Grand Canyon Suite

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The Grand Canyon Suite is a suite for orchestra by Ferde Grofé, composed between 1929 and 1931. It was initially titled "Five Pictures of the Grand Canyon".

It consists of five movements, each an evocation in tone of a particular scene typical of the Grand Canyon. Paul Whiteman and his orchestra gave the first public performance of the work, in concert at the Studebaker Theatre in Chicago on November 22, 1931.


The movements of the suite are:

  • I. Sunrise
  • II. Painted Desert
  • III. On the Trail
  • IV. Sunset
  • V. Cloudburst

In the conductor's score, the coda to the Cloudburst movement is notated as a separate movement: VI. Distant Thunder with Crickets Chirping.[citation needed]


The Grand Canyon Suite is featured in the Grand Canyon Diorama on the Disneyland Railroad.

Grand Canyon is a 1958 short Walt Disney film in CinemaScope format directed by James Algar. It features color film footage of the Grand Canyon accompanied by the Grand Canyon Suite, though the order of the movements has been somewhat altered. In the manner of Fantasia, there is no story and no dialogue. The film won an Academy Award in 1959 for Best Short Subject.

The third movement of the suite also features in the 1983 film A Christmas Story.

"On the Trail" was used for many years as the "musical signature" for radio (and later television) programs sponsored by Philip Morris cigarettes (beginning with their 1933 radio program featuring Ferde Grofe and his orchestra). Frankie Laine recorded "On the Trail" on his "Call of the Wild" album, orchestra conducted by John Williams. The lyrics were written by Harold Adamson. Jon Hendricks wrote lyrics for "On the Trail" and the song was recorded for Hendricks' album To Tell the Truth (1975).

Don Everly based "Cathy's Clown" on portions of the Grand Canyon Suite.

"Sunrise" and "On the Trail" were used in The Simpsons episode "Fland Canyon".


Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra recorded the movements of the suite in three studio sessions on April 26, April 27, and April 28, 1932 in Camden, New Jersey for Victor. The suite was released on eight 78 singles on Victor Records in 1932 as 36052, 36053, 36054, 36055, 36056, 36057, 36058, and 36059.[1] The movements recorded were "Sunrise", "Painted Desert", "Along the Trail", "Sunset", and "Cloudburst".[2]

Partial discography[edit]

In 1945, Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony recorded a version of the work for RCA Victor; this recording was among the first LPs released by RCA Victor (LM-1004), in 1950.

The Paul Whiteman Orchestra's 'Original artist' recording is available on the CD Gershwin & Grofé.

In 1950, Grofé himself conducted the Capitol Symphony Orchestra, issued on Capitol Records, first as a 10" LP (L-270) and as a 12" LP combined with his Death Valley Suite as P-272. He later conducted a 1960 re-recording Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in stereo of the music, released on LP by Everest Records.

A surround sound recording of the full orchestral version is available on the Audio-DVD American Classics – Grofé: Grand Canyon Suite.

There is a CD of 3 of Grofé's suites (Mississippi, Grand Canyon, and Niagara Falls) performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

An SA-CD by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein titled Bernstein Gershwin etc. includes The Grand Canyon Suite. Bernstein's recording, made in 1963,[3] has been released in several editions previously, including the Royal Edition series.

In 1982, Japanese electronic musician Isao Tomita recorded an electronic version on his Grand Canyon album.

Columbia Masterworks released a 1957 recording of the Grand Canyon Suite performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy. Catalog Number ML 5286 (mono) and MS 6003 (stereo). Library of Congress catalog card R58-1077 The cover of the vinyl release was used for a CD reissue containing a recording by Andre Kostelanetz. The Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy re-recorded the Suite in 1967 on the same label and issued as M 30446.

A recording of the suite coupled with Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture, and played by Antal Dorati and the Detroit Symphony is on Decca.

Oscar Peterson recorded a swing version with his trio on the album Great Connection.

Steven Richman conducted the Harmonie Ensemble/New York in the complete original Paul Whiteman Orchestra version of Grand Canyon Suite, coupled with the original Mississippi Suite on Bridge Records in 2006, entitled Symphonic Jazz: Grofe and Gershwin.

Disneyland Records released an abridged recording of the Suite, played by Symphonie-Orchester Graunke, and conducted by Frederick Stark. This recording is actually the soundtrack of the Disney 1958 live-action short subject Grand Canyon. This version has not been released on CD, but the short film is included as an extra on the DVD release of Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

In popular music[edit]

Jazz pianist Wynton Kelly recorded a version of the third movement "On the Trail" on his 1964 album It's All Right!.

Jazz organist Shirley Scott also recorded "On the Trail" on her 1967 album Girl Talk.

In 1958 "101" Strings recorded and released an LP of "The Grand Canyon Suite" on Somerset/Stereo Fidelity Records (SF-7900-A[B])

Jazz bassist Richard Davis also recorded "On the Trail" on his 1967 album Way Out West.

Grand Canyon Suite on the album Refugee by the band Refugee has no resemblance to the suite by Ferde Grofé.


External links[edit]