Blithe Bells

From Wind Repertory Project
Percy Aldridge Grainger

Percy Aldridge Grainger (arr. Robert Jager)

General Info

Year: 1931 / 1989
Duration: c. 4:10
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $55.00   |   Score Only (print) - $7.50


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bells
  • Marimba
  • Vibraphone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Adapted from J.S. Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze.

- Program Note from publisher

Grainger was a thoroughly taught musician who could look back upon the history of Western music to recognize kindred spirits in every age. While he had little use for the Mozart/Haydn/Beethoven axis, one of his central recognitions was Bach, discovered at age 10, in whose endless fecundity -- though corseted in the contrapuntal harmonic technique of the 18th century (which his works elaborated with a generously cunning hand) — and sovereign plasticity Grainger discovered a model for what he wished to become. Standard encyclopedia entries note that Grainger had “a few piano lessons with Busoni in 1903” — Grainger’s intuitive, freewheeling approach to the piano grated on the Italian’s perfectionism, though the one thing they saw eye-to-eye on, relatively speaking, was Bach. Among Busoni’s earliest publications are editions of Bach’s two- and three-part inventions, while editions of the complete keyboard works occupied him throughout his life. His numerous transcriptions of Bach, in particular of the great Chaconne (from the Second Partita for Solo Violin), became part of his persona as a performer, occasioning criticism from purists.

Busoni’s liberties, however, are the soul of discretion beside Grainger’s. Taking Bach’s sentimental favorite, the aria Schafe können sicher weiden ("Sheep may safely graze") from the secular cantata Was mir behagt (BWV 208), Grainger aggrandizes Bach’s innocent tune in an orchestral extravaganza in which the original’s prim voice leading becomes a fluent polyphony as the parts glow with distinctly post-Romantic harmonic lushness. The thirds of the original he divines as Bach’s imitation of sheep bells, magnified by scoring for “tuneful percussion” to glittering effect, For the variety of performing forces specified — and Grainger is generous in the allowance of his elastic scoring for the ensemble one may have at hand — the effect is at once respectful and vulgar, grandiose but cogent, exuberant and moving.

Composed over 1930-1931, Grainger also arranged Blithe Bells for solo piano (twice), two pianos, and band.

- Program Note from California State University, Long Beach, Wind Symphony concert program, 3 March 2016


State Ratings

  • Florida: V
  • Louisiana: IV
  • Mississippi: VI-A
  • Texas: IV. Complete


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of South Florida (Tampa) Symphonic Band (Tina DiMeglio, conductor) - 21 September 2023
  • Texas All-State Symphonic Band (Kevin Sedatole, conductor) - 12 February 2022 (2022 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
  • Texas Christian University (Fort Worth) Symphonic Band (Brian Youngblood, conductor) – 3 December 2020
  • Calvin University (Grand Rapids, Mich.) Wind Ensemble (Tiffany Engle, conductor) – 13 November 2020
  • Henderson State University (Arkadelphia, Ark.) Wind Ensemble (Shaun Popp, conductor) – 18 October 2020
  • Westford Academy (Westford, Mass.) Concert Band (Michael Soo, conductor) – 10 December 2019
  • Temple University (Philadelphia, Penn.) Concert Band (Patricia Cornet, conductor) – 17 October 2019
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing) Concert Band (Cynthia Wagoner, conductor) – 8 October 2019
  • Gold Coast Wind Ensemble (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) (Michael Doty, conductor) – 9 June 2019
  • California State University, Stanislaus, Wind Ensemble (Stuart Sims, conductor) – 9 May 2019
  • Northshore Concert Band (Evanston, Ill.) (Mallory Thompson, conductor) – 10 February 2019
  • New Sousa Band (Keith Brion, conductor) – 21 December 2018 (2018 Midwest Clinic)
  • State University of New York, Fredonia, Wind Symphony (Tiv Cumberbatch, conductor) – 28 February 2018
  • Lee University (Cleveland, Tenn.) Wind Ensemble (Winona Holsinger, conductor) – 30 November 2016
  • Shenandoah Conservatory (Winchester, Va.) Wind Ensemble (Timothy Robblee, conductor) – 17 September 2016
  • Atascadero (Calif.) Community Band (Nathan Conrad, conductor) – 8 May 2016
  • California State University, Fullerton, Symphonic Winds (Patricia Cornett, conductor) – 23 April 2016
  • California State University, Long Beach, Wind Symphony (Larry Curtis, conductor) – 3 March 2016 (81st Annual ABA National Convention)
  • CBDNA Western/Northwestern Division Intercollegiate Band (Reno, Nev.) (Erich Rombach-Kendall, conductor) – 15 March 2012 (CBDNA 2012 Western/Northwestern Division Conference, Reno, Nev.)
  • San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Wind Orchestra (William V. Johnson, conductor) – 9 December 2006

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Grainger, P.; Jager, R. (1989). Blithe Bells [score]. G. Schirmer: [New York].