Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)MS865
TitleThe Percy Grainger collection, compiled by John Bird
Extent40 standard boxes and 1 large box
Datec 1882-2015
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DescriptionA personal collection of materials relating to Percy Grainger (1882-1961), compiled by John Bird (b 1941), writer and lecturer, between the mid-1960s and the early 21st century.

Grainger, an Australian-American, was a composer, pianist and folksong collector who achieved international acclaim as a concert performer but remains best known for his folk-song arrangements (Country Gardens; Molly on the Shore; Lincolnshire Posy; Shepherd's Hey; Irish Tune from County Derry (also known as Londonderry Air), Brigg Fair etc). John Bird began collecting material related to Grainger whilst writing the first published biography under the title, 'Percy Grainger' London: Elek, 1976. Bird extended his Grainger collection whilst continuing with his research for subsequent editions of his book which was later published by Faber, 1982, and again by Oxford University Press, 1999.

The collection comprises Grainger's autobiographical notes and articles; score and sheet music; concert programmes; drafts of John Bird's book; bibliographies and lists of Grainger's works; correspondence; photographs and images; printed items and reviews; scripts and media related material; copies of Bird's lectures on Grainger; exhibition material; and many other items. The collection includes both original and photocopied documents.

The items within the collection mainly document Grainger's musical career as a composer, professional pianist, collector of traditional folk-song, and his work on 'Free Music'. There is also a significant amount of material that shed light on Grainger's personal life, in particular, his relationship with his mother, partners and close friends, and his flagellation and other sadomasochistic practices, which he continued to pursue through most of his adult life.

Researchers of Percy Grainger would be advised to use this collection of material assembled by John Bird in conjunction with the extensive collection held at the Grainger Museum, which is part of the University of Melbourne Library, Australia.
NotesThe photographs displayed at Fonds level were taken from MS865/7/1, and MS865/7/5 (Grainger seated at the piano).
ArrangementThe collection has been arranged into twelve sections:

1. Autobiographical notes and articles by Grainger
2. Score and sheet music
3. Concert programmes and related music
4. John Bird's book 'Percy Grainger'
5. Bibliographies & lists of Grainger's works
6. Correspondence
7. Photographs and images
8. Articles / printed items / reviews
9. Theatre / scripts / media
10. Lectures and exhibitions
11. Theses and dissertations
12. Miscellaneous
Access ConditionsOpen.

The collection includes explicit sexual content which may cause distress. Please contact Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections for further information.
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue, or view the catalogue as a PDF file by clicking in the document field below. A paper copy is also available in the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections Department.

For details of John Bird's collection of Percy Grainger related printed books, and books related to music and musicians connected to Grainger, see the attached PDF listing in the document field below. These items were deposited with the archive material in MS865 but have been moved into our book store as a named Bird/Grainger book collection.
DocumentMS865 Archive catalogue.pdf
MS865 Handlist of printed books.pdf
Access StatusOpen
Creator NameGrainger, Percy Aldridge, 1882-1961, composer (Oxford DNB entry)
Grainger, George Percy, 1882-1961, composer (Australian Dictionary of Biography)
Bird, John, b 1941, writer and lecturer
Administrative HistoryPercy Aldridge Grainger was born in Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 8 July 1882. His father, John Harry Grainger (1855-1917), emigrated from England to Australia in 1877 where he married Rosa (Rose) Annie, née Aldridge in 1880 and went on to achieve notable success as an architect. John and Rose separated when Percy was eight, and Rose took over the home tutoring of Percy, including piano instruction.

Born George Percy Grainger, in the early 1890s Percy studied piano and elementary music under Louis Pabst and Adelaide Burkett and began performing in public in 1894. Accompanied by his mother, his residence in Australia ended when in 1895 he moved to Germany to pursue his music studies at Dr Hoch's Conservatorium in Frankfurt-am-Main. Karl Klimsch became Grainger's composition teacher, and also encouraged Percy's passion to paint. Grainger's Conservatorium studies brought him in touch with Cyril Scott; Balfour Gardiner; Norman O'Neil; Roger Quilter; and Herman Sandby, all of whom influenced each other and remained life-long friends.

In 1900, Grainger moved again, this time travelling to England where, between May 1901 and August 1914, he lived in London, teaching, composing and conducting, and quickly established his career as a concert pianist attracting acclaim and royal patronage. During these years he toured in England with Adelina Patti (1843-1919), and in England, Australasia and South Africa with singer, Ada Crossley (1874-1929), as well as performing in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Russia and Scandinavia. Grainger's London based years also saw other important developments. His piano studies with Ferruccio Busoni (1903); his brief but important friendship with Edvard Grieg (1904-1907); his most intense folk-song collecting activities; the beginning of his devoted friendship with Delius; the start of his career as a recording artist (1908) and the publication and first performance of his compositions. Often walking from concert to concert whilst on tour and making his own clothing from towelling material were but two expressions of Grainger's athleticism and individuality.

In 1914 Percy and Rose Grainger moved to America where Percy continued his successful concert career until the entry of the USA in the First World War, when he joined the 15th Band of the Coast Artillery Corps. Percy adopted US citizenship in 1918. At the end of the war, Percy resumed his concert career, but this was interrupted by his mother's death in 1922. At the climax of ill-health and personal problems, Rose Grainger took her own life amid rumours that she and Percy were having an incestuous relationship, which both strongly denied.

In 1926 Percy Grainger met Ella Viola Strom and two years later they married on the stage of Hollywood Bowl before a paying congregation of 20,000 during the interval of a concert of music composed and conducted by Grainger. During 1932-1933 he accepted his only formal teaching post when he became head of the Music Department at New York University. Grainger's concert career continued until a few months before his death, but as time passed, he sought less the accolade of an internationally famous pianist and more a platform and sympathetic hearing for his compositional output. The last years of his life were spent largely working towards a physical realisation of his ideals for a 'Free Music' and in pursuit of this he developed, along with Burnett Cross, a handful of extraordinary mechanical and electronic instruments. Percy Grainger continued to perform publicly up to a few months before his death, 20 February 1961, in New York.

Sources: John Bird's material within the collection; Kay Dreyfus, 'Grainger, George Percy (1882-1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, (correct Oct 2015). Also the website of the Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne, (correct Oct 2015).
John Bird was born 11 November 1941 in Walsall, West Midlands, son of a brewer. After a grammar school education, he held a variety of jobs and pursued careers in the hotel industry and as a self-employed, free-lance writer and lecturer. His writing includes 'Percy Grainger', a biography first published London: Elek, 1976, contributions to several other books and many musical and literary journals and newspapers. He has broadcast in Britain, Canada and Australia (source: adapted from notes supplied by the donor).
Custodial HistoryThe items in the collection were mostly given to John Bird by friends, professional colleagues, piano and compositional students, and relatives of Percy Grainger (mainly his widow, Ella Grainger). Other items were purchased or sourced by Bird either as originals or photocopies, from archives, private collections, photographic agencies, museums and libraries.
AcquisitionCollection gifted to the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections by John Bird, August 2013.
Archival NoteCollection arranged and described by Jenny Childs, 2015, in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; and in-house cataloguing guide-lines.
Associated MaterialsExtensive collection of Grainger material is held at the Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne:
Other Grainger material is held at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library; Cecil Sharp House; British Library; Elder Music Library (University of Adelaide); University of Western Australia; Library of Congress; New York Public Library; White Plains Public Library; and the University of New South Wales
The Percy Grainger Society UK and the International Percy Grainger Society hold a vast archive of printed music, copies of manuscripts, recordings etc. Contact: