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A Simple & Private Wedding


The pianist and composer Percy Grainger liked to do things in a big way. He was a showman, an eccentric, maybe even a madman when it came to music–and his own wedding.

The Australian-born Grainger had been in the United States for some time when the Swedish poet and painter Ella Viola Strom agreed to marry him. Perhaps not knowing just how flamboyant Grainger could be, Ella left the wedding arrangements to the groom. She was expecting a simple wedding attended by a small group of friends and, knowing nothing of America, she readily agreed when Grainger suggested the wedding take place at a spot called the Hollywood Bowl.

Grainger was slated to perform and conduct four concerts at the Bowl and he chose the second of them–August 9th, 1928–as the setting for the wedding. The program was ethnically diverse, including “In a Mission Garden” by Grainger’s protege Fanny Dillon, “Pavane” by Gabriel Faure, and “A Negro Rhapsody” by Rubin Goldmark.

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Perhaps in honor of his Swedish bride, Grainger included the Nordic Symphony by Howard Hanson and–last on the program–Grainger’s own composition “To a Nordic Princess.”

It must have been clear to the bride that this event was not going to be the intimate gathering she had imagined. The orchestra was the biggest ever to perform at the Hollywood Bowl–126 musicians. After the wedding ceremony, the “guests”–somewhere between fifteen and twenty-two thousand of them–were entertained by an a cappella choir on a stage bracketed by the Stars and Stripes and the British Union Jack. The bride wore a rose-pink tulle gown. Three camellias ornamented her hair. Screen star Ramon Novarro, who had attended the ceremony, posed with the couple for photographers.

No doubt the bride was beginning to realize that her life with Percy Grainger would be short on privacy and long on spectacle.

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