Grand Canyon Suite

From Wind Repertory Project
Ferde Grofé

Ferde Grofé (tr. Randol Alan Bass)

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General Info

Year: 1931
Duration: c. 23:30
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Unpublished


1. Sunrise - 5:27
2. The Painted Desert - 5:21
3. On the Trail - 7:39
4. Sunset - 5:10
5. Cloudburst - 8:22


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The highly programmatic suite derives from only a very few melodic themes. It depends mainly on orchestral coloration and brazenly imitative sounds to evoke its impressions, such as the famous burro bray in On the Trail. Surprisingly, Grofé himself left behind some personal memoirs that admitted that many of his inspirations originally had nothing to do directly with the Grand Canyon itself. For example, the melody of the traveler’s song was not a cowboy tune but a lullaby that he crooned to his infant son. And the cloudburst was inspired by a storm over a Wisconsin lake. Nevertheless, the work has come to be considered a definitive pictorial representation of the scenic beauty of the American West.

Notes published along with the score suggest an interpretation of the work’s impressionist program. Although they are not Grofé’s own words, one cannot deny their characterization of the music.

I. Sunrise “Early morning on the desert. The sun rises slowly, spattering the darkness with the rich colors of dawn... from beyond the horizon a brilliant spray of colors announces the full break of day.”

II. The Painted Desert “The desert is silent and mysterious yet beautiful. As the bright rays of the sun are reflected against majestic crags and spread across the sands in varying hues, the entire scene appears as a canvas thick with the pigments of nature’s own blending.”

III. On the Trail “A traveler and his burro are descending the trail. The sharp hoofbeats of the animal form an unusual rhythmic background for the cowboy’s song. The sounds of a waterfall tells them of a nearby oasis. A lone cabin is sighted, and as they near it, a music box is heard. The traveler stops at the cabin for refreshment. Now fully rested, the traveler journeys forth at a livelier pace. The movement ends as man and burro disappear in the distance.”

IV. Sunset “Now the shades of night sweep over the golden hues of day. As evening envelops the desert in a cloak of darkness, there is a suggestion of animal calls coming from the distant rim of the canyon.”

V. Cloudburst “We hear the approach of the storm. Lightning flashes across the sky, and thunder roars from the darkness. The torrent of rain reaches its height in a cloudburst, but the storm disappears rapidly and the moon comes from behind clouds. Nature again rejoices in all its grandeur.”

- Program Note by C. Michael Kelly and used by the Contra Costa Wind Symphony


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Wild Rivers Wind Ensemble (Crescent City, Calif.) (Daniel Sedgwick, conductor) 4 December 2022
  • Contra Costa Wind Symphony (Duane Carroll, conductor) - 9 March 2014

Works for Winds by This Composer


None discovered thus far.