For the 1942 concert suite Music for Movies, Copland took selections from three of his film scores, The City, Our Town, and Of Mice and Men, to create a five movement suite for small orchestra. Each movement bears a title linking it with the action of the movie. It begins with the evocative and colorful New England Countryside, which is the first scene from the famed 1939 documentary, The City.
The fourth movement, The Story of Grover’s Corners, is an excerpt from the 1940 film score Our Town. Steeped in the Americana sound and spirit that he created in the mid 1930s, Copland’s score is a gentle, dignified and solemn work as befits the play’s small-town New Hampshire setting. With its sense of calm and nostalgic evocation of New England hymn tunes, The Story of Grover’s Corners depicts the quiet yet noble vignettes of daily life in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire at the dawn of the 20th century.
Copland pioneered a distinctive American sound and spirit, creating music that evoked the diversity of America and the American people. The saxophone played a role in his populist music, as he scored for the saxophone in Saga of the Prairies (1937), The Second Hurricane (1937), The City (1939), Quiet City (original version, 1939), and An Outdoor Overture (band version, 1941). Copland’s other works that use the saxophone include his Symphony #1 (1927), Piano Concerto (1926), and for wind ensemble, Red Pony Suite (1966), Shaker Variations (1956), and Emblems (1964).
Later in his life Copland expressed renewed enthusiasm for the saxophone. I was told that the New York Saxophone Quartet, on invitation from the composer, once spent an informal afternoon playing their version of Four Piano Blues to a supportive and delighted Copland. That enthusiasm has been sustained by Copland’s estate and Boosey & Hawkes, Copland’s publisher, who requested my adaptation of Four Piano Blues for saxophone quartet (also published) as well my quartet arrangements of Our Town and Simple Gifts.
My arrangements for saxophone choir of Grovers’ Corners, New England Countryside and Suite from Our Town, are the newest additions of Copland’s populist music adapted for saxophone.