As all Northwestern University SWE Alums know, Percy Grainger‘s Lincolnshire Posy is an incredibly important piece in the wind band repertoire. It is so important that every year, each student of Dr. Mallory Thompson‘s conducting class leads the band through the piece in an epic day of music making called Posy-Fest.
I know what you are thinking. Why, of all the pieces to choose from in wind band history, does Dr. T choose Lincolnshire Posey?
I believe the answer is in Grainger’s quote below:
“This bunch of ‘musical wildflowers’ (hence the title Lincolnshire Posy) is based on folksongs collected in Lincolnshire, England (one noted by Miss Lucy E. Broadwood; the other five noted by me, mainly in the years 1905-1906, and with the help of the phonograph), and the work is dedicated to the old folksingers who sang so sweetly to me.
Indeed, each number is intended to be a kind of musical portrait of the singer who sang its underlying melody–a musical portrait of the singer’s personality no less than of his habits of song–his regular or irregular wonts of rhythm, his preference for gaunt or ornately arabesqued delivery, his contrasts of legato and staccato, his tendency towards breadth or delicacy of tone.” (Excerpt from Thomas Lewis “Source Guide to the music of Percy Grainger”)
When you use all of your notational and orchestrational skill to write a piece representing a song sung by an amateur singer, the results are unique, quirky, and memorable. The time signatures, phrase structures, and musical directives are very particular to this piece, leading to countless colorful moments that continue to amaze me after years of playing and listening.
The subject of this sequence is the euphonium solo from the fourth movement titled, “The Brisk Young Sailor.” This jolly tune is meant to represent a strapping young lad striding up the road to meet his sweetheart. My first introduction to this piece was as a young euphonium player in my high school band, right around the time I was falling in love with music. Looking back on it, this song is a metaphor for me meeting my first love. Hearing the brilliant SWE euphoniums play the solo at Posy-Fest was a walk down memory lane.
Strive for a confident, singing sound, like a younger, bolder version of yourself singing karaoke. Pay close attention to the dynamic and articulation markings because Grainger was incredibly specific with his notation.
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