In a Nutshell

From Wind Repertory Project
Percy Aldridge Grainger

Percy Aldridge Grainger (trans. Donald Patterson)

General Info

Year: 1916 / 2011
Duration: c. 17:00
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Piano
Publisher: U.S. Marine Band
Cost: Score and Parts - Free download


1. Arrival Platform Humlet - 2:33
2. Gay but Wistful - 2:32
3. Pastoral - 8:45
4. The Gum-Suckers March - 3:41


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

  • Bass Drum
  • Cymbals
  • Deagan Staff Bells
  • Glockenspiel
  • Gong (Tam-tam)
  • Marimba I (wood)
  • Marimba II (Deagan Nabimba) (optional)
  • Snare Drum
  • Steel Marimba (two players if possible)
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

In a Nutshell. Why did we pick that title? The colloquial phrase means “in a few words, or in a very brief form”, and, when the phrase first entered the English language, referred to “anything that had been compressed, later being applied to written or spoken words.’’

Percy Grainger’s suite In a Nutshell is a four-movement suite first performed and published in 1916 that contains many of the elements of Percy Grainger’s compositional style, all compressed into a 20-minute work (hence, “In a Nutshell”). The piece, identified as “For Orchestra, Piano and Deagan Percussion Instruments” serves as a laboratory for a whole set of Grainger experiments in composition, in orchestration, and in the juxtaposition of jarringly different musical styles. The “Deagan Percussion Instruments” dedication grows out of Grainger’s close friendship and professional association with the Deagan family of Chicago, inventors and manufacturers of a vast array of mallet played percussion instruments -- what Grainger would come to call the “tuneful percussion.”

One of the unusual instruments used in In a Nutshell are the “staff bells”, designed by Grainger and executed by Deagan. It is a rack of up to four octaves of handbells removed from their handles, hung in a keyboard style configuration, and played with mallets. Deagan even attached small resonators like those used on a xylophone to amplify the sound of the instrument.

The first movement of the suite, Arrival Platform Humlet, was originally conceived for solo (or massed) viola(s), but was re-organized by Grainger into an incredibly colorful piece for full orchestra. A striking aspect of the piece is the complete absence of chords. The texture is unison or octaves, with an occasional open fifth.

The second movement, Gay but Wistful,, is an English music hall tune -- seemingly superficial and light, but tinged with an air of sadness or regret. Written shortly after Grainger left England for America, it may reflect his wistfulness for his former life in London.

The third movement, Pastoral, is, to quote Wilfred Mellers, “as ‘serious’ a piece as Grainger ever created.” It is a piece that starts in the countryside with a lilting single-line solo on the oboe -- that favorite countryside-evoking orchestral instrument -- but soon evolves into music of psychological depth and dark subtext. Charles Ives would have been impressed.

The final movement of the suite wrenches us back from disturbing darkness to the Australian Outback with Grainger’s athletic and well-known-to-bandsmen The Gum-Sucker’s March.

For a Grainger admirer with associations mostly developed through the performance of his music for the concert band, suite In a Nutshell is a revealing look at a broad swath of Percy Grainger’s compositional style in a compressed setting (hence, again, “In a Nutshell”).

- Program Note from Aux Arcs Music


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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