Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Percy Grainger and the Londonderry Air

Last time we looked at Frank Bridge’s use of the famous “Londonderry Air” in his Irish Melody. A more famous setting of this tune comes from Percy Grainger (1882–1961) in his Irish Tune from County Derry

Born in Australia, Grainger grew up taking piano lessons from his mother and then later attended conservatory. He spent most of his adult life in America and Europe composing, conducting, and collecting English folk tunes. His good friend and fellow composer Edvard Grieg encouraged him to use wax-cylinder phonographs to record his folk tune collection, making him the first to do such a thing. “Londonderry Air” was one of the tunes in his collection that he ended up creating several arrangements for including an a Capella version, a setting for piano, and the famous wind band arrangement. Below you can hear the wind band version followed by a setting for choir.

Did you know that Percy Grainger was known to be quite eccentric? It is said that he carried his favorite piano stool around in a wheelbarrow and dressed in his own, unique way.

Next time we’ll wrap up our Irish-themed month with Edward Collins’ Irish Rhapsody

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