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SSAAATTBBs with optional spnino/sop and contrabass parts

Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

Programme Note

Aaron Copland composed the music for the movie adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town in 1940. Steeped in the Americana sound and spirit that he created in the mid 1930s, Copland’s score is a quiet, dignified and solemn work as befits the play’s small-town New Hampshire setting. The score for Our Town received an Oscar nomination for best music. After the release of Our Town, Copland arranged music from the film score into an orchestral work, as well as a short three-movement piano suite. My arrangement for saxophone choir was adapted from the orchestral score. The orchestral suite, with its sense of calm and nostalgic evocation of New England hymn tunes, draws from the movie the title music, churchyard scene, and quiet yet noble vignettes of daily life in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire at the dawn of the 20th century.

It is of interest to saxophonists that some of the themes Copland used in Our Town were originally part of the incidental music he composed for the play Quiet City, scored for clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, and piano. This play received just two previews and was never publicly produced. Copland reworked some of its music into the orchestral work Quiet City for trumpet, English horn, and orchestra. Our Town incorporates musical themes from the play that Copland did not include in the orchestral Quiet City.

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 the Suite from Our Town, New England Countryside and Grovers’ Corners, are the newest additions of Copland’s populist music adapted for saxophone.

—Paul Cohen

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