Lincolnshire Posy is a piece by Percy Grainger for concert band composed in 1937 for the American Bandmasters Association. Considered by John Bird, author of Grainger's biography, to be his 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 who 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, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, E-flat clarinet, 3 B-flat clarinets (at least 2 per part), alto clarinet, bass clarinet, 6 saxophones (soprano, 2 altos, tenor, baritone and bass), 3 trumpets, 4 horns, 2 trombones, bass trombone, euphonium, baritone, tuba, string bass, timpani, xylophone, glockenspiel, handbells, tubular bells, 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, 1st horn, and bassoon, and is set against a war-like motif in the horns and baritone. 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 cornet solo. A soprano saxophone may be substituted for the cornet 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 the best-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 a second version that Grainger wrote, 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 unconventional ones such as 5
8 and 3
8, as well as having sections of free time.
Many of the band members’ range abilities are also tested in this movement, as the clarinets play a high G, the flutes play a high B, and on the final chord the top trumpet plays a high C♯.
Like the third movement, this movement is considered so difficult that it could not be performed at the work’s premiere by the professional wind band that Grainger had chosen.
VI. “The Lost Lady Found”
A quick, jumpy, straight 3
4 melody with usual accompaniment patterns. It is often conducted “in 1” rather than “in 3”. This setting features a constantly repeating motif interrupted by one “bridge” section. Almost every section of the band is featured with the melody in this fast-paced finale.
- Hansen, Richard K. (2005). The American wind band: a cultural history. GIA Publications. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-57999-467-9.
- Smith, Norman E.; Stoutamire, Albert (1979). Band music notes. Kjos West. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-8497-5401-2.
- Bird, John (1999). Percy Grainger. Oxford University Press. p. 127. ISBN 0-19-816652-4.
- Full score edition by Frederick Fennell, Ludwig Music Publishing Co., Inc., 1987.
- Roberts, John; Barrand, Tony. "Lincolnshire Folksongs collected by Percy Grainger". Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- "Percy Grainger's collection of ethnographic wax cylinders". British Library. 20 February 2018. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
- "Percy Grainger ethnographic wax cylinders - World and traditional music". British Library. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
University of North Texas College of Music Wind Symphony
- Lincolnshire Posy