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Lads of Wamphray (Grainger)

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Percy Aldridge Grainger

Percy Aldridge Grainger

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Subtitle: March for Wind Band

General Info

Year: 1905 / 1941
Duration: c. 7:50
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Men's chorus and orchestra
Publisher: Carl Fischer
Cost: Score and Parts - Out of print


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Grainger composed this march as a birthday gift for his mother in 1905, basing it on melodies and musical material from a Scottish "border ballad". The poem celebrates a bloody skirmish between two clans in 1593. In the march, Grainger sought to express the dare-deviltry of the cattle-raiding, swashbuckling English and Scottish "borderers" of the period as portrayed in collections of border ballads of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

- James Huff, 23 November 2008 (UTC) (from the program notes of The Claremont Winds, submitted with permission)

Lord Maxwell and The Lads of Wamphray are consecutive selections from Sir Walter Scott’s 1802 Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and the two pieces are presented in the same order in Professor Francis James Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads of 1860 (Part X). They support each other in presenting a full picture of the “noted feud” between the Johnstone and Maxwell families, and events that led up to the battle of Dryffe Sands, Scotland’s largest, bloodiest family battle. The Crichtons were members of the Maxwell family (the term “clan” is reserved for Highland groups; “family” is the name for groups in the lowlands of Scotland). In explanation of the tale, Sir Walter Scott provides us, in the 1802 edition, with this background for The Lads of Wamphray:

“The following song celebrates the skirmish, in 1593, betwixt the Johnstones and Crichtons, which led to the revival of the ancient quarrel betwixt Johnstone and Maxwell, and finally to the battle of Dryffe Sands, in the latter [Maxwell] lost his life. Wamphray is the name of a parish in Annandale. Lethenhall was the abode of Johnstone of Wamphray, and continued to be so till of late years [This was written in 1802, remember].

William Johnstone of Wamphray, called the Galliard, was a noted freebooter [thief]. A place, near the head of Tiviotdale, retains the name of the Galliard’s Faulds, (folds) being a valley where he used to secrete and divide his spoil, with his Liddesdale and Eskdale associates. His nom de guerre seems to have been derived from the dance called The Galliard. The word is still used in Scotland [as of 1802], to express an active, gay, dissipated character. Willie of the Kirkhill, nephew to the Galliard, and his avenger, was also a noted border robber. ...

Leverhay, Stefenbiggin, Girth-head, &c. are [1802] all situated in the parish of Wamphray. The Biddes, where the skirmish took place betwixt the Johnstones and their pursuers, is a rivulet which takes its course among the mountains on the confines of Nithesdale and Annandale. The Wellpath is a pass by which the Johnstones were retreating to their fastnesses in Annandale. Ricklaw-holm is a place upon the Evan water, which falls into the Annan, below Moffat. Wamphray-gate was in these days an ale-house. With these local explanations, it is hoped the following ballad will be easily understood.”

- Program Note by Chalon Ragsdale

The Lads of Wamphray March, like its companion piece Children’s March, was ahead of its time in its demands of balance, blend, technique, and particularly tonal strength in the low reeds. Completed in 1905, it was Grainger’s earliest work for full band, but was not published until 1941. A note in the published score includes the following information: “No folksongs or other traditional tunes of any kind are used in the work, which is based on melodies and musical material written by Grainger in his setting for male chorus and orchestra or two pianos.”

In this march, Grainger wished to express the devil-may-care dare-deviltry of the cattle raiding, swashbuckling English and Scottish ‘borderers’ through the thirteenth-sixteenth centuries; which was so grimly yet thrillingly portrayed in the border ballads collected and published by Scott, Motherwell, Jamieson, Johnson, Buchan, Kinloch, Swinburne, and others.

- Program Note by Seth Wollam for the Lone Star Wind Orchestra concert program, 27 April 2014


State Ratings

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  • Catskill Valley (Oneonta, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Andy Pease, conductor) - 30 April 2023

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