Colonial Song (1918)

From Wind Repertory Project
Percy Aldridge Grainger

Percy Aldridge Grainger

Subtitle: Number 1 of 'Sentimentals'

General Info

Year: 1911 / 1918 / 1962
Duration: c. 5:40
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Piano
Publisher: Schott & Co.
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown

For availability information, see Discussion tab, above.


Condensed Score
D-flat Piccolo
C Piccolo
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet Solo-I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet Solo-I-II-III
Horn in E-flat I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
B-flat Tenor I-II
String Bass
Piano (optional)
Harp (optional)
Percussion, including:

  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Gong
  • Snare Drum


In this version of the piece, the dynamic markings do not match up between most of the individual instruments' parts, and they are also inconsistent with the condensed score.

Program Notes

The bulk of Grainger's Colonial Song is constructed in a straightforward homophonic fashion, featuring a simple melody accompanied by unencumbered woodwind arpeggios. These segments represent a grade level manageable by a wind variety of ensembles. However, there is an interior portion of this work that increases the technical and musical demands significantly, and the ensemble must be able to function cohesively to ensure success. The arioso-like extensions on melodic lines require expressive freedom without a loss of metronomic discipline. All ensemble performers have meaningful melodic or counter-melodic responsibilities in this thoughtful composition.

- Notes from Great Music for Wind Band

Grainger initially wrote Colonial Song in 1911 as a piano piece as a gift to his mother, Rose. Of his piece, Grainger wrote that it was "an attempt to write a melody as typical of the Australian countryside as Stephen Foster's exquisite songs are typical of rural America". Although the piece seems to have been intended as part of a series of ‘sentimentals,’ Grainger never wrote any other pieces in this series. Unlike many of Grainger's other compositions, the melodies of Colonial Song are not based on folk song, but are original melodies.

- Program Note from Wikipedia

In a letter to Frederick Fennell, Grainger explains that his Colonial Song was “an attempt to write a melody as typical of the Australian countryside as Stephen Foster’s exquisite songs are typical of rural America.” The main tune of the work, which is presented by solo saxophone shortly into the piece, makes appearances in two other Grainger compositions (Australian Up-Country Tune and Gumsuckers March) but it makes its biggest splash here, as it grows from a wistful tune into a fully romanticized tumbling of low reeds and brasses before returning to the material and texture that began the work.

- Program Note by Jacob Wallace for Baylor Wind Ensemble concert program, 11 February 2016

Percy Grainger’s art is inextricably linked to folk music. Grainger’s settings of British, Danish, and American folk music are the finest of their kind, prompting no less a figure than Benjamin Britten to declare that Grainger was his ‘master’ in the art of setting folk music. Among those works written in conscious imitation of folk-style, Colonial Song is perhaps the finest of any of his original works.

The musical material of Colonial Song dates from 1905. The work is dedicated to Grainger’s mother, and Grainger describes,

“No traditional tunes of any kind are made use of in this piece, in which I have wished to express feelings aroused by thoughts of the scenery and people of my native land, Australia, and also to voice a certain kind of emotion that seems to me not untypical of native-born Colonials in general. Perhaps it is not unnatural that people living more or less lonelily in vast virgin countries and struggling against natural and climatic hardships (rather than against the more actively and dramatically exciting counter wills of the fellow men, as in more thickly populated lands) should run largely to that patiently yearning, inactive sentimental wistfulness that we find so touchingly expressed in much American art. I have also noticed curious almost Italian-like musical tendencies in brass band performances and ways of singing in Australia (such as a preference for richness and intensity of tone and soulful breadth of phrasing over more subtly and sensitively varied delicacies of expression), which are also reflected here.”

- Program Notes by Jennifer Daffinee for the 2016 Texas All-State Symphonic Band concert program, 13 February 2016


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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