Bell Piece

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Percy Aldridge Grainger

Percy Aldridge Grainger (ed. Thomas Duffy and Barry Peter Ould)

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Subtitle: Ramble on John Dowland's 'Now, O now I needs must part'

This title may also be found written as Bellpiece.

General Info

Year: 1953 / 1991
Duration: c. 4:50
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Bardic Edition
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown   |   Score Only (print) - $22.95


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Solo voice


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

In 1935, Australian-born composer Percy Grainger, who also had a deep interest in music made before Bach, arranged John Dowland's (1563-1626) Now, O now I needs must part for piano. Some years later, in 1953, Grainger wrote a work titled Bell Piece (Ramble on John Dowland's 'Now, O now I needs must part'), which was a version scored for voice and wind band, based on his previously mentioned transcription.

- Program Note from Wikipedia

Percy Grainger's fascination with merging the modern wind band with what he called "chosen gems" from throughout music history has produced a number of scores that reveal both the original genius of another composer (J. S. Bach for example) and his own brilliance in using novel orchestrations and unusual harmonic progressions. In 1953, Grainger finished his "free ramble" on John Dowland's 'Now, 0 now, I needs must part— (a phrase that serves as a sub-title to the simpler moniker of Bell Piece), following twenty years of sketching and composing various ideas based on Dowland's original tune. His intentions are immediately clear as a tenor soloist presents the opening stanza of this hauntingly beautiful melody accompanied only by the piano and harp before the ensemble enters and takes Dowland's tune on a harmonic journey that is quintessentially Grainger. Like the music of John Dowland, Grainger's free ramble is simultaneously both very simple and equally complex. Bell Piece is dedicated to his beloved wife, Ella, and includes a cadenza, originally for hand bells, specifically for her to perform.

The piece was premiered in 1953 by the South Broward High School Band in Hollywood, Florida. The Oberlin Wind Choir gave a second "premiere" in 1954 as part of the Ohio Intercollegiate Band Festival. While the designation may have been misattributed at the second performance, the piece may have also been sufficiently revised to warrant a second "premiere." Regardless, a complete set of performance materials from either event no longer exists.

In 1989, Thomas Duffy, Director of Bands at Yale University, constructed an edition from the many fragments available in Grainger's own hand. The work was brought to his attention by Keith Brion and the extant materials and sketches were made available to Duffy by Stewart Manville (Ella Grainger's second husband). Duffy and the Yale Concert Band gave the premiere of this edition in 1991 at Carnegie Hall. Barry Peter Ould, president of the international Grainger Society, attended the concert and later collaborated with Duffy toward the eventual publication of the work in 2013 by Bardic Edition. Their efforts have revived a remarkable work for wind ensemble that had fallen into relative obscurity "Now, O now I needs must part" by John Dowland, a master of the English Renaissance, was first published in 1597.

The text of the first stanza, the stanza presented by Grainger, reads as follows:

Now, 0 now, I needs must part,
Parting though I absent mourn.
Absence can no joy impart:
Joy once fled cannot return.
While I live I needs must love,
Love lives not when Hope is gone.
Now at last Despair doth prove,
Love divided loveth none.

- Program Note from California State University Fullerton Wind Symphony concert program, 23 February 2019


State Ratings

  • Texas: V. Complete


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Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

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  • Grainger, P.; Duffy, T. (1994). Bellpiece [score]. Ludwig Music: [Cleveland, Ohio].
  • John Dowland, Wikipedia Accessed 17 April 2017