variety of
harmonizations and instrumental colors, Grainger wrote significant parts
for “tuneful percussion” (e.g., bells, chimes, xylophone, marimba).
Grainger never produced a full score for band. A hastily prepared set of
parts were performed in June 1933 by the Goldman Band in New York. After
Grainger’s death, Glenn Cliffe Bainum published a band arrangement in
1967. Grainger’s original orchestral score carried the following program
A Captain Charles H. Robinson heard a tune called “Spoon River” played by a rustic fiddler at a country dance at Bradford, Illinois (U.S.A.) in 1857. When Edgar Lee Masters' “Spoon River Anthology” appeared in 1914, Captain Robinson (then nearly 90 years old) was struck by the likeness of the two titles – and he sent the “Spoon River” tune to Masters, who passed it on to me. The tune is very archaic in character; typically American, yet akin to certain Scottish and English dance-tune types. My setting, begun in 1919, ended 1929, aims at preserving a pioneer blend of lonesome wistfulness and sturdy persistence. It bears the following dedication: “For Edgar Lee Masters, poet of pioneers.”
The Sussex Mummers' Christmas CarolPerformance of folk plays by Mummers has a strong history and presence in the region of Sussex, England, even today. The word “Mummer” is derived from the Greek Mommo, meaning a mask. The wearing of masks became fashionable in the 14th century court, with the eventual migration to all night revelers wearing them to protect their identity. Masks were also common in the plays. The plays would end with the singing of songs, most popularly a carol. The Christmas Carol was often associated with a performance of “St. George, the Turk, and the seven champions of Christendom.” The people of the day were not bothered by the incongruity of the solemnity of the carol juxtaposed against the costumes of colored calico, chimney pot hats trimmed with shreds of ribbons, and wooden swords. In 1880-81, Miss Lucy E. Broadwood captured words and music from several variations of the carol, which were aggregated into the following first two verses:
righteous Joseph wedded was
Unto a virtuous [virgin] maid
A glorious angel from Heaven came
Unto that virtuous [virgin] maid.
mortal man, remember well
When Christ our Lord was born;
‘Twas for our sins and wicked ways
And crowned with the thorn.
In the summer of 1900, an eighteen year old Grainger vacationed in the Scottish Highlands. Hikes through the breath-taking mountains and lochs of the countryside of West Argyllshire, combined with the rich accents and swirling tartans of the Scots and the strident sounds of the bagpipes, contributed to the conception of the melody of the Walking Tune. Originally scored in 1905 for a wind quintet, Grainger eventually scored it for it for the Wind-Choir of the Cincinnati Symphony in 1940. This composition has many of the lyric fragments that would be developed more fully in Grainger’s later masterpieces.
Ye Banks and Braes O’Bonnie Doon
The river Doon flows gracefully between the Loch Doon and the Firth of Clyde in Stirlingshire, Scotland. It was the inspiration for Robert Burns’ poem The Banks of Doon, written in 1783, telling of a forsaken young woman of rank who bore a child without the sanction of the Church. Burns, a scholar of Scottish tunes, set the poem to music a few years later.
Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon,
|Ye'll break my heart, ye warbling birds,
That wanton through the flow'ry thorn,
Ye 'mind me o' departed joys,
Departed never to return.
Grainger’s setting gives continuous harmonic support to the five note melody, implying the steady flow of the river past its banks and hillsides (braes). Originally scored in 1903 for a chorus of single voices, whistlers, and harmonium, the wind band version dates from 1932.
Edward Gregson (b. 1945) represents the younger school of composers who are bridging the gap between the romantic music played by many of the brass and wind bands earlier in this century and the more experimental avant-garde compositions written during the last decade or two. Gregson was born in Sunderland, in the northeast English County of Durham, in 1945. He began to take an interest in music at about the age of eight and was soon taking piano lessons and playing in a local Salvation Army Band. At eleven, he started to write some piano pieces, and at eighteen, he entered the Royal Academy of Music, London. Gregson taught at the University of London Goldsmith's College. He is now Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, UK. His hobbies include tennis, squash, and watching football.
Originally written for Brass Band (and subsequently for orchestra), this work was commissioned by the Besses o 'th' Barn Band, with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain. It is dedicated to John Fletcher, who gave the first performance of the wind band version in June of 1984.
The concerto is in three movements, following the usual quick-slow-quick pattern. The first is in a sonata-form shell with a reference made in the development section to the opening theme of Vaughan William's Tuba Concerto, but only in passing. The second movement is a long cantabile melody for the soloist and the last movement is in rondo form, alternating the main theme with the two episodes. After a short cadenza, reference is made to the opening of the concerto, and the work ends with a triumphal flourish.
Cleveland-born Clare Grundman (1913 - 1996) earned his bachelor’s degree in 1934 from Ohio State University. He taught instrumental music in the Ohio and Kentucky public schools before returning to Ohio State in 1936 for a master’s degree and to teach orchestration and woodwinds. At the Berkshire Music Center in New Lenox, Massachusetts, he studied under Paul Hindemith, whom he credited for providing the practical techniques for composition. During World War II, Grundman served in the U.S. Coast Guard. He took a special interest in composing for school bands and has over 70 published band compositions to his credit. His arrangements have brought the works of Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland to the band world. Grundman has also provided scores and arrangements for radio, television, movies, and Broadway musicals. Some of his notable works include his Fantasy on American Sailing Songs, Tuba Rhapsody, An Irish Rhapsody and his four-part series of American Folk Rhapsody.
A Copland Portrait
To honor Aaron Copland’s 85th birthday, Clare Grundman constructed a collage of the noted composer’s works. A Copland Portrait opens majestically with a statement from Fanfare for the Common Man, honoring the role of the common citizen during World War II. A tribute to the Southwest is paid with a passage from “Saturday Night Waltz” from the ballet Rodeo. Two musical phrases from El Salon Mexico follow. Copland’s work with choreographer Martha Graham is represented by segments from the ballet Appalachian Spring. Grundman’s tribute concludes with music from two more dance episodes, “Buckaroo Holiday” and “Hoe Down,” from Rodeo.
Concertante for Alto Saxophone and Symphonic Band
The Concertante makes the alto saxophone alternately principal and subordinate to the symphonic band which accompanies it. While the introduction possesses some of the rhapsodic themes of most of Grundman’s work, this composition is predominately a spirited interplay between the two participants. The soloist seems to launch packets of melody as the theme develops, while also having an opportunity to display technical talent in the cadenzas. Composed in 1973, the work is dedicated to alto saxophone soloist Dale Underwood and the U.S. Navy Band.
Vince Guaraldi was born in San Francisco, California, on July 17, 1928. At the age of 7, he began piano lessons with his mother. His musical uncles also encouraged his interest in music. After graduating from Lincoln High School and serving as an Army cook in the Korean War, Guaraldi began lessons at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He played piano at North Beach music halls while still in school. He was a pianist for Johnny Mathis’s recordings on Columbia Records. In 1956, he established his jazz trio (piano, guitar, drums) and recorded their first album. Guaraldi’s early style was energetic bebop and boogie woogie, but he became strongly influenced by the bossa nova. A secondary composition, Cast Your Fate To The Wind, for the flip-side of a record, became extremely popular and would be awarded a Grammy for the Best Original Jazz Composition in 1962. It was that unpretentious & catchy tune, in a restrained and tasteful presentation, that attracted the attention of Lee Mendelson, who was in the early stages of producing “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and signed Guaraldi to do the musical score. Thus began a long partnership with the “Peanuts” productions, with Guaraldi composing scores for 17 “Peanuts” TV productions and the feature film “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” On February 6, 1976, between jazz sets at Butterfield’s Nightclub in Menlo Park, CA, he died from a heart attack.Carl Strommen)