‘A great experience to hear that’: Tri-County Symphonic Band program to be commentated by Percy Grainger Society board member

Mar 12, 2024

MARION — Matthew McGarrell has two answers to the question of his favorite composition by Australian composer Percy Aldridge Grainger.

The first is that McGarrell doesn’t really have a favorite. The second answer is that, actually, his favorite piece from Grainger is a tone poem called “The Power of Rome and the Christian Heart.”

But “everybody’s favorite” by Grainger, known for symphonic band scoring during the 20th century, is “Lincolnshire Posy,” according to McGarrell, an emeritus board member of the Percy Grainger Society.

Also a professor emeritus and former director of bands at Brown University, McGarrell will announce and commentate a Tri-County Symphonic Band program Sunday, March 17 performing the works of Grainger at Tabor Academy.

The band won’t be playing “The Power of Rome and the Christian Heart” — the piece requires an organ, McGarrell said — but it will be playing “Lincolnshire Posy,” which is “one of the most successful band pieces in history,” according to McGarrell.

“It will be a great experience to hear that on Sunday,” McGarrell said.

Much of the work of Grainger — who wrote some of the most challenging, interesting and audience appealing band music of the 20th century, according to McGarrell — is arrangements of folk songs, a “hook” that “enables the listener to plug in right away when they start listening,” he said.

“Even if they don't know exactly which tune is which, they recognize them as folk songs,” McGarrell said. “They recognize them as part of the culture, and so it's appealing that way. It's also appealing for the players because they're challenging pieces to play. They're fun to play. They're very gratifying to hear the sounds that you can make that he arranged.”

As announcer and commentator of the 3 p.m. Sunday Tri-County Symphonic Band program at Tabor Academy, McGarrell said he will introduce the pieces and add some information.

“It's really more a pleasure for me than anything else, just being able to stand there and listen to this wonderful band play this great music,” he said.