Percy Grainger

Shepherd's Hey!, folk song for orchestra (BFMS 16)

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    Shepherd's Hey is one of the best known and most often performed of the early folk song "settings" -- arrangements or compositions -- with which Grainger was preoccupied between the turn of the century and the beginning of World War I as he pursued dual careers as concert pianist and composer in London. Though he was a meticulous and indefatigable collector of folk song in the field, not only in England but in Denmark and Norway as well -- during the same years, incidentally, that Bartók and Kodály were scouring the Transylvanian wilds for folk melody -- the tune of Shepherd's Hey had already been collected by Cecil Sharp, dean of the English folk song movement, which Grainger graciously acknowledges, though he had, himself, also heard it "From the playing of the fiddler of the Bidford Morris Dancers (1906)." There is, indeed, a bracing open-air freshness to Grainger's arrangement suggesting the spontaneity of players on the green, though by using four variants as the tune percolates through the instrumental registers (with directions such as "merrily," "chippy," "Bumpingly," or "The top notes as piercing as possible") and emphasizing secondary voices, Grainger works the melody with the abundant yet cunningly unobtrusive resources of the composer's art as he articulates it with the savvy of the born pianist, evident in wide stretches, glissandi, and calls for touch ranging from crackling to caressing. Grainger's chatty note preceding the piano score preserves the memory of a time already vanishing -- "Morris Dances are still danced by teams of 'Morris Men' decked out with bells and quaint ornaments to the music of the fiddle or 'the pipe and tabor' (a sort of drum and fife) in several agricultural districts in England...The word 'Hey' denotes a particular figure [i.e., step] in Morris Dancing." As was his practice, Grainger worked sporadically at the piano solo and full orchestra versions of Shepherd's Hey between 1908 and 1913, though a "Room-music" (Grainger's term for chamber music) version for flute, clarinet, horn, concertina, and eight strings was ready by 1909. An arrangement for band was completed in 1918, while a simplified version for piano appeared in 1937, and a final go for two pianos, four hands, was wrapped up in 1947. Perhaps because of the frequent, written-in holding back and quickening, Grainger notes, "This setting is not suitable to dance Morris Dances to." Shepherd's Hey is "Lovingly and reverently dedicated to the memory of Edvard Grieg" -- Grainger's friend and mentor -- who had died in 1907.

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2019
    Sony Classical
    19075944692
    2019
    Chandos
    ANNI 0040
    2018
    Naxos
    8578348
    2017
    ABC Classics
    2015
    Gothic Records
    G 49294
    2014
    Fanfare Cincinnati
    FC 004
    2013
    Decca / Mercury
    4785092
    2012
    Various Artists
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099932735
    2012
    Various Artists
    Regis / Regis Records
    RRC 1381
    2011
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099991762
    2011
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099908879
    2011
    ABC Classics
    4764196
    2011
    Decca
    2011
    Move
    MD 3222
    2010
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099964850
    2009
    ABC Classics
    271780
    2009
    REL
    RECD 566
    2009
    Chandos
    30
    2008
    Various Artists
    Lyrita
    336
    2006
    Chandos
    CHAN2029
    2006
    Chandos
    24135
    2005
    Mercury
    4756851
    2005
    Cala Records
    542
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    75480
    2001
    Naxos
    8-555812
    2001
    Naxos
    8-560050
    2000
    Dutton Laboratories
    1006
    2000
    Naxos
    554263
    1999
    Various Artists
    Angel Records
    66227
    1998
    Chandos
    9584
    1996
    Chandos
    9493
    1995
    Various Artists
    EMI Music Distribution
    67603
    1993
    Mercury
    434330
    1993
    Various Artists
    Classics for Pleasure / EMI Music Distribution
    CDCFP-4611
    EMI Music Distribution
    62529
    EMI Music Distribution
    4633
    Various Artists
    EMI Music Distribution
    67603
    Decca
    4763598
    HMV Classics
    568484