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Percy Grainger: "Shepherd's Hey"

July 16, 2010

In another posting on the music of Percy Grainger, today's blog post will focus on Irish Tune from County Derry's sister piece Shepherd's Hey. The link between the two pieces has nothing to do with anything compositionally or anything intended by Grainger, but was instead a publishing consideration since the pieces were published together for many years.

 

The tune that is featured in Shepherd's Hey is a Morris Dance, a tune that is also featured in his very popular Country Gardens. The piece is a lighthearted piece with a wonderful ending. If you find the piece a little too "straightforward", please see the notes below from the Philharmonic Winds that explain the compositional philosophy behind the piece. In any case, Grainger's colorful orchestration dominates the piece in a light, witty, and fun manner. Enjoy!

 

The information below is from the Philharmonic Winds.

 

Shepherds' Hey for wind orchestra dates from 1918. Cecil Sharp, an authority on British folk songs, gave Grainger the tune. Shepherd's Hey is a so-called Morris Dance. Like the dancers join in and leave the dance group, depending on their condition, various instruments take solo parts in playing the tune. The bells and xylophone parts are worth mentioning, giving the setting a fresh sound. The Shepherd's Hey from the title refers to a certain dance step of the Morris Dance. But, alas, in the foreword Grainger says that "This setting is not suitable to dance Morris Dance to."

 

In a way this composition shows the influence of Karl Klimsch (according to Grainger his only true and worthwhile composing teacher): "If you have no theme or melody in your head, don't compose at all. If you have a theme or melody, start off with it right away and the moment your melodic inspiration runs out stop your piece. No prelude, no interlude, no postlude: just the pith of the music all the time."

 

Shepherd's Hey: Performance by Cleveland Symphonic Winds

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