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Where Have I Heard This Before?

Where Have I Heard This Before?

Ferdinand (Ferde) Grofé (1892-1972) was born in New York City and came from a long line of classically trained musicians. He was a part of an American orchestral music wave in the early 20th century that began to incorporate jazz, folk, and more complex harmonies into orchestral compositions. Gershwin might be the most recognizable name from this time, and Grofé and Gershwin were contemporaries and colleagues. Grofé is the orchestrater of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

One of Ferde Grofé's most celebrated compositions is his Grand Canyon Suite. It is comprised of five movements: "Sunrise," "Painted Desert," "On the Trail," "Sunset," and "Cloudburst."

The best known of its five movements, “On the Trail,” depicts the burros that carry visitors up and down the walls of the canyon. This particular movement might sound very familiar as it has been featured in films and advertisements. “On the Trail” was regularly used as the musical signature for radio and television programs sponsored by Philip Morris cigarettes. It's also used in the film A Christmas Story with the Celeste solo providing the soundtrack when Ralphie and his younger brother are seen sleeping and dreaming about Christmas morning.

Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite is also an integral part of Walt Disney’s 1958 live-action, short subject film of the Grand Canyon. The short film, entitled Grand Canyon, used no actors or dialogue, simply shots of the Grand Canyon itself and several animals around the area all accompanied by Grofé’s music. The short won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Subject and was shown as a featurette accompanying Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty. To this day ,“On the Trail” can be heard on the Disneyland Railroad as the train passes the Grand Canyon sections of the Grand Circle Tour of Disneyland.

Ferdinand Grofé

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