by TODD CRANSON
What do Percy Grainger, UIS, and Edgar Lee Masters have in common?
… a connection to Illinois’ Spoon River. UIS Music’s Spring Showcase Concert featured, among much more, a performance by the UIS Band of Percy Aldridge Grainger’s Spoon River: An American Folk Dance.
The program note from the composer states: A Captain Charles H. Robinson heard a tune called “Spoon River” played by a rustic fiddler at a country dance at Bradford, IL, in 1857.
When Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology” appeared in 1914, Captain Robinson (then nearly 90 years old) was struck by the likeness of the two titles and sent the “Spoon River” tune to Masters, who passed it on to me. The tune is very archaic in character; typically American, yet akin to certain Scottish and English dance-tune types.
My setting (begun March 10, 1919; ended February 1, 1929) aims at preserving a pioneer blend of lonesome wistfulness and sturdy persistence. It bears the following dedication: “For Edgar Lee Masters, poet of pioneers.”
Over the course of the semester, the UIS Band gained familiarity with Masters and his Spoon River Anthology as well as numerous other connections between Grainger’s music and our local community.
Masters’ home town of Petersburg, IL, is only 25 miles northwest of Springfield, and UIS’s Emiquon Field Station is located near Lewistown, IL, and the point where the Spoon River flows into the Illinois River. Only 50 or so miles fromUIS, this area inspired the fictional setting of Masters’ anthology.
The local connection, historical and literary significance, and great music provided the UIS Band a satisfying and challenging interdisciplinary experience this past Spring.
Anyone interested in performing and learning with the UIS band this fall is encouraged to attend one of our first rehearsals on Monday, August 31 or September 14. For more information, contact Todd Cranson at email@example.com.