Percy Grainger’s Shepherd’s Hey is an iconic work in the Grainger oeuvre, along with "Irish Tune from County Derry," "Handel in the Strand," "Molly on the Shore," and "Country Gardens," establishing Grainger as perhaps the greatest “setter” of British folk song.
Genre: Percussion Ensemble | # of Players: 14
Level: 4 | Duration: 3:00
Marimba 1 Hi and Lo
Marimba 2 Hi and Lo
Marimba 3 Hi and Lo
Marimba 4 Hi and Lo
Marimba 5 Hi and Lo
Percy Grainger’s Shepherd’s Hey is an iconic work in the Grainger oeuvre, along with Irish Tune from County Derry, Handel in the Strand, Molly on the Shore, and Country Gardens, establishing Grainger as perhaps the greatest “setter” of British folk song. It was as pianist in the New York Symphony Orchestra performance of Shepherd’s Hey that Grainger made his New York debut in 1914. Characteristically, Grainger re-set the number for a variety of ensembles, mostly between 1908-1913. His earliest setting for 11 instruments included the English baritone concertina, flute, clarinet, 8 strings and horn. His arrangements for band and orchestra date from this period as well. In 1922 Grainger set Shepherd’s Hey for solo piano, and in 1947 for 2 pianos, 4 hands (a medium of which he was a master).
The Grainger scholar and pianist Joseph Smith said, “Grainger’s Shepherd’s Hey is a tricky, ingenious setting of an English Morris dance tune, The Keel Row. Percy adds stylistically authentic contrapuntal (he would have said ‘many-stranded’) lines derived from the melody itself. Percy commented of such early pieces as Shepherd’s Hey that ‘where other composers would have been jolly setting such dance tunes I have been sad or furious. My dance settings are energetic rather than gay.’”
Using Smith’s observations, the attentive conductor will search out, and bring forward, secondary lines, and will establish and maintain an attitude of fierceness among the musicians, a quality Grainger appreciated as much as any in the performance of his works. A clangorous approach to the “all fall down” at the end would be especially appropriate.
Our setting calls for a large mallet ensemble (Grainger called it “tuneful percussion”), with 10 marimbists sharing 5 instruments, 2 vibraphones, xylophone and glockenspiel. Grainger was a “perpendicularist” - where the horizontal and vertical writing is equally important. Choose mallets soft enough to bring out the sonorities of the chord progressions, while also firm enough to render the articulations clearly. Oh, and be sure to have fun!