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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.


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Visduh Nov. 12, 2010 @ 8:20 p.m.

Having just walked into and then back out of the Grand Canyon within the past three weeks, this video and the sound track do a wonderful job of sharing the experience. I'd almost completely forgotten Grofe's Suite. For those who might become inspired to go into the canyon and visit Phantom Ranch, that hike is not for the casual walker/hider. The trip down is very hard on the muscles and joints, and the trip back out--an all-day climb for me--is very tiring, even in cool fall weather. In summer it must often be hellish. But the video was accurate, right down to the black bridge at the bottom and the short side trip to Phantom.

If you have any doubts about your hiking ability, wait until you can get a reservation to ride in and out by mule. That can take a while--months, even years--but it is an experience like nothing else in the world.


nan shartel Nov. 13, 2010 @ 3:09 p.m.

what a fabulous piece of music Americana that is Garrett...i've been there in Winter and it remain one of the wonders of the world in every season

Grofe got it right on his Grand Canyon Suite!!! :-D

thx for this one homey!!

his Rhapsody in Blue is momentous and raises Jazz music to an ART


dmopbuff Nov. 14, 2010 @ 4:25 p.m.

I haven't heard anyone discuss The Grand Canyon Suite in years. I thought it had been consigned to the dustbin of forgotten Americana. It was probably the first piece of "classical" music I ever experienced. Enjoyed the article.


Visduh Nov. 14, 2010 @ 7:03 p.m.

Actually, I have it on an LP. That gives away my age, doesn't it? The canyon is a sort of paradox in that it is vast, yet the public visits only a couple small areas of its vastness. So, public access is restricted, as in the small number of people who can ride to the bottom by mule each day. Add to that the fact that it is a "World Class" destination (I detest that term) and attracts the well-heeled from all over the globe, and you have an overused and overloved spot.

While staying at the bottom, we encountered some visitors who seemed totally out of place. Seems that money and patience (in waiting for a slot to reserve) can get anything. With all the people who would treasure a visit there, we saw a few who had no notion of what it was, where they really were, and seemed more interested in their social experience than in the Canyon. A totally wasted experience on them. Sad.


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