Copland: Appalachian Spring

Gordon Cooper
Part of St Andrew's Cathedral at Noon Recital Series
St Andrew's Cathedral

Part of the St Andrew's Cathedral at Noon Recital Series of free 30 minute concerts, every Saturday at 12 noon

Recitals are followed by a buffet lunch. Donations to Cathedral funds are gratefully received.

Gordon Cooper

Gordon was born in Aberdeen in the 1980s and has not yet worked out how to escape.  A graduate in both law and music from The University of Aberdeen, his career in music is varied. Gordon runs a busy piano and percussion teaching practice, working with learners of all ages and levels from beginner to diploma level.  As a collaborative musician, Gordon works with the Tutti Voices Choir at Aberdeen Performing Arts, with the Dance for Parkinson’s team at Citymoves Dance Agency, and with a variety of churches as an Organist.  He enjoys repeat visits to his alma mater as one of the piano accompanists for the BMus student recitals, and has a fairly regular gig at Drumtochty Castle playing music at weddings. 

Away from music, Gordon enjoys reading lots of different books at the same time, playing a bit of golf and tennis, and spending time with his wife and two young sons.


Appalachian Spring was composed in 1943-4, at the midpoint of Copland’s life.  The original version for a chamber ensemble of 13 instruments was written as the accompanying score to a ballet written by Martha Graham, and it was originally Copland’s desire for the work to be titled simply ‘Ballet for Martha’. The work’s eventual title was at Graham’s suggestion, drawing on her appreciation of the poem ‘The Bridge’ by Hart Crane. As such, it has nothing to do with the seasons of the year, despite my decision to programme it in the spring! The poem’s text had nothing to do with the ballet, but the rural connotation of the words interested Graham.

The ballet tells the following story, as published in the original score:

“A pioneer celebration in spring around a newly built farmhouse in the Pennsylvania hills in the early part of the last century (1800s). The bride-to-be and the young farmer-husband enact the emotions, joyful and apprehensive, their new domestic partnership invites. An older neighbor suggests now and then the rock confidence of experience. A revivalist and his followers remind the new householders of the strange and terrible aspects of human fate. At the end the couple are left quiet and strong in their new house.”

Appalachian Spring can now be heard as the very embodiment of American 20th Century music, whilst simultaneously serving to advance the composer’s desire to “add to the great history of serious music something with an American accent”.  The most famous part of the piece is arguably that ironically not written by Copland, namely his incorporation of the Shaker melody Simple Gifts, written in the mid-19th century, towards the end of the music.

The work was immediately popular, winning the Music Pulitzer Prize in 1945, leading Copland to arrange the work as a suite for symphony orchestra later that year. The full orchestra version is perhaps best known to audiences today.  The version we hear today has been transcribed for solo piano by Bryan Stanley (1972-), who has also made piano transcriptions of many of Copland’s other orchestral works.


  • Aaron Copland Appalachian Spring
Gordon Cooper Piano
Free General Public
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