Molly on the Shore

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Molly on the Shore is a composition of Percy Aldridge Grainger. It is an arrangement of two contrasting Irish reels, "Temple Hill" and "Molly on the Shore" that present the melodies in a variety of textures and orchestrations, giving each section of the band long stretches of thematic and countermelodic material.[1]

\new Score {
  \new Staff {
    \relative c'' {
      \clef treble
      \key g \major
      \time 4/4

      \partial 16*2 b16 a |
      g8 e d b' c a b a |
      \times 2/3 { g8( a g) } b8 g a g e fis |
      g8 e d b' c a b a |
      \times 2/3 { g8( a g) } b8 g a4 g8

"Molly on the Shore" was written in 1907 by Grainger as a birthday gift for his mother.

Originally composed for string quartet or string orchestra, this piece was arranged in 1920 for wind band by the composer, as well as for orchestra.[1] Fritz Kreisler set it for violin and piano, but Grainger was thoroughly unimpressed, saying that

[It] was a thousand times worse than I had fore-weened ((expected)), & I had not fore-weened anything good.

In a letter to Frederick Fennell (who would later go on to create the definitive full score edition of Grainger's Lincolnshire Posy), Grainger says that

"in setting Molly on the Shore, I strove to imbue the accompanying parts that made up the harmonic texture with a melodic character not too unlike that of the underlying reel tune. Melody seems to me to provide music with initiative, wheras {sic} rhythm appears to me to exert an enslaving influence. For that reason I have tried to avoid regular rhythmic domination in my music - always excepting irregular rhythms, such as those of Gregorian Chant, which seem to me to make for freedom. Equally with melody, I prize discordant harmony, because of the emotional and compassionate sway it exerts".[1]

"Molly on the Shore" mostly features the woodwind section of the band, especially the clarinets and saxophones. The opening 1st clarinet solo is a common audition excerpt in the key of B flat major for clarinet, or concert F major for C Flute or Bassoon.


  1. ^ a b c CD liner notes, Composer's Collection - Percy Aldridge Grainger. North Texas Wind Symphony.