Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961)
Percy Grainger was born on 8 July 1882 in Victoria, Australia. His father was the well known architect John H. Grainger, who incidentally designed many outstanding buildings and bridges in Melbourne. His mother Rose championed his talents from a very early age. Grainger wrote Mock Morris
and Colonial Song
at this time before his teenage years.
Grainger showed the signs of a child prodigy and was encouraged first by his mother and following a move to Europe was befriended and mentored by the eminent Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, whose own passion for Norwegian Folk music sparked an interest of English folk music in Grainger that was to fascinate him for most of his life.
In 1914, Grainger moved to America where he remained for the rest of his life. It was during his brief membership of the US Army Bands that he arranged the folk song Country Gardens
, which is one of his most famous and recognised pieces. Even though he became an American Citizen, he always referred to himself as an Australian.
Grainger had a most interesting personal life, one that will not be discussed here. Suffice to say, Grainger lived outside accepted personal behavioral boundaries and his sexual appetites were considered at that time to be "distinctly abnormal”.
Towards the end of his life, Grainger was said to have been the father of the Free Music movement, which included the invention (along with others) of the original electronic synthesiser.
Grainger is also said to have invented the terry towelling tracksuit.
In the 1920’s after the death of his mother Rose, Grainger instigated the idea of the establishment of the Percy Grainger Museum as part of the Melbourne University Campus.
In 1938 the Museum was opened and is the only purpose built Autobiographical Museum in Australia. Grainger funded the building and staffing of this project until his death, when it was taken over by the University and gifting donors.
During his life, Grainger composed well over 1,200 compositions and is one of Australia’s most acclaimed eminent sons. He died in New York in 1961, but his body was returned to Australia and is buried in Adelaide.
In the late 1990’s the Museum collection was briefly housed off site whilst major renovations were necessary. The Museum was reopened in 2010 and is situated within the University of Melbourne Library.
Here’s a delightful recording of Grainger’s Mock Morris, together with some very interesting footage of early Melbourne.
Here’s the Hamlyn Youtube version of Country Gardens