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The Wizard from Oz

DAVID ARDITTI attends a celebration
for the fiftieth anniversary
of the death of Percy Grainger


Like many people, I suspect, I think of Percy Grainger as a turn-of-the-twentieth-century figure, principally associated with the English folksong revival, Cecil Sharp, Vaughan Williams, and all that. It comes as a surprise, therefore, to see that we have only reached the fiftieth anniversary of his death. For Grainger was actually only a precocious eighteen-year old in 1900, rather younger than Vaughan Williams and Holst, and he lived, just about, into the ages of electronic music and the avant garde, which in many respects he had anticipated and pre-figured.

The celebration of Grainger's music under the (slightly corny?) title of The Musical Wizard from Oz that took place in St John's, Smith Square, London, on 20 February 2011, organised and conducted by my friend John Holland, with help from the Percy Grainger Society, was a joyous, ridiculous, unwieldy affair which would have delighted the composer. Eleven of Grainger's works, spanning the whole of his long career, plus three Grainger-inspired contemporary pieces, were presented by a large group of players and singers specially assembled for the occasion, from whom was extracted, for the various pieces, a varying ensemble ranging from full orchestra and choir, to wind band, saxophone choir, brass band, string orchestra, and 'room music' (as Grainger had it) ensemble...

Copyright © 5 March 2011 David Arditti,
London UK






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