Magazine article Musical Opinion

The Grainger Event at St John's

Magazine article Musical Opinion

The Grainger Event at St John's

Article excerpt

During the weekend of 7 and 8 November there took place a sequence of concerts, talks and exhibitions at St John's. Smith Square, devoted to the life and works of Percy Grainger, Australian by birth, but perhaps even better known in Great Britain and the rest of the world than in his native land. He was a fine concert pianist, a dedicated collector of folk songs, especially in Lincolnshire and Denmark, and a fertile composer, mainly of songs and short pieces, often having a folk-song background.

The Grainger Event, was organised by the pianist Penelope Thwaites, who has been an enthusiastic Grainger advocate for many years, leading to the present recording marathon of Grainger's works by Chandos, in which she plays a major role. A considerable bevy of musicians assembled under her leadership to perform a comprehensive anthology of Grainger's works during the weekend, together with lectures and discussions, which attracted large and eager audiences from far afield.

Grainger's is clearly music of wide appeal, probably owing much to its persistent celebration of melody, the one element despised by all too many contemporary composers. Grainger adored tunes, many of his favourites were folk-songs, and he could fashion marvellous pastiche from material gleaned from major composers, for example Handel in the Strand. At the same time he was a tremendous innovator, both in the worlds of sound and the spice of complicated rhythmic invention.

So this Grainger Event was a triumphant celebration of melody and much more. While the music may have been for one, two or more pianos, for orchestra, mixed voices or for solo song, there was invariably a tune to be sung, whistled or hummed. It was no surprise that there was a mighty display of whistling to be heard in St John's during the weekend.

Fellowship was the instant by-product of Grainger's button-holing style. …

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