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. With it’s majestic, noble and expansive musical gestures, Copland effectively captures the New England landscape and famed regional spirit depicted in the film.
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 New England Countryside, Suite from Our Town and Grovers’ Corners, are the newest additions of Copland’s populist music adapted for saxophone.