Ferde Grofe and the “Grand Canyon Suite”

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Ferdinand Rudolph (Ferde or Ferdie) Grofé (March 27, 1892–April 3, 1972) was an American composer, arranger, and pianist who came to prominence during the 1920s and 1930s. Born in New York City, NY, into a musical family, Grofe came by his extensive musical interests naturally. Of French Huguenot extraction, his family had four generations of classical musicians. His father, Emil von Grofé, was a baritone who sang mainly light opera; his mother, Elsa Johanna Bierlich von Grofé, a professional cellist, was also a versatile music teacher who taught Ferde to play the violin and piano. Elsa’s father, Bernardt Bierlich, was first cellist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York, and Elsa’s brother, Julius Bierlich, was first violinist and concertmaster of the Los Angeles Symphony. When grandfather Bierlich moved to Los Angeles, he became first cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Young Ferdinand was taken to Los Angeles shortly after he was born. He made quick progress in learning to read music and play piano. Growing up in Los Angeles, Grofe attended public schools and studied with several music instructors, first his mother and then Ricardo Dallera.

Ferde’s father died in 1899, after which his mother took Ferde abroad with her when she went to study music in Leipzig, Germany for three years. Ferde also studied piano, viola and composition in Leipzig. Ferde became proficient on a wide range of instruments including piano (his favored instrument), violin, viola, baritone horn, alto horn, and cornet. This command of musical instruments and composition gave Ferde the foundation to become first an arranger of other composers’ music and then a composer in his own right. After the three years, Mrs. Grofe returned to Los Angeles, opened a studio, and soon afterwards remarried. Grofé was an indifferent student, always spending time learning new band instruments. He ran away from home at age 14 after his stepfather refused to let him quit school and worked at unskilled jobs such as a milkman, truck driver, usher, newsboy, elevator operator, helper in a book bindery, and iron factory worker. However, he continued in music by playing piano in a bar for two dollars a night and serving as an accompanist, writing popular songs at night.

Grofé continued studying piano and violin. When he was 15 he was performing with dance bands. He also played the alto horn in brass bands. He was 17 when he wrote his first commissioned work. His songs had brought him to the attention of The Elks (an American benevolent association), who commissioned him to write a special song for their 1909 convention, and the song, The Elks Grand Reunion March, gained some popularity. Soon Grofé joined his grandfather and uncle as a violist in the Philharmonic. In his spare time he played in dance halls, sometimes billing himself as “Professor Grofé.” He founded his own jazz band in San Francisco and wrote arrangements for it. In 1919 bandleader Paul Whiteman heard one of these arrangements. Grofé accepted a job as pianist and arranger, and immediately started taking orchestration lessons from Pietro Floridia. His very first arrangement for Whiteman was a success, and “Whispering” became a million-selling hit. When the Whiteman band relocated to New York, Grofé went with them. His orchestral ideas laid the foundation for what became the big-band sound. More important, he conceived the basic format that makes jazz playing in large ensembles possible.

Beginning about 1920, while playing jazz piano with the Whiteman orchestra, Grofe served as Whiteman’s chief arranger from until 1932. He made hundreds of arrangements of popular songs, Broadway show music, and tunes of all types for Whiteman. In 1923 Whiteman conceived a concert to be given at Aeolian Hall in New York. “An Experiment in Modern Music” presented a number of jazz-style classically composed pieces played by the Whiteman Band, many scored by Grofé. Among them was George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, in Grofé’s orchestration. Grofé took what Gershwin had written for two pianos and orchestrated it for Whiteman’s jazz orchestra. The event made Grofé nearly as famous as Gershwin, and Grofé’s symphonic version of the work has become the one best known to audiences. Grofé began to widen his ambitions as a composer. He wrote the Mississippi Suite and, a few years later, the Grand Canyon Suite for the Whiteman orchestra, later enlarging them for symphony. He began a second career as composer of film scores in 1930, when he provided arrangements (and perhaps portions of the score) for the film King of Jazz. He is also credited with the film score for the 1930 movie Redemption.

In 1931 Grofe resigned from the Whiteman organization and became conductor of the Capitol Theater orchestra in New York, hosting a network radio program. In 1932, The New York Times called Grofé “the Prime Minister of Jazz.” He was appointed to teach orchestration at the Juilliard School in 1939 through 1942. During World War II Grofe tirelessly conducted service bands and USO shows. After the war he moved to Los Angeles full-time and continued to write generally light music with a jazzy American flavor. A piano concerto was his most ambitious composition in a pure classical idiom. He also tried to follow up on the Mississippi and Grand Canyon suites with innumerable musical portraits of the American scene, including suites named for the Hudson River, Death Valley, Hollywood, San Francisco, New England, Virginia City, the World’s Fair, and Mark Twain, as well as an Aviators’ Suite, an Atlantic Crossing Suite, the Tabloid Suite, and a Niagara Falls Suite. These were generally played a few times and set aside. However, at the very end of the twentieth century there were some revivals of this forgotten music. In early 1950s, he continued to write scores for films, composing Rocketman X M and The Return of Jesse James. During this time, Grofé also recorded piano rolls for the American Piano Company (Ampico) company in New York. Grofé died in Santa Monica, CA, on April 3,1972, shortly after his 80th birthday.

The following works by Grofe are included in my collection:

Death Valley Suite (1949).
Grand Canyon Suite (1931).
Hollywood Suite (1935/1938).
Hudson River Suite (1955).
Mississippi Suite (1926).
Niagara Falls Suite (1961).

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Charles Tomlinson Griffes and “The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan”

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Charles Tomlinson Griffes (September 17, 1884–April 8, 1920) was an American composer of music primarily for piano, chamber ensembles and voice. Born in Elmira, NY, on September 17, 1884, Griffes displayed an early interest in painting and drama. Recuperating from typhoid fever at age eleven, he grew fascinated with his sister Katharine’s practicing the European classics on the piano, and he set himself about to master the instrument. Katharine gave him his first piano lessons. At thirteen he began his studies with Mary Selena Broughton, a professor at Elmira College who remained his mentor and friend throughout his life. Griffes began writing for the piano as a child. His juvenile wowrks include short, Chopinesque pieces such as Four Preludes, a Mazuraka, and a set of Variations. After these early studies on piano and organ in his home town, Miss Broughton financed Griffes’s 1903 voyage to Berlin, Germany, where he studied for four years, including composition with Engelbert Humperdinck and Philipp Rufer, counterpoint with Wilhelm Klatte and Max Lowengard, and piano with Ernst Jedliczka and Gottfried Gaston, all at the Stern Conservatory. , composition with Engelbert Humperdinck and There he encountered such prominent artists such as Richard Strauss, Ferruccio Busoni, Isadora Duncan, and Enrico Caruso, and formed a close personal attachment to a fellow student and German nationalist-composer, Konrad Wölcke, who helped Griffes through the financially troubled times which followed his father’s death in 1905 and who encouraged his compositional gifts.

The piano music that Griffes wrote in Europe was greatly influenced by Wagner, Richard Strauss, Humperdinck, and the German Romantics. During this period he completed two large works for two pianos, worked on four unfinished piano sonatas, and composed a Symphonische Phantasie for orchestra.. However, burdened with support for his widowed mother and family, Griffes returned to America in 1907 to take a post as music instructor at the Hackley School for boys in Tarrytown, NY, a post which he held until his early death 13 years later. Griffes was frequently unhappy in his life as a schoolmaster, and with the advent of World War I’s anti-German feelings, Griffes felt himself cut adrift from his European friends and ties. He initially succeeded in getting G. Schirmer to publish his early German settings, though as his music became less conventional, his compositions were rejected by the music publishing establishment. Still unpublished and dating from c.1910 is a beguiling arrangement of the famous Baracarolle: Belle nuit, o nuit d’amour from The Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach, in the tradition of the Liszt lieder transcriptions. A Winter Landscape was composed around 1912. It is noble and dramatic in scope, and evocative of late Liszt and Wagner.

Griffes finally saw an upswing in his artistic fortunes beginning in 1914. In the remaining six years of his life, he produced his most important compositions, among them the White Peacock for piano (1915, orchestrated in 1919); The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan (1912, revised in 1916 and published in 1917), an orchestral tone poem inspired by Coleridge’s fragment; his Piano Sonata (1917–18, revised 1919); his Poem for Flute and Orchestra (1918-1919); and the unfinished Five Pieces for Piano. Griffes increased his recitals, expanded his contacts with prominent musicians of the day, and drew ever more appreciative notices from critics, culminating in the rapturous reception his Poem received on November 16, 1919, by the New York Symphony under the baton of Walter Damrosch and by the November 28th triumph of Kubla Khan with Pierre Monteux and the Boston Symphony. These unconditional successes were soon to turn bittersweet. The victim of lung and heart problems as well as overwork and emotional strain which took a toll on his health, he collapsed at Hackley in December 1919. Neither a sanitarium stay nor surgery on his lungs could cure him, and Griffes died of a combination of emphysema, influenza, and pneumonia, probably caused by physical and nervous exhaustion, at the age of 35 in New York City, NY, Hospital on April 8, 1920. At his death, he was working on a drama, Salut au Monde, based on texts of Walt Whitman.

One of the most important American composers at the beginning of the 20th century, Griffes is the most famous American representative of musical Impressionism and one of the first truly distinctive voices in American music. His unpublished Sho-jo (1917), a one-act pantomimic drama based on Japanese themes, is one of the earliest works by an American composer to show direct inspiration from the music of Japan. In addition, he also wrote numerous programmatic pieces for piano, chamber ensembles, and voice, such as his Oscar Wilde settings and the Five Poems of Ancient China and Japan. In 1919, just before he died, he was becoming established as one of the most gifted and creative American composers of his generation. He was hailed as a major force in American classical music by the likes of Stokowski, Monteux, and Prokofiev at the time of his premature death in 1920. In his last works, Griffes tended to use a more abstract and structured musical style whose language became deeply complex. His Three Preludes for piano, Griffes’ last completed work, clearly revealed this new turn in his music.

My collection includes the following works by Griffes:

Bacchanale (from Fantasy Pieces, op. 6, 1912/1919)/
Clouds (from Roman Sketches, 1916/1919).
The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan, op. 8 (1912/1917).
Poem for Flute and Orchestra (1919).
Three Poems of Fiona McLeod (1918).
Three Tone Pictures (1915).
The White Peacock (from Roman Sketches, 1915/1919).

Edvard Grieg and “Peer Gynt”

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Edvard Hagerup Grieg (June 15, 1843–September 4, 1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist who is widely considered one of the leading Romantic era composers. Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway, on June 15, 1843. His parents were Alexander Grieg (1806–1875), a merchant and vice consul in Bergen; and Gesine Judithe Hagerup (1814–1875), a music teacher and daughter of Edvard Hagerup. The family name, originally spelled Greig, has Scottish origins. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Grieg’s great-grandfather traveled widely, settling in Norway about 1770, and establishing business interests in Bergen. Edvard Grieg was raised in a musical milieu. His mother was his first piano teacher and taught him to play at the age of six. Grieg studied in several schools, including Tanks Upper School, and Tanks School. In the summer of 1858, Grieg met the eminent Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, who was a family friend; Bull’s brother was married to Grieg’s aunt. Bull recognized the 15-year-old boy’s talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory then directed by Ignaz Moscheles. Grieg enrolled in the conservatory, concentrating on the piano, and enjoyed the many concerts and recitals given in Leipzig. There he studied piano with Moscheles and composition with Carl Reinecke. He especially enjoyed the organ, which was mandatory for piano students.

In the spring of 1860, Grieg survived a life-threatening lung disease, pleurisy and tuberculosis. However, throughout his life, his health was impaired by a destroyed left lung and considerable deformity of his thoracic spine. He suffered from numerous respiratory infections, and ultimately developed combined lung and heart failure. Grieg was admitted many times to spas and sanatoria both in Norway and abroad. In 1861, Grieg made his debut as a concert pianist, in Karlshamn, Sweden. Also, while in school, the young composer saw the premiere of his first work, his String Quartet in D minor, performed in Karlshamn. In 1862, he finished his studies in Leipzig and returning to Norway held his first concert in his home town, where his program included Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata. In 1863, Grieg went to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he met his future wife, and stayed there for three years. He met the Danish composers J. P. E. Hartmann and Niels Gade. He also met his fellow Norwegian composer Rikard Nordraak, composer of the Norwegian national anthem, who became a good friend and source of inspiration. Nordraak died in 1866, and Grieg composed a funeral march in his honor.

In 1867 Grieg produced his first set of miniature pieces for piano, the Lyric Pieces, which consists of eight short movements in contrasting moods. On June 11, 1867, Grieg married his first cousin, Nina Hagerup. Shortly after their wedding, the couple moved to Oslo, where Grieg supported them by teaching piano and conducting. The next year, their only child, Alexandra, was born. In the summer of 1868, Grieg wrote his Piano Concerto in A minor while on holiday in Denmark. Also in 1868, Franz Liszt, who had not yet met Grieg, wrote a testimonial for him to the Norwegian Ministry of Education, which led to Grieg’s obtaining a travel grant. Edmund Neupert gave the Grieg’s concerto its premiere performance on April 3, 1869, in the Casino Theater in Copenhagen. Grieg himself was unable to be there due to conducting commitments in Christiania, as Oslo was then named. Grieg’s daughter Alexandra died in 1869 from meningitis. Grieg and Liszt met in Rome in 1870. On Grieg’s first visit, they went over Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 1, which pleased Liszt greatly. On his second visit, in April, Grieg brought with him the manuscript of his Piano Concerto, which Liszt proceeded to sight read. Liszt also gave Grieg some advice on orchestration. In 1874–76, Grieg composed incidental music for the premiere of Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt, at the request of the author. The first performance in 1876 was a resounding success and made Grieg into a national figure overnight.

Grieg had close ties with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Harmonien), and later became Music Director of the orchestra from 1880–1882. In 1884 Grieg accepted a commission to write a piece to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of the Norwegian philosopher and playwriter, Ludvig Holberg. The resulting Holberg Suit is a five-movement piece for piano written in the manner of an eighteenth-century dance suit. Several months later he arranged it for string orchestra. By 1885 Grieg had established a considerable reputation and built himself a house at Troldhaugen near Bergen, where he lived for the rest of his life. Over the next twenty years he managed to establish a pattern of composing in the spring and early summer, fitting in a walking holiday in late summer and then spending the autumn and winter on lengthy concert tours. In 1888, Grieg met Tchaikovsky in Leipzig. The Norwegian government awarded him a pension. In the spring 1903, Grieg made nine 78-rpm gramophone recordings of his piano music in Paris. In 1906, he met the composer and pianist Percy Grainger in London. Grainger was a great admirer of Grieg’s music and a strong empathy was quickly established.

The impulse to travel never left Grieg and even in his final years he continued with grueling concert schedules around Europe. In the last year of his life he visited Berlin and Kiel; he was making plans to leave for England when was taken ill. Edvard Grieg died in the late summer of 1907, aged 64, after a long period of illness. Following his wish, his own Funeral March in Memory of Rikard Nordraak was played in an orchestration by his friend Johan Halvorsen, who had married Grieg’s niece. Some of Grieg’s early works include a symphony, which he later suppressed, and a piano sonata. He also wrote three violin sonatas and a cello sonata. As Grieg grew older, however, he became increasingly conscious of the musical potential of his own country’s folk-culture and began to promote Norwegian nationalism by writing pieces based on traditional popular music. Grieg wrote songs in which he set lyrics by poets Heinrich Heine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Henrik Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, Rudyard Kipling, and others. Grieg shied away from the larger forms of musical expression, such as the symphony and opera, but in his preferred field, as a miniaturist, he is without equal. His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions put the music of Norway in the international spectrum, as well as helping develop a national identity, much like Jean Sibelius and Antonín Dvořák did in Finland and Bohemia.

The following works by Grieg are contained in my collection:

The Bridal Procession Passes By, op. 19 (from Scenes from the Folk Life, 1872).

Evening in the Mountains and At the Cradle, op. 68, nos. 4 and 5 (from Lyrical Pieces, 1898).

In Autumn, Concert Overture, op. 11 (1866).

Lyric Suite, op. 54 (from Lyrical Pieces, 1891).

Norwegian Dances, op. 35 (1881).

Of Holberg’s Days (or From Holberg’s Time), op. 49 (Holberg Suite, for string orchestra; 1885).

Peer Gynt (1876): Suites No. 1, op. 46 (1888), and No. 2 (1893), op. 55.

Piano Concerto in am, op. 16 (1868).

Sigurd Josalfar, op. 56 (1872): Suite (1892).

(4) Symphonic Dances, op. 64 (1898).

Two Elgiac Melodies for String Orchestra, op. 34 (1881).

Wedding Day at Troldhaugen (The Well Wishers Are Coming), op. 65 (from Book 8 of Lyric Pieces, 1894).

—material taken, adapted, and edited from several different sources

George Butterworth and “The Banks of Green Willow”

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George Sainton Kaye Butterworth (July 12, 1885 –August 5, 1916) was an English composer whose reputation as a composer rests on a handful of exquisitely fashioned small-scale works which were strongly influenced by his studies in English folk song, including the orchestral idyll The Banks of Green Willow and his song settings of A. E. Housman’s poems from A Shropshire Lad. Butterworth was born in Paddington, London, on July 12th, 1885 to a well-to-do family. His father, Sir Alexander Kaye Butterworth, was a solicitor. Soon after his birth, his family moved to Yorkshire so that Alexander could take up an appointment as general manager of the North-East Railway Company, based at York, where the boy grew up. George received his first music lessons from his mother Julia Wigan, who was a talented singer, and he began composing at an early age. As a young boy, he played the organ for services in the chapel of his prep school, Aysgarth School, before gaining a scholarship to Eton College. He showed early musical promise at Eton, a ‘Barcarolle” for orchestra by him being played during his time there, though it is long since lost.

In 1904, Butterworth then went to Trinity College, Oxford, where he began to study law but became more focused on music, becoming President of the university musical society. He also made friends with folk song collector Cecil Sharp; composer and folk song enthusiast Ralph Vaughan Williams; future Director of the Royal College of Music, Hugh Allen; and baritone singer and future conductor, Adrian Boult. Butterworth was also an expert folk dancer, being especially expert in the art of morris dancing and was employed for a while by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, of which he was a founder member in 1906, as a professional morris dancer and member of the Demonstration Team. Also, he and Vaughan Williams made several trips into the English countryside to collect folk songs, with Butterworth collecting over 450 himself, many in Sussex in 1907. The compositions of both were strongly influenced by what they collected.

Upon leaving Oxford, Butterworth began a career in music, writing criticism for The Times, composing, and teaching for a year at Radley College, Oxfordshire. He also briefly studied piano and organ at the Royal College of Music where he worked with Hubert Parry among others, though he stayed less than a year as the academic life was not for him. Vaughan Williams and Butterworth became close friends. It was Butterworth who suggested to Vaughan Williams that he turn a symphonic poem he was working on into his London Symphony. In 1911 and 1912, Butterworth wrote eleven settings of Housman’s poems from “A Shropshire Lad,” published in two sets. The “Rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad,” a sort of postlude to the songs, employs a very large orchestra, and was first performed on October 2, 1913, at the Leeds Festival, conducted by Arthur Nikisch. It was influential upon Vaughan Williams’s A Pastoral Symphony, Gerald Finzi’s A Severn Rhapsody, and Ernest Moeran’s First Rhapsody. Butterworth’s other orchestral works are short and based on folksongs he had collected, Two English Idylls (1911) and The Banks of Green Willow (1913). “Love Blows as the Wind Blows” is a setting of poems by W. E. Henley. It exists in three forms: for voice and string quartet, voice and piano, and voice and small orchestra.

Butterworth did not write a great deal of music, and right before and even during the war he destroyed many those manuscripts which he deemed unworthy of survival, lest he should not return and have the chance to revise them. At the outbreak of the First World War, Butterworth joined the British Army as a Private in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, but he soon accepted a commission as a Subaltern (2nd Lieutenant) in the 13th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, and he was later temporarily promoted to Lieutenant. As part of 23rd Division, the 13th DLI was sent into action to capture the western approaches of the village of Contalmaison on The Somme. Butterworth and his men succeeded in capturing a series of trenches near Pozières on July 16–17, 1916. Butterworth was slightly wounded in the action and was awarded the Military Cross. Then on August 5, amid frantic German attempts to recapture the position, Butterworth was shot through the head by a sniper. He was hastily buried by his men in the side of the trench, but his body was lost in the fierce bombardments of the next two years. The body was never recovered, although his unidentified remains may well lie at nearby Pozieres Memorial, a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery. His memorial is at Thiepval. Almost all Butterworth’s manuscripts were left to Vaughan Williams.

The following works by Butterworth are contained in my collection:

The Banks of Green Willow, Idyll.
A Shropshire Lad, Rhapsody.

—material taken, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Ray Green and his “Sunday Sing” Symphony

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Ray Burns Green (Sept. 13, 1908-April 16, 1997) was an American composer and music publisher who was born in 1908 (some sources give 1901, others 1909) at Cavendish, MO, near Avalon, and was raised in San Francisco, CA. The bulk of his basic musical training came in the city of the Golden Gate, where he studied under such personages as Ernest Bloch, Albert Elkus and Giulio Silva. In the mid 1930s, he won the George Ladd Prix de Paris, a two year composition fellowship from the University of California, Berkeley, to study modern music abroad. While in France, he studied composition under Darius Milhaud and gained conducting experience with Pierre Monteux. Instead of remaining in Paris as originally intended, he explored the continent but was disappointed with the state of music composition and returned to the United States to discover his own way.

After his return in 1937, Green met May O’Donnell, an American modern dancer and choreographer, and wrote the score for her first work, “Of Pioneer Women”. This was the beginning of his career as a composer in the dance field. In 1938 at the Bennington School of Dance he wrote “American Document” for Martha Graham. 1938 also marked the year he married May O’Donnell and began their long and successful collaboration of music and dance. During the years prior to and during World War II he was composer-conductor, first with the Federal Music Project in northern California and then as a member of the Armed Forces. During this time, one of his main interests was in getting music accepted as an essential component to medical therapy treatment in the Veterans Administration hospitals. He was Chief of Music for the Veterans Administration, and in 1948 was invited to become Executive Secretary of the American Music Center in New York City, a position he held for over twelve years.

In 1951 Green founded his own publishing company, the American Music Edition (AME), which played an important role in documenting and disseminating new American music by Green, Carl Ruggles, Halsey Stevens, and many other composers. Consisting of manuscripts, business papers, and correspondence, the archive reflects AME’s repertoire as well as the interactions Green had with many key figures in twentieth-century music, including John Cage, Henry Cowell, Charles Ives, Gunther Schuller, William Grant Still, and Virgil Thomas. Perhaps Green’s most striking achievement during his years with the American Music Center was the development, in collaboration with the Ford Foundation of a commissioning series, which during 1957-63 resulted in multiple performances of newly composed American works by a half-dozen participating orchestras. In 1987 he set up the Ray Green Award which was the first piano prize where the teacher and the student share equally in the prize.

Green’s influence was felt in the worlds of American music composition, music therapy, modern dance, and music publishing. He tried to create a new American music consisting of a harmonic system removed from the European tradition. This was signified by elements of American jazz, American folk music, Asian music, microtonality, music for dance and electronic music. It was never to be highbrow or too cerebral but accessible to all audiences. Ray and May lived and worked together for over fifty years and became one of the most formidable combinations of composer and choreographer of their time, producing over forty collaborative works. He died at New York City, NY, in 1997.

As composer, the titles of many ofGreen’s works bespeak his preoccupation with American dialect in terms of music, whether through evocation of hymn tune, country dance, or folk legend. One of his best-known works is Three Inventories of Casey Jones, which consists of two tiny movements that are really conventional piano solos, merely decorated by percussion, which frame a more substantial concerted movement. He completed his Sunday Sing Symphony in 1946. It does not attempt to capture or recreate the atmosphere of a “Sunday Sing,” nor is the work programmatic or descriptive but is based rather on the idea than on the substance of the “Sunday Sing.” Other such works by Green include Jig Theme and Six Changes, Country Dance Symphony, Four Short Songs to texts by Carl Sandburg, Sea charm and I Loved My Friend to texts by Langston Hughes, and Three Choral Songs to texts by Emily Dickinson. He also composed a non-subtitled Violin Concerto as well as Concerto Brevis for Violin and Orchestra. Sidney R. Vise wrote “Ray Green: His Life and Stylistic Elements of His Music from 1935 to 1962” for American Music Edition, 1975.

The following work by Green is included in my collection:

Sunday Sing Symphony (1946).

—material taken, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Kenneth J. Alford (F. J. Ricketts) and the “Colonel Bogey March”

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Kenneth J. Alford was the pen name of Frederick Joseph Ricketts (February 21, 1881–May 15, 1945), a British composer of marches for band. Ricketts was born on February 21, 1881, the fourth child of Robert and Louisa (née Alford) Ricketts in the Thameside hamlet of Ratcliff, within the parish of Shadwell in London’s East End. Ricketts’ father died when he was seven and his mother when he was fourteen. His early musical training had been on playing the piano and organ and working as a church chorister in the parish church of St. Paul’s. As a boy living in London’s East End he would often hear street musicians and bands, including German bands and early Salvation Army bands. Fascinated by the sound of instruments, the orphaned Ricketts determined that the best course for his future would be to join an army band. Therefore, he joined the Royal Irish Regiment in 1895. He was enlisted as a Band Boy. Well-liked, ambitious, and a good student with natural ability, he was proficient enough on cornet within a very few months and taken into the regimental band. His first composition at the age of 15 was “For Service Overseas.” It has never been published. The band went on postings with the regiment, first to Limerick in Ireland, then to India. Ricketts used every spare moment to learn to play all the instruments in the band. He was very popular with the regular soldiers because of his piano-playing ability in the various messes, as he was promoted.

When Ricketts concluded seven years of man-service, in 1903, the Colonel Commanding the Royal Irish Regiment, and his bandmaster, Mr. J. Phillips, recommended Ricketts for entry into the Student Bandmaster Course at the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall, in Twickenham, Middlesex, on the outskirts of London. Ricketts two-year course at Kneller Hall began in the summer of 1904. Studies were rigorous. The first year consisted of a firm grounding in harmony, counterpoint, instrumentation, aural training, composition and arranging, carried out by a graduated senior student. Graduating in 1906, so highly was he regarded that Ricketts stayed on at Kneller Hall as chapel organist and assistant to the Director of Music, Lieutenant (later Lieut. Colonel) Arthur Stretton, for two years. While on staff at the Royal Military School of Music, Ricketts was married to Miss Annie Louisa Holmes. In 1908, Ricketts was finally given his own band. He was posted as Bandmaster to the Band of the 2nd Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, joining them in the Orange River Colony (formerly the Orange Free State) in what is now the Republic of South Africa. The colonel asked him to write a new regimental march for the Argylls, and he responded with “The Thin Red Line”, based on two bars of the regiment’s bugle call.

Ricketts had a desire to compose music. The problem was that it was frowned upon for commissioned officers and warrant officers class 1 to be engaged in commercial activities in the civilian world. The answer for Ricketts was to compose and publish under a nom-de-plume. The pseudonym Kenneth J. Alford was constructed from his eldest son’s name (Kenneth), his own middle name (Joseph) and his mother’s maiden name (Alford). The first march written under the new pen name was “Holyrood” inn July 1911. In 1914, a few weeks before the start of World War I, Ricketts composed his most famous work, “Colonel Bogey March.” Supposedly, the tune was inspired by a military man and golfer who whistled a characteristic two-note phrase, a descending minor third interval, instead of shouting “Fore!”. It is this descending interval that begins each line of the melody. The name “Colonel Bogey” began in the later 19th century as the imaginary “standard opponent” of the Colonel Bogey scoring system. The sheet music was a million-seller, and the march was recorded many times.

Shortly after hostilities began in August, the adult musicians of most line bands were pressed into service as stretcher bearers and medical orderlies. During the war Ricketts wrote several marches dedicated to the fighting forces: “The Great Little Army” (1916), “On The Quarter Deck,” “The Middy,” and “The Voice of the Guns” (1917), and “The Vanished Army” (1919) which was subtitled “They Never Die”. By the end of the war the Band Boys had matured into a group considered by many to be the finest regimental band in the British Army. The 1920s were perhaps the high point for the 2nd Battalion Band. Under Ricketts, they had become a popular fixture in London parks, seaside holiday resorts and everywhere they performed. In 1925 the Band of the 2nd Battalion undertook a six-month tour to New Zealand where Ricketts wrote “Dunedin” (published 1928). Returning to the United Kingdom aboard the New Zealand Shipping Company’s S.S. Remuera via the Panama Canal, Ricketts was moved to compose the march “Old Panama” (published 1929).

In 1927 a Royal Marine vacancy occurred, and Ricketts applied, was approved, and commissioned a lieutenant in the Royal Marines Band Service on July 4, 1927. He was posted to the Band of the Marines’ Depot at Deal in Kent. When the headquarters of the Band Service was transferred to Deal in 1930, Ricketts was posted to the Band of the Plymouth Division, Royal Marines, the principal band of the Royal Marines. From 1935 to 1939 Ricketts conducted the Plymouth Band on a one-hour biweekly BBC Radio program, and the band was in constant demand to visit military camps and war production factories throughout the Second World War. The workload at that time put a temporary hiatus to his composing, but he resumed in 1941 with “By Land and Sea” and “Army of the Nile”, and in 1942 with “Eagle Squadron” dedicated to the Americans who were flying with the Royal Air Force. It was to be his final march. Ricketts was confirmed as a full Major on July 4, 1942. Ricketts retired from the Royal Marines on June 1, 1944 because of ill health and died at his home in Reigate, Surrey, on May 15, 1945, after an operation for cancer.

Alford’s marches have been favorably compared to those of Sousa, both having a thorough grounding in classical music, and he has been called “The British March King.” Although he is best known for his marches, he wrote many other pieces –- hymns, fantasias, humoresques, xylophone solos, and duets. He often combined well-known tunes with new compositions or juxtaposed one with another. His championing of the saxophone played its part in getting the instrument accepted in military bands, and he is also credited with the first arrangements for bagpipes with military band. Like Sousa, he had a remarkable memory and tended to conduct without scores. There is some confusion about the march Colonel Bogey and its use in the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai. While Sir Malcolm Arnold did use Colonel Bogey in his score for the film, it was only the first theme and a bit of the second theme of Colonel Bogey, whistled unaccompanied by the British prisoners several times as they marched into the prison camp. Arnold added a counter-march, The River Kwai March which was based on the same chord progression, to support the whistled theme. The two marches were recorded together by Mitch Miller as “March from the River Kwai – Colonel Bogey.” Consequently, the “Colonel Bogey March” is often mis-credited as “River Kwai March.”

My collection contains the following work by Ricketts/Alford:

Colonel Bogey March

—material taken, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Jean Joseph Mouret and his Rondeau

JeanJoseph+Mouret
Jean-Joseph Mouret (April 11, 1682-December 22, 1738) was a French composer born at Avignon whose dramatic works made him one of the leading exponents of Baroque music in his country. Mouret’s father was a prosperous silk merchant of Avignon, an amateur violinist who recognized his son’s precocious musical abilities and provided him with a fine education. Details of this education are unknown, but as a talented youngster, Mouret was encouraged by his father, and musical historians consider it likely that his early training was at the prestigious church of Notre Dame des Doms in Avignon, an important regional church. The elder Mouret generously supported his son’s decision to pursue a musical career. As a youth, Mouret proved himself a talented singer while also earning success for his compositions.

Around the age of twenty-five, Mouret settled in Paris. Mouret’s family’s wealth, charm, and lovely singing voice made him welcome in the best company. By 1707, he was appointed music master for the Marshall of Noailles. News of his arrival did not take long to spread and he was introduced to Anne, Duchess of Maine, whose salon at Sceaux was a center of courtly society in the declining years of Louis XIV. His genial character strongly assisted him in securing the patronage of the Duchess, who made him her Surintendant de la musique at Sceaux about 1708. At Sceaux he produced operas and was in charge of the sixteen bi-weekly Grandes nuits in the season of 1714–1715, for which he produced interimèdes and allegorical cantatas in the court masque tradition, and other music, in the company of the most favored musicians, for the most select audience in France. Mouret thus launched his adult career under highly favorable auspices. In an age when elevated Greek tragedy, pastoral romance, and histories based on figures of antiquity were de rigeur, Mouret was bold enough to introduce comedy into his operas.

His first opéra-ballet Les fêtes, ou Le triomphe de Thalie [“Festivities, or The Triumph of Thalia”] with a libretto by Joseph de La Font was presented at the Opéra on August 19, 1714. Mouret went on to write Le mariage de Ragonde (1714), a true lyric comedy anticipating by 30 years Rameau’s Platée, which is often considered the origin of French musical comedy. Also in 1714 Mouret received an appointment as the director of the orchestra of the Opéra, a post which he held until 1718. Mouret also wrote standard tragedies and heroic ballets, but was notably less successful with them than in his more lighthearted works, which also included a series of divertissements for Paris’ French Theater beginning in 1716; he also wrote motets and cantatas.

From 1717 to 1737 he directed the Nouveau Théâtre Italien du Palais-Royal for which he composed divertissements that accompanied, for example, the tender comedies of Marivaux, and which, printed, fill six volumes. In 1718, he was given a royal privilege to publish music and in 1720 was appointed an ordinaire du Roy, as singer in the King’s chamber. At court Mouret maintained a post as singer, and directed the grand divertissements offered by the Regent, the duc d’Orléans at his château of Villers-Cotterêts on the occasion of Louis XV’s coming-of-age in 1722. Concurrently, he was director of the concert series established by the orchestra of the Opéra, the Concerts Spirituel (1728–1734), positions which provided a public outlet for his own music and which permitted him to live in affluence.

Mouret married and had one daughter. However, after a career marked by vast popularity, he experienced a sudden fall from success, and his later years were overshadowed by financial and social disappointments. The Concert Spirituel had financial and legal problems that affected him personally. Then in 1734, the troubled institution was taken over by the Académie Royale de Musique, which sacked Mouret. In 1736, the Duke of Maine died and Mouret lost his position at Sceaux. In 1737, the Italian Theater had a change of policy that resulted in Mouret losing that job as well. Within four years, he had lost all sources of income and sinking into poverty was essentially maintained as a charity case by the Prince of Carignan, who annually gave him a pension. Broken by all of these career misfortunes, by 1737 he began to go mad. Just after his 50th birthday, he was placed in the care of the Fathers of Charity at Charenton-le-Pont, a charitable asylum run by the Roman Catholic Church, and died in that institution eight months later.

One of the most popular and innovative composers of vocal music in the period between Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) and Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1784),Mouret composed mainly for the stage. He contributed to the emergence of the distinctively French genres of lyric tragedy and opera-ballet but his jealousy of the rising star of Jean-Philippe Rameau led to the bitterness and madness in which he ended his days. Mouret also wrote airs, divertissements, cantatilles, motets, and instrumental works (sonatas, fanfares). Among his other compositions, the two Suites de symphonies (1729) deserve special mention. Even though most of his works are no longer performed, Mouret’s name survives today thanks to the popularity of the Fanfare-Rondeau from his first Suite de symphonies, which has been adopted as the signature tune of the PBS program Masterpiece and is a popular musical choice in many modern weddings. Of his large body of works, only instrumental works (his Suites de symphonies and a handful of trio sonatas) are easily available in modern edition or recordings. His Suites are important in the development of a modern orchestral style in French music.

The following work by Mouret is included in my collection:

First Symphonic Suite of Sinfonies de Fanfares: Rondeau.

—material taken, adapted, and edited from several different sources