Keeping with our theme of Americana, Ferde Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite is a nice slice for us to taste.
Born Ferdinand Rudolph Von Grofe IV, Ferde was a fourth generation classical musician.
However, Grofe was famous because of his jazz.
He arranged hundred of popular pieces for Paul Whiteman, "The King of Jazz." For his efforts, Grofe become known as "The Primeminister Jazz."
Grofe also arranged a George Gershwin piece that was written for two pianos. It is Grofe's orchestration of the "Rhapsody in Blue" that most of us are familiar with today.
Of his original compositions, Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite" is the one we know best.
Music from this Suite, particularly the section “On the Trail”, is immediately recognized but rarely identified.
“On the Trail” was used as sign off music for old shows sponsored by Philip Morris.
It was also featured in Walt Disney’s Academy Award winning Grand Canyon.
Most recently, Ken Burns used it in his magnificent series on our National Parks. If you didn’t see The National Parks, find someone who DVR’d it and go live with them for a week.
The music for “On the Trail” depicts the popular mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Grofe’s musical themes are a juxtaposition of the herky-jerky gait of the donkey and the sweeping progress of the entire train.
Gofe even includes the mules hee-hawing.
It is a testament to the quality of Grofe's music that it is accepted as an appropriate representation of America's most celebrated monument.
Once you've been to The Grand Canyon, you realize that words fail.
However, music can still speak when words are impotent and of this, Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite is just one example.