Lincolnshire Posy is a piece by Percy Grainger for concert band composed in 1937 for the American Bandmasters Association. Considered Grainger's masterpiece, the 16-minute-long work is composed of six movements, each adapted from folk songs that Grainger had collected on a 1905–1906 trip to Lincolnshire, England. The work debuted with three of the movements on March 7, 1937 by the Milwaukee Symphonic Band, a group composed of members from several bands including the Blatz Brewery and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer factory worker bands in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Unlike other composers that attempted to alter and modernize folk music for band, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Grainger wished to maintain the exact sense of stylizing that he experienced from the singers. Grainger wrote: "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 arabesque delivery, his contrasts of legato and staccato, his tendency towards breadth or delicacy of tone."
Grainger dedicated his "bunch of Wildflowers" to "the old folksingers who sang so sweetly to me."
The piece is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn (ad libitum), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon (ad lib), E-flat clarinet, 3 B-flat clarinets, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, 6 saxophones (soprano, 2 altos, tenor, baritone and bass (ad lib)), 3 cornets or trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, baritone horn, euphonium, tuba, string bass, timpani, xylophone, glockenspiel, handbells, tubular bells (ad lib), snare drum, bass drum and cymbals.
Originally entitled "Dublin Bay", the first movement of Lincolnshire Posy is the shortest—a brisk, simple, lilted melody in 6/8 time. The main theme of the movement is presented first in the muted trumpets and bassoon, and is set against a war-like motif in the horns. Like the fourth movement, this movement ends in a serene, suspended pianissimo that contrasts the general tone of the movement as a whole. It is in strophic form.
II. "Horkstow Grange"
The second movement presents a slow, legato, repeating, re-harmonizing motif. Shifting mostly between 4/4 and 5/4 time, the song features a trumpet solo. A soprano saxophone may be substituted for the trumpet solo. This is the most well-known movement of the piece, and is considered by many in the concert band world to be one of (if not THE) most well-written, best orchestrated, and most beautiful pieces in the repertoire.
III. "Rufford Park Poachers"
Known as the most technically difficult setting, "Rufford Park Poachers" opens presenting an asymmetrical melody between B-flat clarinet and piccolo followed two eighth notes later by E-flat clarinet and bass clarinet. In the other version, the melody originates in the piccolo and alto clarinet and is followed in the oboe and bassoon.
This movement is noted for being extremely difficult to count among the counterpoint, unusual rhythms and odd time signatures that shift rapidly. Grainger wrote two versions: one with a flugelhorn as soloist and one with a soprano saxophone as soloist. It is noted that Grainger preferred the version with the soprano saxophone, but only if the saxophone player was able to play the solo with much expression and definition. Most recordings utilize the soprano saxophone version to stay true to the composer's wishes.
At the time of the work's premiere, this movement was not performed because the professional wind band Grainger had chosen was unable to play the movement.
IV. "The Brisk Young Sailor"
A simple, short, jaunty tune meant to evoke the image of a strapping young lad striding up the road to meet his sweetheart. It is in the key of B-flat major. It begins with a clarinet choir playing the simple melody. The melody is then expanded upon by the entire band in several difficult ways. One notable occurrence of this is when a solo baritone horn is given the melody while the first clarinets, E-flat clarinet, flutes and piccolos play an incredibly fast sextuplet pattern and arpeggios before it resolves into a fugue-like reiteration of the melody through a solo soprano saxophone and oboe.
This movement is considered one of the most difficult movements of the piece because of its speed and need for accuracy.
V. "Lord Melbourne"
A fierce and heavy war song, originally titled 'The Duke of Marlboro' that opens in free time, where the conductor motions for every beat in the first section (this portion tends to be memorized) and then moves into a trumpet solo followed by a heavy, repeating motif. This movement slides rapidly into different time signatures including unusual times such as "2.5/4" and "1.5/4" as well as having sections of "free time".
Many of the band members' range abilities are also tested in this movement, as the clarinets are forced to hit a high G, the flutes have to hit a high B, and on the final chord the top trumpet must hit a high C♯.
At the time of the work's premier, this movement was not performed because the professional wind band Grainger had chosen was unable to play the movement.
VI. "The Lost Lady Found"
A quick, jumpy, straight 3/4 melody with usual accompaniment patterns that is often conducted "in 1" rather than "in 3". This setting features a constantly repeating motif interrupted by one "bridge" section. Almost every section is featured with the melody in this fast paced finale.
University of North Texas College of Music Wind Symphony
- Lincolnshire Posy