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Percy Grainger America

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  • 08/13/2018 7:32 PM | Anonymous

    Percy’s wheelbarrow is in the basement. Percy fashioned it himself to carry his music and instrument-laden trunks back and forth to the White Plains Trains Station. His concerts kept him coming and going at such odd hours that the White Plains station master eventually streamlined service by delivering a key to his very own storage closet where the wheelbarrow could stay until pressed back into service. Ray, whose family has owned the local Scarlet Deli for decades, remembers Percy running down the street with the wheelbarrow, which Ray termed a “rickshaw.” “Wiry little guy, polite, odd voice,” Ray, now well in his 70’s, remembers Percy, his customer and neighborhood eccentric.

    Although frequent, not all of Percy’s trips were pleasant. On the train returning to White Plains from Los Angles in the days after his mother’s death, Percy wrote a shaky, stream-of-consciousness letter to Balfour Gardiner, his friend and fellow student from the Hoch Conservatory. His wandering May 3, 1922 communique lists 33 items to be done “in case of a breakdown of my forces en route.” The letter instructs Gardiner to publish the “manuscripts, music, etc.” to be found “strewn around in the music room on pianos, in drawers and in the loft (attic) at White Plains.” The letter further notes “Could plot of ground (owned by me) next to White Plains home be used for building small fireproof Grainger Museum?”

    During the next decade, Percy would build such a museum in Melbourne, Australia. It would house the items Percy deemed important enough to classify, note, and send off to his homeland. Seven Cromwell Place would hold the things of his daily life, the things he describes as “strewn around.” It still does.

    Luckily, for those of us who provide tours, most visitors arrive with the idea of “a residence” well understood, they are not expecting Musée du Louvre. Although Percy has been gone nearly sixty years (and his wife, Ella, nearly forty) it is not a great stretch for visitors to imagine his life within these walls. Many who come, indeed most, are musicians. Take the case of pianist and recent visitor Jacob Rhodebeck, of Hastings-on-Hudson, who arrived together with his wife, mezzo-soprano Christine Free Rhodebeck and their little daughter, Vivienne, in tow.

    “Of course, I know Percy Grainger’s music, especially Gum Sucker’s March and Spoon River from my college days” noted Jacob, “it’s just that, until I saw the house on Trip Advisor, I had no idea he ever lived in White Plains.” Jacob reported that he was fascinated by Percy’s quirky homestead, with its three pianos filling the music room. The music room also holds a random boomerang beside a cherished 1906 postcard from Edvard Grieg. Both of these items sit directly under a lamp with the type of silk shade favored by his mother, Rose. Percy’s chin up bar is tied irreverently to the formal colonnade’s marking the entrance to the living room. The Rhodebeck family was impressed, it was clear that Percy lived, worked, and slept, here.

    During their visit, Jacob spent a few moments playing the Steinway (serial number 88,422 places its manufacture circa 1897) while Vivienne danced. This piano, which Percy was reputed to cherish for its “singing quality” Is always a point of fascination. Another recent visitor, Duncan Applby found playing the piano a highlight, as noted in his google review.

    So, here we are in White Plains, replicating Percy’s life and environs as authentically as possible, hoping to help visitors experience his home in a way that taps their senses and emotions. We grapple with how to make this more meaningful, more purposeful, visit by visit, visitor by visitor.

  • 05/13/2018 9:35 AM | Anonymous

    "To learn piano, study the Cyril Scott Sonata No.1," said Percy Grainger to the young piano student, who, after dutifully acquiring the sheet music, was completely mystified by Grainger's odd advice.  

    This incident and many more were shared by Grainger enthusiast Dana Perna on a recent Sunday afternoon at 7 Cromwell Place.  Grainger was acquainted with practically anyone who was anyone in the music world during his early 20th century career. His colleagues included Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar, Richard Strauss, Claude Debussy, and Frederick Delius. Dana mentions them all, along with many others, during this engaging lecture. 

    Watch the video here.
  • 05/07/2018 6:23 AM | Anonymous

    In the early 20th century,  Percy Grainger wrote a virtuoso concert work entitled In Dahomey (Cakewalk Smasher), in which he blended tunes from Will Marion Cook's Broadway show and Arthur Pryor's popular song. Grainger may have seen Cook's In Dahomey on stage in London in 1903 and he started composing his work that year, completing the score about 1909.

    In this tribute to contemporary African-American music, the clash of the two tunes created what Grainger Society President Barry Ould has termed "a page of almost Iversian dissonance." After consulting with Barry, Petty Officer David Miller arranged In Dahomey and shared the final production with the Grainger world.  

    Here is a conversation about how it happened.



  • 05/02/2018 8:25 PM | Anonymous

    Watch the video here. 

    Long-time Grainger aficionado Mark Grant explains some of the piano techniques that Percy Grainger found particularly useful to develop his own style and maximize the use of the instrument.  For example, Grainger used large, extravagant chords, which he termed "harping chords" repeatedly and became a master of the sostenuto pedal (the middle piano petal) to translate the sounds of an orchestra into the piano.  

    Mark compares Grainger's playing to other pianists of his day and beyond.  His talk allows Grainger's techniques to come alive for the audience with examples, illustrations and explanations along the way. 

  • 03/14/2018 7:41 PM | Anonymous

    Click here to listen. 

    The British Library has made available about 350 English folk songs recorded by Percy Grainger in different regions of England between 1906 and 1909. 

    The sound recordings have been cataloged and indexed by librarian, researcher and folklorist Steve Roud, author of Folk Song in England (Faber & Faber, 2017). Roud has also matched them up with Grainger's transcriptions of the songs, where these exist, on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website, thanks to their digitization of the Percy Grainger Manuscript Collection. 

    Links have also been included on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website to corresponding sound recordings featured on British Library Sounds. Listeners are able to hear the songs while following Grainger’s unique transcriptions of recordings by singers.  Examples include folksingers: Joseph Taylor, Joseph Leaning, George Gouldthorpe, Charles Rosher, William Fishlock, Tom Roberts, Dean Robinson, and many more. 

    All recordings have been cataloged to include Roud numbers (this number refers to songs listed in the online databases Folk Song Index and Broadside Index), Grainger’s Melody numbers, and the numerical references to the discs and wax cylinders these sound recordings existed on previously. 



  • 01/14/2018 9:17 PM | Anonymous

    Listen here. 

    While he grew to hate performing Country Gardens, it is most certainly the song most identified with Grainger.  His 1919 performance is recorded on a piano roll for all to enjoy. 


  • 09/21/2017 8:39 PM | Anonymous

    Mark N. Grant and Susan Edwards Colson, IPGS Board Members, discuss the Percy Grainger Home, 7 Cromwell Place, with Marie Silverman Marich, from White Plains Beautification Foundation.  Marie's broadcast, This Blooming City, uses Percy Grainger's composition, Country Gardens, as its theme song.

    (Click on the image to hear the interview.)

     



  • 08/19/2017 9:09 AM | Anonymous

    Percy talks about collecting folk songs, plays, and talks about meeting Edvard Grieg. Interesting. 



  • 05/30/2017 9:16 AM | Anonymous

    At the end of our evening on May 12, there was a wonderful discussion let by Robert Sherman.  Here is part of it:


  • 05/26/2017 9:29 PM | Anonymous

    By the late 1970's visitors to 7 Cromwell Place were a routine event.  Someone finally decided in October 1977 that it would be a good idea to keep a record.  The Guest Book was acquired and took its place on a desk in the corner of the dining room. 

    The Guest Book's pages hold quite a story. The very first signature is Burnett Cross.  He's the fella who worked on the free music machines with Percy during the 1940's into the 50's.  It is fitting that he has the honor of starting off.

    About midway down the second page is Barry Ould's signature. His visit is dated May 1, 1978, Ella Grainger's birthday.  Barry, the current president of the International Percy Grainger Society, was lucky to arrive just then and spend some time with Ella.  Ella passed away a little over a year later in July 1979 at 90.  Barry keeps visiting White Plains each year and tending the collection. Percy Grainger's works are still a major focus of Barry's music publishing company, Bardic Editions

    Two lines down from Barry, British Composer Ronald Stevenson signed in beautifully crafted script. He must have come to celebrate Ella's birthday, since his signature is dated May 1st also.

    It's interesting to see who has visited 7 Cromwell Place over the years.  Many musicians, often along with their families and friends, and a band director or two. Several years ago, the IPGS board was holding its annual meeting when there was a knock at the door.  It was the band director from Ohio State University, who happened to be passing by.  He decided to knock and had the good fortune of catching the board mid-meeting.  Rolf Stang, Ella's longtime friend, dutifully left the meeting and led a tour.

     




    Visitors at the May 12, 2017
    Historic Landmark Dedication sign and examine the Guest Book.
     (Lower right
    )
         


    Last year, the entire band, two buses full of high students, from Fargo North High School,  Fargo, North Dakota, stopped by.  With over eighty students, the house was overflowing, but each seems to have a great time looking over Percy's scores and programs.  Each one, along with their chaperones, signed the Guest Book. 

    The Guest Book is nearly filled now, ready to be filed away.  It will take its place in among the many treasures that make up 7 Cromwell Place.

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"My art sets out to celebrate the beauty of bravery."        

                                       -Percy Grainger

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