Selected Chapters from
A Source Guide to the Music of Percy Grainger
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|1. Biographical/Artistic Vignettes|
|4. Program Notes|
4. PROGRAM NOTES
[This chapter, occupying this and the next ten Web pages, contains commentaries on individual works by Percy Grainger, consisting of notes on sources of the music, various arrangements that Grainger "dished up" of each work, and other criticism. The individual sections are taken from writings by various critics and musicologists and by Grainger himself. At the end (on the last Web page) are two Appendices, consisting of Grainger's own notes and suggestions on how his (and other) music should be composed, played, orchestrated, and interpreted.
[Works are discussed in alphabetical order, from Air and Dance to Zanzibar Boat Song.]
[To go to the next Web page, click on "Go to next page" at the bottom of the page. To find individual works, see the list of contents and directions below.
[NOTE: THIS ONLINE VERSION IS CURRENTLY "TEXT ONLY." IN THE PRINTED VERSION, THERE ARE NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS FROM MUSICAL SCORES AND OTHER MUSICAL EXAMPLES. THESE HAVE TO BE SCANNED SEPARATELY AND WILL BE ADDED AT A FUTURE DATE.
[Footnotes in the original printed version are, in this online version, embedded in the text, in [boldface, surrounded by square brackets].
To help you find individual works that are discussed, the following list shows the alphabetical range of names of works, which are in alphabetical order, described on each Web page. For example, to find Blithe Bells, click on the entry for the first page, which contains all works from Air and Dance to Carman's Whistle. You can also refer to the Table of Contents for the entire book for guidance. (Unfortunately, this method of finding the correct page is of less help for pieces that are parts of longer works. For example, Lincolnshire Posy consists of arrangements of six separate songs, Lisbon, Horkstow Grange, Rufford Park Poachers, The Brisk Young Sailor, Lord Melbourne, and The Lost Lady Found. This is a problem in the printed version, too. To find these individual entries requires a greater use of the "Search" function of your browser.)
Web page: Range:
[The following note is part of the original printed version.]
NOTE: In addition to including the composer's own descriptive program notes (and notes by many others), this section gives some of his performance directions and many of his indications for possible vocal and instrumental combinations for a given work. Although this can result in a duplication of some material (the scoring is also detailed in Chapter 2, Catalog of Works--above), the repeated mention of instrumental flexibility seems justified insofar as the stress which Grainger himself placed on writing or adapting music that nearly everyone might be able to play is, after all, such an important aspect of his compositional aesthetic (or philosophy) and style. Percy Grainger was, musically, an authentic "democrat "--one who intended to write, not for the few, but for the many; and not only for expert orchestras and soloists, but also for school and amateur groups and players. (Ed.)
"Frederick Delius was a long-standing friend of Grainger, and Grainger was a great champion of the older man's music, arranging for two pianos both the Dance Rhapsody No. 1 and the Song of the High Hills (to Delius' great delight). Just how much Delius' lush chromaticism influenced Grainger's own harmonic language is to be heard in his arrangement of Delius's Air and Dance. The piece plays continuously, the 'Dance' growing naturally out of the 'Air' and retaining the Air 's characteristic rhythmic outline of a strong first and third beat in the melody with accompanying chords on the second and fourth beats."--John Pickard (Piano 4).
English Gothic Music, edited by Dom Anselm Hughes and Percy Grainger
Grainger: "Date: Late 13th cent. Original MSS.: Bodl. MS. Lat. Liturgy d20, f 20v, and Magdalen Coll. Oxf. MS. 100, f.i. Published in Worcester Mediaeval Harmony by Dom Anselm Hughes (The Plainsong and Medi‘val Society). He re presented one whole tone higher than original key. "Transcribed from the original manuscript by Dom Anselm Hughes, O.S.B. Edited for practical music-making by Percy Aldridge Grainger. English text transcribed from the Latin original by Percy Aldridge Grainger.
"Possible combinations of voices, etc.:
for 3 single Women's (or Children's) Voices or 3-part Women's (or Children's) Chorus (S, M-S, A),
or for 3 single Men's Voices or 3-part Men's Chorus (T, Bar, Bs),
or for 6 single Mixed Voices, or 6-part Mixed Chorus (S, M-S, A, T, Bar, Bs).
"Any of the above combinations of voices may be accompanied by Strings, or by Winds, or by Combined Strings and Winds. (See Full Score for all Instruments.) When instrumentally accompanied the voices may be silent during the first measure and (if wish ed) in phrases sung on 'A' ('Ah').
"Passages with brackets above them should be sounded prominently--louder than the other voices at the moment. All smaller-printed notes are examples of the so-called plica, i.e. a note to be sounded lighter (softer) than the surrounding note s. (In English folk-singing this treatment is often given to 'scale-filling' notes--those notes that, added to a gapped scale [2-tone, 3-tone, 4-tone, 5-tone, 6-tone scale], turn it into a filled-out 7-tone scale or mode [such as the major scale, or th e Dorian or Mixolydian modes]. Apparently the folk-singer feels the gapped-scale intervals as fundamental and still regards the filling-out intervals as mere 'interlopers', auxiliaries or embellishments.)
"[Headnote:] Exultantly, with strong rhythmic pulse."
"[These] three miniatures are all juvenilia. They were written between 1897 and 1899 as `gifts to mother' and demonstrate an already highly individual attitude to harmony and piano writing."--John Pickard (Piano 1).
English Gothic Music, edited by Dom Anselm Hughes and Percy Grainger
Grainger: "Dates from c.1200, perhaps earlier. Original MSS.: 1-part (13th cent.) containing the Latin & Middle-English texts, British Museum, Arundel 248. (Facsimile published in Early English Harmony, vol. I, The Plainsong & Mediaeva l Music Society.) 2-part (13th cent.) from the British Museum, Cottonian MSS. 3-part (c.1360) from the Dublin MS in Cambridge University Library, Add. 710 (Facsimile published in Early English Harmony, vol. I). Here presented one fifth higher than original key of Arundel MS. 248.
"Transcribed from the original manuscripts by Dom Anselm Hughes, O.S.B. Edited for practical music-making by Percy Aldridge Grainger. Modern English translation (of original Middle-English text) by Percy Aldridge Grainger and Dom Anselm Hughes, O.S.B.
"Possible combinations of voices, etc.
for 3 single Women's (or Children's) Voices or 3-part Women's (or Children's) Chorus (S, M-S, A. Note special staff for Verse 4.)
or for 3 single Men's Voices or 3-part Men's Chorus (T, Bar, Bs. Note special staff for Verse 4.)
or for 6 single Mixed Voices or 6-part Mixed Chorus (S, M-S, A, T, Bar, Bs. Note special staff for Verse 4.) The 'scoring' for this 6-part performance--i.e. the allotment of sections to changing groups of voices--is indicated in Capital l etters inside square brackets, as [MEN], [WOMEN or CHILDREN].
"N.B. In all the combinations the Mezzo-sopranos and/or Baritones (since they carry the melody) should be more prominent (if possible more numerous) than the other voices. "Any of the above combinations of voices may be accompanied by Strings, or by Winds, or by Combined Strings and Winds. When thus instrumentally accompanied the voices should sing one half-tone higher than here printed.
"[Headnote:] Lively, with dance-like lilt."
"In 1924 Grainger published two folk-settings culled from earlier sketches: Hermundur Illi (Hermund the Evil) from the Faeroe Islands, and As Sally Sat a-Weeping from Dorsetshire, England. Both settings are quite short and stra ightforward. As is typical with Faeroe Island folk-tunes, Hermundur Illi is made up of irregular phrase-lengths: four seven-bar phrases and one of four." --David Stanhope (Piano 2).
Grainger: "For unaccompanied mixed chorus and a man's high voice single (tenor solo). Begun: October (or before) 1900. Ended: 5.7.1909.
"Verses by **** ********* and Percy Aldridge Grainger:
Away by the reefs of the Chilian Coast
where the Southern Cross hangs low,
and the sailor-folk of ev'ry land
pass afaring to and fro,
At even, when the cool sea-breeze
relieves the tropic day,
the lights of Valparaiso Town
flash beckoning 'cross the Bay.
At twilight hour, when tales are told,
the souls of men arise
that once o'er those wide waters roamed,
and flock before our eyes:
Like far-off sails, but dimly seen
through haze of distant rain,
so flit their spirits through our speech,
our tales of mirth and pain.
Ere yet their names are faded quite,
forgot their phantom ships,
we hail them o'er the gloom to live
a moment on our lips."
[Choral-vocal score for tenor solo, 2 female voices, 4 male voices and piano (pratice only) publ. by Schott & Co., 1913. (Ed.)]
[Note: This version appears to consist of the first 16 bars or so of the piano accompaniment, above--originally meant for practice only. John Pickard's notes for the recording by Martin Jones suggest that this piano solo version may have been inspired by a text other than that of the original choral version. (Ed.)]
"Like Tiger-tiger [below], At Twilight is based on a choral setting of Kipling, from the `Rhyme of the Three Sealers':
Away by the lands of the Japanese
Where the paper lanterns glow
And the crews of all the shipping drink
In the house of Blood Street Joe,
At twilight, when the landward breeze
Brings up the harbour noise,
And the ebb of Yokohama Bay
Swings chattering through the buouys...
"The work, written in 1900 and arranged in 1939, ends with a bluesy 'added sixth' chord, which, as Grainger mentions in the score, may have been the first time a composition ended in such a way."--John Pickard (Piano 4).
Grainger: "This piece (written for chorus in May, 1928) is based on a tune that I wrote in 1905, called 'Up-country song'. In that tune I had wished to voice Australian up-country feeling as Stephen Foster had voiced American country-side fe elings in his songs. I have used this same melody in my Austrlian Colonial Song and in my Australian The Gumsucker's' March [for which see suite In a Nutshell].
"This choral version was first sung at my wedding to Ella Viola Ström at the Hollywood Bowl (California), August 9, 1928, by the exquisite Smallman a Cappella Choir." Additional note (September 1934): "[The text consists of syllables 'ta ta di ra da ta di ra dam ta' etc only.] "N.B. In writing for voices without words (whether using vowels such as 'ah' as in my setting of the Irish Tune from County Derry, or using 'wordless syllables' such as those employed in this number), as I have done since about 1899, I h ave been swayed by such considerations as the following:
1. That music carries its own special message to the soul--a message that is weakened if words (with their inevitably concrete thoughts, so different from the vague, cosmic suggestions of absolute music) are set to music. Therefore, poems se t to music should form only a part (though admittedly a very delightful part) of the totality of music, if music is to exert its full spiritualising influence.
2. That it is a natural musical instinct (observable in children, living composers, native music, mediaeval European music, folk music, etc.) to sing on vowels, or to meaningless syllables. This habit is vocal in the extreme and it is misleading to describe such singing as 'using the voice like an instrument'. It should be remembered that all melodious playing on instruments (such as the opening phrase of Wagner's Parsifal Prelude) is merely an offshoot of vocal music.
3. That experience proves that choirs develop a purer, richer and more voluminous sonority and a wider range of tonal contrasts when singing without words.
"In stressing the antiquity, universality, normality and effectiveness of wordless singing, I am far from wishing to belittle the beauty and importance of vocal music with text. Surely music can only be the richer for practising both forms of v ocality--the worded and the wordless."
"Difficulty: medium easy.
"This exquisitely beautiful lyric work, using the same tune as Colonial Song, has been well-scored by Bainum. Though short and technically rather easy, it demands great control and feeling for the slow, sustained line by both players and conduc tor. Highly recommended for development of sensitivitity, musicality and tonal finesse."--Joseph Kreines (GSJ IV/2).
Grainger: "From Publikationen Alterer Musik (edited by Friedrich Ludwig), I. Jahrgang, I. Teil, Breitkopf und Haertel, Leipzig, 1926.
For 3 same-pitched voices: 3 soprano (transpose up); or 3 mezzo-sopranos; or 3 altos (transpose down); or 3 tenors (transpose up); or 3 baritones; or 3 basses (transpose down)
or for 6 alike-pitched mixed voices (octave treatment): 3 sopranos & 3 tenors (sop. I & ten. I sing [Strand] A in octaves; sop. II & ten. II sing [Strand] B in octaves; sop. III & ten. III sing [Strand] C in octaves)(transpose up); or 3 mezzo-s opranos & 3 baritones (m.-sop. I & bar. I sing A in octaves; m.-sop. II & bar. II sing B in octaves; m.-sop. III & bar. III sing C in octaves); or 3 altos & 3 basses (alto I & bass I sing A in octaves; alto II & bass II sing B in octaves; alto III & bass III sing C in octaves)(transpose down).
or for mixed choir (octave treatment): sop. I & alto I (in unison) sing A; sop. II & alto II (in unison) sing B; sop. III & alto III (in unis.) sing C; ten. I & bass I (in unis.) since A; ten. II & bass II (in unison) sing B; ten. III & bass II I (in unis.) sing C. (The men's voices always sounding an octave lower than the women's, of course.)
or for women's choir (blend treatment): sop. I & alto I (in unison) sing A; sop. II & alto II (in unis.) sing B; sop. III & alto III (in unis.) sing C.
or for men's choir (blend treatment): ten. I & bass I (in unison) sing A; ten. II & bass II (in unis.) sing B; ten. III & bass III (in unis.) sing C.
"Guillaume de Machaut [French, 1300-1377] (in addition to being one of the most inspired composer-geniuses of all time) was, in his age, as great an innovator as were Monteverdi, Wagner & Arnold Sch”nberg in their day. In many of his compositions (not ably in this Ballade No. 17) we hear a deeply romantic, dreamy, love-lorn mood that recalls Chopin & Cyril Scott. de Machaut was poet as well as musician, writing the words of his songs. The present rough English version of the text reflects the main tren d of his verse, but is not an exact translation of the old French original. "N.B. May be transposed into any suitable key. "[Headnote:] Lyrically, with a slow, gentle lilt."
English Gothic Music, edited by Dom Anselm Hughes and Percy Grainger
Grainger: "Date: 13th cent. Original MS: Worcester Add, 68, xix a. Published in Worcester Mediaeval Harmony by Dom Anselm Hughes (The Plainsong & Mediaeval Music Society.)
"Transcribed from the original manuscript by Dom Anselm Hughes, O.S.B. Edited for practical music-making by Percy Aldridge Grainger. Here presented in two keys. English text translated from the Latin original by Percy Aldridge Grainger.
"D MINOR VERSION (key of the original). Possible combinations of voices, etc.
for 3 single Men's Voices or 3-part Men's Chorus (High Tenor or Male Alto, T, Bs.)
or for 3 single Mixed Voices or 3-part Mixed Chorus (A, T, Bs.) (The above combinations of voices may be accompanied by Strings, or by WInds, or by Combined Strings and Winds. See Full Score for all Instruments.)
or for a single Low Voice (Woman's or Child's or Man's), singing the Alto part, accompanied by Harp (playing the Harmonium part as it stands) or Lute or Guitar (reading the Harmonium part one octave higher than it stands).
"N.B. When instrumentally accompanied the voice, or voices, may sing throughout the whole piece, or may be silent during the first 5 bars, entering on the upbeat before , from there on singing to the first note of bar 22. All the accidentals , in both versions, are added by the editors, in conformity with the supposed practices of musica ficta. As these practices, as applied to music of this kind, are largely conjectural, the accidentals should not be considered authoritative. All accidentals within brackets may be ignored by those who prefer a more restful itnervallic impression. "[Headnote:] Gently flowing, not too slowly.
"B FLAT MINOR VERSION (major third below original key). Possible combinations of voices, etc.
for 3 single Women's (or Children's) Voices or 3-part Women's (or Chidlren's) Chorus (S, M-S, A),
for 3 single Men's Voices or 3-part Men's Chorus (T, Bar, Bs.)
or for 6 single Mixed Voices or 6-part Mixed Chorus (SD, M-S, A, T, Bar, Bs.). (The above combinations of voices may be accompanied by Strings, or by WInds, or by Combined Strings and Winds. See Full Score for all Instruments.)
or for a single High Voice (Woman's or Child's or Man's), singing the Soprano part, accompanied by Harp (playing the Harmonium part as it stands or one octave lower) or Lute or Guitar (reading the Harmonium part as it stands).
"N.B. The remarks about the voices (when instrumentally accompanied) not entering until the upbeat before , and about accidentals (musica ficta), that precede the D minor Version, apply also to this B flat minor Version.
"[Headnote:] Gently flowing, not too slowly."
"The Beautiful Fresh Flower is based on a popular Chinese song. It was composed by Grainger in the Kung scale of the Pentatonic series, and he was assisted in harmonizing this work by the organist and musicologist Joseph Yasser. The f lower referred to is a Jasmine."--Selma Epstein (Epstein 1).
"[This] is an arrangement of Joseph Yasser's harmonisation of a Chinese melody.... a delightful miniature piece of `chinoiserie' involving just the black keys of the piano."--John Pickard (Piano 2).
Version for orchestra (orch. Peter Sculthorpe) "In 1935, on reading a book by the American musicologist Joseph Yasser which gave examples of purely pentatonic harmonisation, Percy Grainger took the Chinese folk-song Beautiful Fresh Flower, harmonised it by using only the tuba's five notes, and set it for piano solo. (The melody is one of the several authentic Chinese tunes used by Puccini in Turandot, though his harmonisation is not pentatonic.) In 1985 Ronald Stevenson played Grainger's setting in China and the Chinese musicians exp ressed great admiration for it, one of them even exclaiming, 'Percy could certain speak Chinese in music!' The orchestration--strings, vibraphone and tam-tam--has been made especially for [the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra] recording by fellow Austra lian Peter Sculthorpe.--Steven Lloyd, after information supplied by Ronald Stevenson.
"Claude le Jeune or Claudin was born in Valenciennes in 1528 and died in Paris in 1600, aged 72. Grainger on his scores of his arrangements questions the date of death and in some cases gives it as 1602. Le Jeune was a priest and musician of the Sainte Chapelle at Paris and of the private royal chapel. He is an important figure as a composer of chansons, madrigals, masses, motets and (being of Huguenot sympathies), metrical Psalms (Genevan Psalter, in four and five voices, published p osthumously in 1613 and used in the Reformed churches of France, Holland and Germany). Grainger's arrangements of La Bel' Aronde consist of a version for piano duet, a version for harmonium duet, one for 6 singing voices (SAT[or A]TBarB) and versions for saxophone choir, clarinet and saxophone choirs, or brass and saxophone choirs.<1 70>--Barry Peter Ould (GSJ IX/1).
"La Bernardina by Josquin des Pres (Netherlands c.1445-1521) and arranged by Grainger as one of his Chosen Gems for Winds, makes use of his concept of elastic scoring. This allowed Grainger to adapt his material for many possible combinations of instruments. In his early music settings, each voice of the original is assigned a Tone Strand designation: A for the soprano line, B, C etc., down to the bass line according to the number of parts. These par ts may then be played by a wide variety of instrumental combinations. Octave doublings are often prescribed in a manner analogous to organ registration.
"[See music and chart below for] example of Grainger's organ-registration concept of elastic scoring for Josquin's La Bernardina as arranged for band."--Barry Peter Ould (GSJ VII/2)
Grainger: "For George H. Greenwood in friendship and worth-prize-ment. Set, Nov. 1930<196>Feb. 1931, for 15 or more single instruments, or for elastic scoring. Dished-up for 2 pianos, Nov.-Dec. 1931. N.B. This version may be played together with the orchestral edition (Elastic Scoring). [Edition for 2 pianos, 4 hands published by G. Schirmer, 1932. (Ed.)]
"A free ramble by Percy Aldridge Grainger on Bach's aria 'Sheep may graze in safety when a goodly shepherd watches o'er them' (from the Secular Cantata Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd). The ramble is colored by the thought that Bach, in writing the melody in thirds that opens and closes the number, may have aimed at giving a hint of the sound of sheep bells.
"[Headnote:] Quietly flowing."
Grainger: "[The following instrumentation is specified:]
"NEEDFUL INSTRUMENTS: 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon II, horn (or mezzo-soprano or alto saxophone), trumpet (or soprano saxophone), glockenspiel, piano 4-hands, violin I, violin II, viola, 'cello, double-bass.
"AD LIBITUM INSTRUMENTS: Bassoon I, trumpet (or soprano saxophone) II, trombone (or Bb tenor saxophone), harmonium (or pipe-organ), metal marimba (or vibraphone or vibraharp), wooden marimba, celesta (or dulcitone or piano II), harp.
"N.B. SMALL ORCHESTRA: Single wood-wind and brass, strings massed. MASSED ORCHESTRA: All instruments massed to any extent, as long as a good balance of tone is kept.
ELASTIC SCORING: Any or all of the orchestral parts of this edition together with the edition for 2 pianos-4 hands."
"Blithe Bells is a free ramble on Bach's aria `Schafe k”nnen sicher weiden, wo ein guter Hirte wacht'.... The score contains extensive tuneful percussion together with celeste, piano (four hands) and harp. The wind scoring is q uite modest: 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 1 horn, 1 trumpet and 1 trombone. The harmonium or organ plays an important role in binding the moving parts together."--John Hopkins (Orchestral 3).
"This is a paraphase (or 'Free Ramble' as Grainger liked to call it) based on Bach's 'Schafen k”nnen sicher weiden' from the Cantata BWV 208 and is 'elastically scored' for 15 or more instruments or band or small or massed orchestra according t o taste and availability. The use of tuned percussion instruments in this version is perhaps suggestive of sheep bells."--John Bird (Rambles).
"As a transcription of Bach, Percy's Blithe Bells (1930-31) is an outrage. Neither the form, the harmony, nor the rhythm of the original (the universally famous 'Sheep may safely graze' from the secular 'Hunt' Cantata) survives unaltered. Regarded however as an original piece using materials from Bach, Percy's 'free ramble' is a subtle impressionistic study. Feeling that Bach intended the opening ritornello to suggest the sound of sheep bells, Percy sets it in high treble tenths, imitati ng the bells' overtones. Tenths seldom appear in the piano literature (few can play them comfortably) and there is no precedent for using them for an entire melody. Not only the melody but also the accompaniment chords are in tenths, and the hands are spa ced far apart. These soft, open sonorities enhance the pastoral associations of Percy's conception. Although Percy enjoyed generating controversy, he surely did not intend Blithe Bells to be irreverent. Bach was a favorite of his; Percy's recording s of three organ transcriptions support his reputation as a virile, powerful Bach player."--Joseph Smith.
British Folk-Music Settings Nr. 43
Grainger: "The [English] folksong was noted down from the singing of George Gouldthrope (of Barrow-on-Humber, N.E. Lincolnshire, England) and Joseph Taylor (of Saxby-All-Saints, N.E. Lincolnshire, England) in 1906 by Percy Aldridge Grainger, using phonograph records. Started dishing-up April 22, 1908, Kings Road, Chelsea, London, ended thinking-out (early June 1908), Kings Road, Chelsea, London. Started scoring August 7 or 8, 1908, S.S. Orontes, ended scoring August 14, 1908, S.S. Orontes, M arseilles Harbour, France. Set for middle-high voice (mezzo-soprano or baritone), 1 or 2 clarinets, harmonium (or reed-organ or concertina or accordion) and 6 strings.
"[Headnote:] Innocently and smoothly."
"Grainger phonographed several versions of Bold William Taylor from George Gouldthorpe and Joseph Taylor at Brigg on July 28, 1906, and again in 1908. A commercial recording made by Joseph Taylor in the summer of 1908 is still availab le, transferred to LP, on the Leader Sound recording LEA 4050.
"[Between April 22 and August 14, 1908,] 'in London and at sea', Grainger made a setting for voice and room-music, freely integrating variants of the words and melody from George Gouldthorpe and Joseph Taylor. (Mr Gouldthorpe was, generally speaking, more reliable with the words, whilst Mr Taylor sang delightful 'twiddly-bits' in the melody.) It remains in manuscript.
"A set of autograph manuscript parts dating from 1940 are in the Grainger Museum, together with a later copy of the score (1952) and a voice-and-piano score dated January 1955. The 1952 score is numbered BFMS 41, a designation which Scott's, London, had independently given to the 1950 publication The Three Ravens. When Bold William Taylor was taken into the Schott hire library it was renumbered BFMS 43." --David Tall (Songs).
Grainger: "Folksong, by and large, is 'narrative song'. Whether folksongs are sung to dancing (as in the Faeroe Islands) or sung without dancing (as in England) they usually tell a story by means of singing. The interest taken by folksingers in the stories related in their songs shows how alive their minds are to the narrative element.
"Therefore it is the more surprising that, out of the large number of composers that have made arrangements of folksongs in the last hundred years, none--as far as I know--has given us 'narrative song'-typed settings of folksongs.
"Thomas Laub (that non-folksong-collecting, self-styled authority on Danish folksongs) went so far as to assert that harmonisation of folksongs makes it impossible to repeat the melody often enough to allow the song to tell its full story. In his own words: 'More than 7 or 8 verses become intolerable when the melody is made heavy by harmonies (naar Melodien tynges med Harmonier).' I submit that this is the case only when the harmonisation is conventional, unoriginal and uninspired. In my own settings of narrative songs I have striven to prove the falseness of this statement of Thomas Laub's. In 'Father and Daughter' I have used 22 repetitions (22 verses) of the tune; in 'Green Bushes' 35 repetitions; in 'The Lost Lady Found' 11 repetitions; in 'Shepherd's Hey' 10 repetitions; in 'Let's Dance Gay in Green Meadow', 9 repetitions. In all cases, when arranging a narrative song of my own collecting, I have used all the verses sung to me by the folksinger.
'Of course, when folksongs are treated only to the poverty of a piano accompaniment, it stands to reason that they lose most of their rural tang, since piano accompaniments evoke nothing more folksong-like than the atmosphere of a drawing room or of a German Liederabend. Gone is the age when 'a few simple chords on the harp' can be deemed a suitable background to a folksong.
"What the strong rank character of a story-telling folksong craves, to bring out its flavour, is not the subservience of a piano accompaniment, but the conspiracy of a 'large chamber-music' polyphony to struggle against--especially if the accompany ing group can conjure up some suggestions of countryfied sounds, such as those of piping, fiddling and accordion rhythms.
"In collecting and arranging folksongs it seems to me a great mistake to arbitrarily construct--out of the different ways the folksinger sings the different verses of a narrative song--a so-called 'normal' version of the tune & to adhere more or less strictly to it throughout the whole song. No folksinger would do anything so poverty-stricken. Instead, he lets the constantly changing rhythms & phrasings of the text play upon his melodic invention, with the result that each verse is a characteris tic entity in itself, differing--sometimes drastically, sometimes only slightly--from all other verses.
"Thus, strict repetition never occurs in the folksinger's performance, but, rather, a kaleidoscopic flow of greater or slighter variety. This variety is part of the 'musical form' of the folksong & should, in my opinion, be taken up into all arrangeme nts of folksongs that involve the use of many verses.
"The traditions of English folksong singing can easily be acquired by listening to phonograph & gramophone records of the singing of genuine English folksingers, such as the records of Joseph Taylor's folksong-singing put out by the London Gramophone Co.
"In nothing do the traditions of English folksinging show themselves more strongly than in the matter of the allotment of syllables to music. The folksong tradition demands clear articulation of intervals--similar to the articulation achieved by th e Dolmetsch family when playing pre-Bach English string Fantasies. Most folksingers are inclined to avoid slurs (more than one note to a syllable of text), preferring to add 'nonsense syllables' to the words of their songs, so that each note of the melody has a syllable of text to itself. Thus what a singer ignorant of the folksong traditions would sing as [Mus. Exam. 2A--below] becomes, in a well-traditioned folksinger's mouth, [Exam. 2B].
"A typical case of the lavish use of 'nonsense syllables' is the phrase of the song 'The American Stranger' as sung by Mr George Wray, of Barton-on-Humber, Lincolnshire, England, [shown as Exam. 2C]. This becomes lifeless & inarticulate if sung in the 'art-song' manner, with slurs [see Exam. 2D].
"To sing a Lincolnshire folksong such as 'Bold William Taylor' without the folksinger's local dialect & without the nonsense syllables & other details of English folksong traditions would be [as inappropriate] as it would be to sing Wagner with Italia n operatic traditions, or to sing Rigoletto with Wagnerian operatic traditions. Singers should wake up to the fact that such a folksong as 'Bold William Taylor', shorn of its local dialect, loses its charm as sure as would 'Kathleen Mavourneen', 'C omin' Through the Rye' or an American negro spiritual if sung in 'Standard Southern English'.
"The greatest crime against folksong is to 'middle-class' it--to sing it with a 'white collar' voice production & other townified suggestions. Whether it be true, or not, that the ballads originated in the knightly & aristocratic world, one thing i s certain: they have come down to us solely as an adjunct of rural life & are drenched through and through with rural feelings & traditions. To weaken any characteristic of this rusticness--in collecting, arranging & performing folksongs--is, in my opinion, to play false to the very soul of folksong.
"About 1898 or 1899 I began the practise of accompanying voice or voices with 'large chamber music' (6 to 14 single players), as a result of noticing the effectiveness of such procedures in the Bach Passions. In particular I was fascinated by the greater 'edginess' of tone & individuality of tone produced by single instruments (one instrument to a part), as compared with the more woolly & de-individualised sound of massed instruments in the orchestra.
"But such a piece as 'Bold William Taylor' will not make its mark unless the singer is willing to take advantage of the light sonorities of the instrumental background & willing to sing really softly in such passages as bars 2-10, 48-52, 57-61.
"If the singer has difficulty in rising well above the instrumental volume in verse 10 and 11 the microphone should be freely used.
"The tellingness of the close of the setting will be heightened if the conductor (or someone) will bang his fist, or open palm, down heavily on the lid of the piano, or on some other hollow resonant body, on the second beat of the last bar (bar 103). Or a blow on a kettledrum or bass drum may be used instead."--December 1952. Reprinted in The Grainger [Society] Journal, III/1 (August 1980), 7-9.
"Bridal Lullaby is a little-known and exquisite miniature dating from 1916. It was composed as a wedding gift for Karen Kellerman (n‚e Holten). She and Grainger had met in 1905 and the love-affair between them lasted for several years, being co nducted almost entirely by letter. On the rare occasions when they did meet Grainger's mother interfered so much that the relationship eventually had to be broken off. This piece was written in both a state of regret at what had been lost and satisfaction that Karen had at last found happiness. This explains the bittersweet poignancy of this 17-bar piece. Recent research has revealed that the Lullaby is also used as material in the slower elements of Warriors II, a hitherto unknown sequel to his massive 1916 ballet The Warriors."--John Pickard (Piano 1).
"I became aware of the existence of the Bridal Lullaby while investigating sketches I had obtained from The Grainger Museum, Melbourne of a room-music version of The Warriors, which Grainger had commenced in 1917. Included in these sketches were 6 measures titled "Bit from `Bridal Lullaby' sketch (Dec 1917)". [Given as section L of the material left in sketch form for a room-music version (10-some, 12-some or 14-some). Over a period of time the present writer has been putting to gether these sketches with the assistance of Grainger's schematic plan included with the sketches giving indications as to the overall form of the work. It is hoped at some future date to present a completely different Warriors from the orchestral version known today.]
"During a visit to the USA (March-April 1985) I was thrilled to find that among the facsimile manuscript collection of Grainger material housed in the White Plains Public Library, a copy of what was listed as a sketch for piano of Bridal Lullaby was part of their collection. I at once obtained permission to view the copy manuscript, and was delighted to see that it was complete, although Grainger had written on all pages `sketch for Bridal Lullaby'. On a page of commentary (page 1 of the manuscript) he states: 'Publish as it is, as a sketch.' The 'sketch' consists of 4 pages of music with annotations plus the separate page of commentary. On page 1 of the music there is a note at the foot of the page which reads 'N.B. The copy of this manuscript sent to Karen in my letter from Fort Totten [New York] of June 16 (191 7) is more accurate than this as regards a few details, & should be consulted if this sketch is to be published.' [Karen Holten, Grainger's Danish sweetheart. The following note appears on the page of commentary cited above: 'See Karen Holten's letter to me of 24-6-16 telling me she hoped to marry Dr Kellerman on August 16, 1916. Early August ( 1916) mother & I were down at Southampton, Long Island, staying with Mrs Samuel Thorne. I felt sad all that summer, weighed down with the thought of losing Karen (inevitable, of course), yet very glad, too, that she should have a real full satisfying life of her own ahead, & wishing her Ever so well all thru life. In this mood of loving sentimental sorrow (very acute Aug 15-16, 1916) yet tender resignation the `Bryllups-vuggevise' was born.']
"My next task was to try and locate the original manuscript. After several leads with the assistance of various members of the Holten family I came to a dead end. Apparently Karen had had no children by her marriage with Dr Asger Kellerman. A daughter of Kellerman's by his previous marriage was known to have survived, but had moved to Paris where she had married and my contacts had no knowledge of her whereabouts. It was then, with great reluctance, that I had to assume that the original manuscript of the Bridal Lullaby was perhaps irretrievably lost.
"In these circumstances we are fortunate to have the present version, which, as Grainger stated, is complete except in a few details, which the present edition [Bardic Edition, 1989] has atempted to supply by attention to dynamics, fingering and pedal ling."--Barry Peter Ould [BL].
Selected notes from the Stevenson edition: "The piece is a study in touch and pedalling. Touch: where the melody notes are on the top part of either hand, the hand should be tilted and weighted to that side, so that the resultant dynamic would be:
"The finger-tips should stroke the keys with pressure-touch, and a gentle pulling action towards the body. The finger-tips should never strike or knock the keyboard, as this produces minute, though not negligible, extra sonorities, slightly reverberat ed by pedal action, causing a clouding of tone instead of cantabile clarity.
"The shift-pedal (una corda) may be used throughout, considering the reverie-like nature of the piece; even in forte. This was a frequent performance practice, not only of Grainger, but even more of Paderewski and Cortot, and one almost totally neglected by younger pianists. Forte cantabile con una corda adds a bloom to tone otherwise unobtainable. The Bridal Lullaby and the Foster Lullaby are in the same tonality of F sharp major. Other pieces in the same key are Grainger's Beautiful Fresh Flower: Chinese folk-song setting for piano (Bardic Edition) and One More Day, my John, a sea chanty for piano (Schott, London). All these compositions share a dream-like, wayward, improvisatory mood. Composers, as is well known, often associate a specific tonality with a specific mood. Messiaen the Roman Catholic employs F sharp major --in Vingt Regards for piano (UMP)--to invoke mystic ecstasy. With Grainger the joyful atheist, the same tonality evokes (according to evidence of his titles and printed suggestions for interpretation) associations from early childhood memori es of his mother singing him to sleep; of relinquishment of Karen's love in manhood; of the `wafted, far-away lilt'--the superscription of his shanty One More Day, my John--associated with one of his great loves, the sea. The images (which ar e not merely visual, and therefore extra-musical, but rhythmic and, to that extent, musical) all meld in the mind: the arms of the mother or lover or, to quote one of Grainger's favorite poets, Walt Whitman in 'Sea Drift':
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing...."--Ronald Stevenson [BL].
Editorial note: The composer's motivations and frame of mind at the various times he worked on The Bride's Tragedy seem to have been especially complicated, and in various ways seem to have involved complicated feelings about his m other. This is a theme which runs through the following accounts of the work's genesis in 1908, revisions between 1909 and 1913, and premiere in 1922, just after his mother's death.
"Very few of his friends ever understood Grainger. This was perhaps because he was already becoming used to concealing his innermost feelings from the world. He was skilful at sublimating his true emotions and projecting them into his music, and conversational references to himself were always heavily veiled. When he talked about Grieg's bitterness and sadness he was also talking about his own--perhaps more so. Bitterness, in fact, became the keynote of his feelings towards the world arou nd him. Introversion was his natural defence. In musical terms, his frustration and bitterness were expressed in a choral and orchestral setting of Swinburne's Border Ballad The Bride's Tragedy. The story tells of a girl who, about to be married to a man she loathes, is snatched from the church door by her lover. They ride away, pursued by the bridegroom and her family until they come to the banks of a swollen, angry river. They dash in and try to cross but are drowned in the attempt. The first half is full of speed and action, the second is a dirge for the lovers. Most of the work for this fine example of Percy's original settings of poetry was done in 1908 and 1909. In 1936, he wrote to Alfhild Sandby:
I am particularly glad that you, Alfhild, like The Bride's Tragedy. That work was my personal protest against the sex-negation that our capitalistic world (assisted by mother, by you, & by numberless other well-wishers) offered to young talents like me. A man cannot be a full artist unless he is manly, & a man cannot be manly unless his sex-life is selfish, brutal, wilful, unbridled. But the main stream of thot in our age sets its face against such manliness as has always seemed right an d proper to me. Well, there was no need to lose one's temper about it. But the situation called for a protest, I felt, & The Bride's Tragedy was my protest, & the angry chords on the brass (at the first singing of 'they lie drowned & dead') is my personal bitterness.....
"Grainger determined that the only way he could accommodate the grief of his mother's death [by suicide in 1922] would be by submerging himself in hard work, and he immediately set himself to planning his involvement with the Evanston Music Festival, a five-week teaching session at the Chicago Musical College and his [coming] European tour....
"The works to be programmed at the Evanston Festival were Green Bushes, English Dance and The Bride's Tragedy. He attached most importance to the première of The Bride's Tragedy, not only because it was due to be performed exactly one month after Rose's death, but also because he regarded it as a requiem for her. He had forebodings about the difficulties of the passages which included irregular rhythms, and wrote to Roger Quilter on May 22: 'But I wonder whether it will not, perha ps, prove too tough a nut for Dean Lutkin & his forces.' At the concert itself Lutkin conducted all the quavers as crotchets and 2-1/2/4 came out as 3/4, 3-1/2/4 as 4/4 and so on. The applause, however, was overwhelming. Green Bushes was also successful: Grainger later wrote that for this he received the greatest ovation of his career in America--chiefly, he felt, out of sympathy for himself and as a tribute to his mother."--John Bird (Grainger).
"Rose Grainger was capable of extraordinarily dramatic behaviour at times. Percy writes: 'Mother was always wanting to find out if I really loved her very much or not. So she would "sham dead"--lie quite still and corpse-like, while I would get distraught and beg her to speak to me. As soon as she was convinced that I was not at all indifferent, she would say "I see you do care for me all right" and go about her affairs as if nothing had happened. 'I just wanted to find out what your real feelings for me were.'...
"Percy's attitude to all this is quite philosophical: `Why not use the material at one's disposal? Yet she would not guess what I meant when I made a protest in my mild way. When I set Swinburne's "The Bride's Tragedy" to music, I felt it was (in a way) describing my own case--the young man who loses his sweetheart because his mother delays him. I even dedicated the work to mother, as if to say "This is partly your work." But she sensed it so little, took it so lightly, that she was always confusing the two titles "The Bride's Tragedy" (which symbolized the British tragicness mother had coloured my love-life with) and "The Merry Wedding" (dedicated to Karen Holten in thankfulness for the Danish happiness she had injected into my life), saying "They seem almost the same thing don't they?"'
"Commenting on the two compositions Percy says that if his mother gave him 'The Bride's Tragedy' and Karen gave him 'The Merry Wedding', his mother's was the greater gift--an interesting appraisal of these two works....
"It was a somewhat bizarre concidence that this particular work was premiered exactly one month after his mother's death, remembering the significance of Percy's dedication of the work to his mother as a protest that because of her he had not married. "--Eileen Dorum.
"Following the break in his [brief engagement to Margot Harrison, a former piano pupil of his, in 1913--which had ended in part due to the influence of the girl's father, and in part due to his mother's scheme to have Margot move in with them before their marriage,] Rose had her son read aloud works of the Irish author, Stephens. These works were better balm than the Bible, 'that awful depressing book,' she remarked. Percy immediately began work on The Bride's Tragedy, a double chorus set to the words of Swinburn. [Or--rather--he returned to work on The Bride's Tragedy, since early versions of the composition date from 1908. (Ed.)] 'I felt I was describing my case--the young man who loses his sweetheart because his mother delays him.' Although there is no documentation of Rose Grainger's influence, there can be little doubt that she was involved in the final decision."[Which also came shortly after Grainger's much more serious separation from Karen Holten. (Ed.)]--Thomas C. Slattery.
In his introduction to his setting of this folksong for The Music-Lover's Grainger, the composer wrote: "Why should we harmonize folksongs at all? Folksongs such as the Skandinavian, Faeroe Island, British and Irish ones are NEVER sung with any kind of harmonic accompaniment by the folksingers themselves--the country-folk who have passed the songs on from generation to generation. And most lovers of folksong will agree that a folksong never sounds so well as when it is sung, wholly without harmony, by a genuine folksinger. In spite of all that, most of us composers feel an irresistable [sic] urge to harmonize (or polyphonise) folksongs--possibly because we like to wed our modern harmonies to REAL TUNES; real tunes being something we modern composers seem unable to write ourselves.
"When I harmonise folksongs I sometimes like to try and make each of the tone-strands (`parts', 'voices'), that I add to the folksong, somewhat folksong-like, so that the total result may seem as if several folksongs were being played or sung together."--Quoted by John Pickard (Piano 3).
British Folk-Music Settings Nr. 7
Grainger: "Folk-song from Lincolnshire. Tune taken down at Brigg, Lincs., 11.4.'05, from the singing of Mr. Joseph Taylor, of Saxby All Saints, Lincolnshire. Revised edition, 1911. Verses 1 & 2 from the singing of Mr. Joseph Taylor & Mr. Dee ne of Hibaldstow, Lincs. As no further verses of 'Brigg Fair' have as yet (1911) been found, I have added on 3 verses from 2 quite other songs: Verse 3 from 'Low down in the broom', see Journal of the Folk Song Society Nr. 3, p. 94, very kind permission to use which being granted by the collector Mr. W. Percy Merrick. Verses 4 & 5 from 'The merry king' sung to me by Mr. Alfred Hunt, of West Sussex, see Journal of the Folk Song Society, Nr. 12, p. 224."
British Folk-Music Settings Nr. 26
Grainger: "As sung by Mr. Samuel Stokes (August, 1906, at Retford Almshouses, Retford, Nottinghamshire, England). Collected by Percy Aldridge Grainger and set for voice and piano. Set Sept. 22-23, 1920, New York City. Yule-gift to mother, Yule, 1920.
"The British Waterside is a jolly, uncomplicated setting, perhaps reflecting the fact that Grainger had no phonograph recording of the song. He took it down by ear from Samuel Stokes... on the same day as Pretty Maid [below]. H e did phonograph another version but chose not to set it."--David Tall (Songs).
"Grainger believed that knowledge of pre-Bach music was an important type of training. It was through his friendship with Arnold Dolmetsch, the pioneer of performing Baroque and Renaissance music on original instruments, that Grainger became interested in music of this period. William Byrd's original [composition] has eight variations of a popular tune, while Grainger's arrangement has six variants written for the Virginal, an early English member of the family of harpsichord instruments."--Selma Epstein (Epstein 1).