Beer - (2008)
for medium voice and piano
With my beer
While golden moments flit:
And, as they fly,
Sit, idly sipping here
O, finer far
Than fame, or
The graceful smoke-wreathes of this cigar!
Weep, wail, or sigh?
What if luck has passed me by?
What if my hopes are dead,--
My pleasures fled?
Have I not still
Of right good cheer,--
Cigars and beer
Go, weep and wail,
Sigh and grow pale,
Weave melancholy rhymes
On the old times,
Whose joys like shadowy
But leave me to my beer!
Gold is dross,--
So, if I gulp my sorrows down,
Or see them drown
foamy draughts of old nut-brown,
Then do wear the crown,
[ 5 pages, circa 3' 15" ]
George Arnold (1834-1865) was a poet, journalist and essayist. After
briefly attempting a career as a portrait painter, he turned to writing.
Writing under pseudonyms like Graham Allen, George Garrulous, Pierrot, Chevalier
M'Arone and McArone [after his middle name]. It was a McArone, his most
successful personage, he wrote for The Saturday Press, and for a
series in Vanity Fair in 1860 and continued in the Leader and
Weekly Review, with a large output of poems, stories, essays, satires,
and editorials in the major literary venues of his day, also including
Harper's and The Atlantic Monthly. He also published poetry and
books on children's games. A contemporary of Walt Whitman, Arnold was
likewise a patron of the well known Pfaff's beer cellar, and became
involved in legendary episodes with other patrons, many of them artists and
Artist Elihu Vedder remembered George Arnold: "I can recall his gentle, sad
smile yet. Gentleness was his great charm. We both lived near Pfaff's, and
it was there he read me his poem, shortly after it was written-- 'Here I sit
drinking my beer.' He died young; I do not know of what he died, but
he seemed to be worn out even when I first met him... He thought his life a
wasted life; it was with him a gorgeous romance of youthful despair; but
into that grave went a tender charm, great talent, and great weakness."
Written for medium range, the tessitura should be available to most singers
but it is intended for those who take the subject of beer seriously. The
downward trajectory of the harmonic palette and its chromatic deviance
within a single chord structure are intended to indicate the perceived
burdens of the artist's life.
Yet at the moment of possible despair, "beer" calls the poet away, as the
accompaniment becomes lightly rhapsodic. The answer to the poet's several
questions are answered in a few succinct words -- beer, and of course
cigars. For these angels appearing in the man's material world, the song
setting ends in a clear and uplifting C major, gently and with a repose in
answer to the convoluted early chromaticism.
The score for Beer is available as a free PDF download, though any
major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without
prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this