Donald Grantham, in his brilliant Southern Harmony , bestows a similarly innovative and ingenious treatment to American folk-based material. The work consists of settings of four tunes taken from the shaped-noted songbook Southern Harmony and Musical Companion , compiled in 1835 by William Walker. Like Grainger before him, Grantham arranges the material with bold, exotic harmonies, innovative melodic and rhythmic treatments, novel instrumental effects (the chorus of hand clappers in the third movement is especially delightful), and vividly colorful orchestrations. The highlight of the work (and this disc) is the second movement, an absolutely heart-wrenching setting (and performance) of...
"We Remember Them," a tender memorial work by Austin composer Donald Grantham, one which was inspired by the victims of Charles Whitman's shooting spree but that seems to take in its all-embracing arms lost souls from the Holocaust through September 11 and beyond
High spirits continue in J'ai été au bal (1999), an homage to dance music indigenous to Louisiana by . . . Donald Grantham. Cajun tunes begin and end the work, and the middle section swings in New Orleans style . . . with impressive solos from tuba, trombone, string bass, trumpet, and percussion.
Grantham works are rarely without a sense of humor. His music is jazz-influenced, strongly tonal, elegant, and well constructed. “Starry Crown” was written in 2007 to commemorate the retirement of John Whitwell as director of bands at Michigan State University. It is based on three gospel melodies, “Some of These Days,” “Oh Rocks,” “Don’t Fall on Me,” and “When I Went Down to the Valley.”
The outer sections exhibit great energy, and the five percussion parts, timpani, and piano/celeste have a great many notes to play. Indeed, the percussion writing (often written for a “trap set”) affect the style of a great deal of the work.
This is a long work by a composer...
. . . his Louisiana-inspired J'ai été au bal (I went to the dance), with its artful use of Cajun tunes, is an ear-pricking, toe-tapping delight. The music’s panoply of colours and rhythms is superbly caught; . . .
The best work though is Donald Grantham’s La canción desesperada, a 2005 work revised here from probably the best-known of the composers represented. The piece grips from first to last, with a continuity and expressiveness fully suited to the choral medium. Grantham’s mastery of the art is evident from bar one, full of color and shading while featuring a melodic locus, a significant addition to the choral repertory.
The evening opened with the world premiere of Hymn to the Earth, by local composer Donald Grantham, who was commissioned by Conspirare to turn Homer's poem into song. For a work with so supplicating a lyric, Grantham's Hymn often sounded dark, at times even threatening, with flashes of humor and an occasional folk music highlight. The final passage, sung by soloist Stefanie Moore, turned the forceful choral work into something soothing and lovely, with Grantham achieving a striking contrast between the fearful and the serene in his work.
I’ve previously had occasion in these pages to sing the praises of Donald Grantham (b. 1947) as one of America’s finest living composers of concert band music, with compositions that are unfailingly tuneful, ingratiating, inventive, and colorful. J’ai été au bal (I Was at the Ball) is no exception, being a witty romp through the brass band music of New Orleans that employs two Cajun folk tunes, “Allons danser, Colinda” (Let’s go dancing, Colinda) and “Les flames d’enfer” (The flames of hell).
Up first: Grantham's Southern Harmony, an orchestral take on traditional songs of the region that started with "The Midnight Cry" – breathing woodwinds, a clock chiming, and a steady build of sound and energy. The rolling cellos of "Wondrous Love" offered a calmer, more intimate second movement. The third, a delightful arrangement of "Exhilaration" saw a trio of violinists on their feet, more fiddlers than classical musicians, while the rest of the orchestra kept time with syncopated hand-claps – a barn dance atmosphere of joy and youth that evoked spontaneous applause from the audience. The final movement, "The Soldier's Return," depicted in sound feelings of warmth...
(The concert) began with Grantham’s “Fantasy on Mr. Hyde's Song”, a seven-minute piece of engaging materials in which Robert Louis Stevenson's nefarious character is treated to a range of dazzling orchestral coloration and dramatic incident. Grantham… creates atmospheres with a witty, vivid hand, employing rhythmic devices that convey the diabolical doings with a winning, even jazzy smirk. The work is marked"cheerfully vulgar, but also sinister" which…the orchestra followed gleefully, finding the ominous depths in . . . the drug-Induced personality of Mr. Hyde in infectious or chatter.
New York Times
Then came an abrupt about-face, a loose, sensuous spin across the dance floor via Baron Cimetière's Mambo. Conducted playfully by Robert Carnochan, this new work by Austin's Donald Grantham whirled us into a splashy world of reckless abandon, the frisky brass in the lead, flirtatiously bouncing hither and yon. Austin Chronicle
The British folk-song settings of Percy Grainger are held in particularly high esteem in the wind band repertoire, and deservedly so. Donald Grantham, in his brilliant Southern Harmony , bestows a similarly innovative and ingenious treatment to American folk-based material. The work consists of settings of four tunes taken from the shaped-noted songbook Southern Harmony and Musical Companion , compiled in 1835 by William Walker. Like Grainger before him, Grantham arranges the material with bold, exotic harmonies, innovative melodic and rhythmic treatments, novel instrumental effects (the chorus of hand clappers in the third movement is especially delightful), and vividly...