Calico Pie and Other Nonsense

 

Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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"Calico Pie" and Other Nonsense - (2002) 

Edward Lear

for soprano and piano


Dedicated to nine of my favorite sopranos, fine colleagues and musicians, who may decide for themselves which song is for which singer, as the composer has no idea whatsoever, and thinks it risky to venture even a faulty and undiplomatic guess: (in alphabetical order)

Liza Connell, Luana DeVol, Dale Franzen, Diane Ketchie, Anne Marie Ketchum, Erie Mills, Linda Roark-Strummer, Dawn Upshaw, and Carol Yahr

i.  Calico Pie      [ 5½ pages, circa 2' 25" ]

i.
Calico Pie,
The little birds fly
Down to the calico tree,
Their wings were blue,
And they sang "Tilly-loo!"
Till away they flew,--
And they never came back to me!
They never came back!
They never came back!
They never came back to me!

ii.
Calico Jam,
The little Fish swam
Over the syllabub sea.
He took off his hat,
To the Sole and the Sprat,
And the Willeby-wat,--
But he never came back to me!
He never came back!
He never came back!
He never came back to me!

iii.
Calico Ban,
The little Mice ran,
To be ready in time for tea,
Flippity flup,
They drank it all up,
And danced in the cup,--
But they never came back to me!
They never came back!
They never came back!
They never came back to me!

iv.
Calico Drum,
The grasshoppers come,
The Butterfly, Beetle, and Bee,
Over the ground,
Around and round,
With a hop and a bound,--
But they never came back!
They never came back!
They never came back!
They never came back to me!

ii. An Old Man with a Beard      [ 1 page, circa 35" ]

There was an Old Man with a Beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared! -
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard.

iii. The Duck and the Kangaroo    [ 3½ pages, circa 3' 35" ]

i.
Said the Duck to the Kangaroo,
"Good gracious! how you hop!
"Over the fields and the water, too,
"As if you never would stop!
"My life is a bore in this nasty pond,
"And I long to go out in the world beyond!
"I wish I could hop like you!"
Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.

ii.
"Please give me a ride on your back!"
Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.
"I would sit quite still, and say nothing but 'Quack,'
"The whole of the long day through!
"And we'd go to the Dee, and the Jelly Bo Lee,
"Over the land, and over the sea; --
"Please take me a ride! O do!"
Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.

iii.
Said the Kangaroo to the Duck,
"This requires some little reflection;
"Perhaps on the whole it might bring me luck,
"And there seems but one objection,
"Which is, if you'll let speak so bold,
"Your feet are unpleasantly wet and cold,
"And would probably give me the roo-
"Matiz!" said the Kangaroo.

iv.
Said the Duck, "As I sate on the rocks,
"I have thought over that completely,
"And I bought four pairs of worsted socks
"Which fit my web-feet neatly.
"And to keep out the cold I've bought a cloak,
"And every day a cigar I'll smoke,
"All to follow my own dear true
"Love of a Kangaroo!"

v.
Said the Kangaroo, "I'm ready!
"All on the moonlight pale;
"But to balance me well, dear Duck, sit steady!
"And quite at the end of my tail!"
So away they went with a hop and a bound,
And they hopped the whole world three times round;
And who so happy, -- O who,
As the Duck and the Kangaroo?

iv.  Eyes       [ 1 page, circa 25" ]

There was a Young Lady whose eyes
Were unique as to colour and size;
When she opened them wide,
People all turned aside,
And started away in surprise.

v.  The Daddy Long-Legs and the Fly      [ 14½ pages, circa 8' 20" ]

i.
Once Mr. Daddy Long-Legs,
Dressed in brown and gray,
Walked about upon the sands
Upon a summer's day;
And there among the pebbles,
When the wind was rather cold,
He met with Mr. Floppy Fly,
All dressed in blue and gold.
And as it was too soon to dine,
They drank some Periwinkle-wine,
And played an hour or two, or more,
At battlecock and shuttledore.

ii.
Said Mr. Daddy Long-Legs
To Mr. Floppy Fly,
"Why do you never come to court?
"I wish you'd tell me why.
"All gold and shine, in dress so fine,
"You'd quite delight the court.
"Why do you never go at all?
"I really think you ought!
"And if you went, you'd see such sights!
"Such rugs! and jugs! and candle-lights!"
"And more than all, the King and Queen,
"One in red, and one in green!"

iii.
"O Mr. Daddy Long-Legs,
Said Mr. Floppy Fly,
"It's true I never go to court,
"And I will tell you why.
"If I had six long legs like yours,
"At once I'd go to court!
"But oh! I can't, because my legs
"Are so extremely short.
"And I'm afraid the King and Queen
"(One in red, and one in green)
"Would say aloud, 'You are not fit,
"'You Fly, to come to court a bit!"

iv.
"O Mr. Daddy Long-Legs,"
Said Mr. Floppy Fly,
"I wish you'd sing one little song!
"One mumbian melody!
"You used to sing so awful well
"In former days gone by,
"But now you never sing at all;
"I wish you'd tell me why:
"For if you would, the silvery sound
"Would please the shrimps and cockles round,
"And all the crabs would gladly come
"To hear you sing, 'Ah, Hum di Hum!'"

v.
Said Mr. Daddy Long-Legs,
"I can never sing again!
"And if you wish, I'll tell you why,
"Although it gives me great pain.
"For years I could not hum a bit,
"Or sing the smallest song;
"And this the dreadful reason is,
"My legs are grown too long!
"My six long legs, all here and there,
"Oppress my bosom with despair;
"And if I stand, or lie, or sit,
"I cannot sing one single bit!"

vi.
So Mr. Daddy Long-Legs
And Mr. Floppy Fly
Sat down in silence by the sea,
And gazed upon the sky.
They said, "This is a dreadful thing!
"The world has all gone wrong,
"Since one has legs too short by half,
"The other much too long!"
"One never more can go to court,
"Because his legs have grown too short;
"The other cannot sing a song,
"Because his legs have grown too long!"

vii.
Then Mr. Daddy Long-Legs
And Mr. Floppy Fly
Rushed downward to the foaming sea
With one sponge-taneous cry;
And there they found a little boat
Whose sails were pink and gray;
And off they sailed among the waves
Far, and far away.
They sailed across the silent main
And reached the great Gromboolian plain;
And there they play for evermore
As battlecock and shuttledore.

vi. The Birds Sat Upon It      [ 1 page, circa 30" ]

There was a Young Lady whose bonnet
Came untied when the birds sat upon it;
But she said, "I don't care!
All the birds in the air
Are welcome to sit on my bonnet!"

vii. The Owl and the Pussy-Cat      [ 7½ pages, circa 3' 20" ]

i.
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
"What a beautiful Pussy you are,
"You are,
"You are!
"What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

ii.
Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl!
"How charmingly sweet you sing!
"O let us be married! too long we have tarried!
"But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

iii.
"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one schilling
"Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

viii. An Old Lady      [ 1 page, circa 40" ]

There was an Old Lady whose folly
Induced her to sit in a holly;
Whereupon, by a thorn
Her dress being torn,
She quickly became melancholy.

ix. The Jumblies      [ 14 pages, circa 7' 30" ]

i.
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say.
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And everyone cried, "You'll all be drowned!"
They all called aloud, "Our Sieve ain't big,
"But we don't care a button! We don't care a fig!
"In a Sieve we'll go to sea!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

ii.
They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
"O won't they be soon upset, you know!
"For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
"And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
"In a Sieve to sail so fast!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

iii.
The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, "How wise we are!
"Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
"Yet we never can think we were rash on wrong,
"While round in our Sieve we spin!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

iv.
And all night long they sailed away;
And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
In the shade of the mountains brown.
"O Timballo! How happy we are,
"When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar.
"And all night long in the moonlight pale,
"In the shade of the mountains brown!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

v.
They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jackdaws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

vi.
And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, "How tall they've grown!
"For they've been to the Lakes, and the Terrible Zone,
"And the hills of the Chankly Bore,:
And they drank to their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And every one said, "If we only live,
"We too will go to sea in a Sieve, --
"To the hills of the Chankly Bore!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

 

Total cycle [ 51 pages, circa 27' 20" ]


"How pleasant to know Mr. Lear! Who has write such volumes of stuff!"

       

Edward Lear

 

Edward Lear (1812-1888) worked as an English landscape painter and botanical artist, but now is more widely known as a writer, remembered most for his absurdist humor in nonsense poetry and the limerick, with which he is credited by some as its inventor.
  
      Lear was born on May 12th in Highgate, near London, the youngest of twenty children. He was raised mostly by his eldest sister, Ann, and worked as a zoological draftsman until coming under the patronage of the earl of Derby, for whose grandchildren Lear originally wrote A Book of Nonsense (1845), with limericks and whimsical line drawings. His inventive verse had often a melancholy edge, perhaps because Lear suffered at times from both epilepsy and depression. Other works include Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets (1871), More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany etc. (1871) and Laughable Lyrics (1877). Lear died on January 29th in San Remo, Italy, after having traveled widely and having published accounts and drawings from many lands.

John Ruskin, who was an English writer, critic, artist and a contemporary of Lear, wrote, "I really don't know any author to whom I am half so grateful for my idle self as Edward Lear. I shall put him first of my hundred authors."

 

The longer poems are drawn from Nonsense Songs and the shorter from The Book of Nonsense, and set alternatively as foils each to the other. As the sopranos mentioned above have all been significant performers on the world stage, the tessitura of the songs is sometimes challenging, and, though nonsense, the performance of these songs is intended to be somewhat "operatic." Equally the accompaniments are meant to be challenging and a tour de force at times for the pianist.