program notes by composition > C > Colonial Song

Colonial Song

Percy Aldridge Grainger

Colonial Song was written by Percy Grainger between 1905 and 1913. The melodies are original, not based on folk songs. The song was dedicated to Grainger’s dear mother, Rose. He intended to express feelings aroused by thoughts of the scenery and people of his native Australia, and to convey emotion typical of native-born Colonials.

Grainger considered that people living lonelily in vast virgin countries and struggling against natural hardships appreciate patiently yearning, inactive sentimental wistfulness like that expressed in much American art of the time. He attempted “to write a melody as typical of the Australian countryside as Stephen Foster's exquisite songs are typical of rural America." He noted Australians’ curious, almost Italian-like musical tendencies in brass band performances and ways of singing, such as a preference for richness and intensity of tone and soulful breadth of phrasing over more subtly and sensitively varied delicacies of expression.

Percy Grainger (1882–1961) was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist. He began his career in London as a society pianist and concert performer. He served briefly as a bandsman in the US Army and took US citizenship in 1918. An early experimenter with music machines and recording, he is remembered as a composer and collector of original English and other folk melodies. He eschewed Italian, the customary language of music, in favor of what he called “blue-eyed English.”