Injun Summah - (2005)
Benjamin Franklin King
Four songs for mezzo soprano or tenor and piano
for mezzo soprano Jane Bunnell
i. Injun Summah [ 6 pages, circa 4'
De Injun summah's comin',
De bees is all
De watah-mellon thumbin'
....Has passed long time ago.
De ole clock in de kitchen
Is tickin' mos' bewitchin',
While Gabe is
....Just kase it looks like snow.
De lambs is
De aftahmath ob clovah,
An' yondah comes de drovah;
....I 'spec he' got a yahn
About de ole bell-weddah
roun' de meddah
An' wants ter git togeddah
....Wid de sheep up roun'
Some days de sun is shinin',
Some days de win' is whinin',
An' den I'se after fin'in'
....Big pippins on de groun';
De birds hab
all stopped singin',
Wil' geese is soufward wingin',
Jes' look an' see
....Whar warmah weddah's foun'.
De yaller cat is
En layin' roun' an' gappin';
Bimeby he will be slappin'
....Some tom-cat on de wall.
Dar's a mellah, yellah glory
Kase de yeah
is ol' an' ho'ry,
An' a melancholy story
....So't o' hangin' roun' us
ii. The River St. Joe [ 9 pages,
circa 6' 45" ]
Where the bumblebee sips and the clover is
And the zephyrs come laden with peachblow perfume,
thistle-down pauses in search of the rose
And the myrtle and woodbine and
wild ivy grows;
Where the catbird pipes up and it sounds most divine
Off there in the branches of some lonely pine;
Oh, give me the spot that
I once used to know
By the side of the placid old River St. Joe!
How oft on its banks I have sunk in a dream,
Where the willows bent over
me kissing the stream,
My boat with its nose sort of resting on shore,
While the cat-tails stood guarding a runaway oar;
It appeared like to me,
that they sort of had some
Way of knowing that I would soon get overcome,
With the meadow lark singing just over the spot
I didn't care whether I
floated or not --
Just resting out there for an hour or so
banks of the tranquil old River St. Joe.
Where the tall grasses nod
at the close of the day,
And the sycamore's shadow is slanting away --
Where the whip-poor-will chants from a far distant limb
Just as if the
whole business was all made for him.
Oh! it's now with my thoughts,
flying back on the wings
Of the rail and die-away song that he sings,
Brings the tears to my eyes that drip off into rhyme,
And I live once
again in the old summer time;
For my soul it seems caught in old time's
And I'm floating away down the River St. Joe.
iii. The Cow Slips Away
[ 1 page, circa 25" ]
The tall pines pine,
The pawpaws pause
And the bumble-bee bumbles all day;
The eavesdropper drops,
While gently the cow slips away.
iv. Gedder in yo' grain [ 4
pages, circa 2' 15" ]
De ole plow hoss is busy
Breshin' flies off wid his tail,
De ole dog's
got a move on him
Dat's zackly like a snail,
De meddeh grass is
I kin hyar de tree toads warnin'
"Bettah gedder in yo' grain."
Doan yo hyar de frogs a-gurglin'
Dar out yondah in de pond?
de mattah wid de catbird,
Doan yo' hyar his voice respond?
hull of 'em a-tellin' yo'
In language mighty plain,
"Doan be frivlin'
way yo' moments,
Bettah gedder in yo' grain."
Ain't de bumble bee
'Mongst de clovah tops an flowahs,
Whilst de ole clock am a
De minutes an de houahs?
Chile, yo's got to be a-hus'lin'
To ketch de wisdom train,
Doan waste no opportunities,
But gedder in
Total cycle [ 20 pages plus contents and texts, circa 13' 25" ]
Benjamin Franklin King
Benjamin Franklin King (1857 -1894) American poet and parodist known more
familiarly as Ben King was politically very incorrect by today's standards,
mimicking dialects in his poetry. Ben King, born on March 17, 1857 in St.
Joseph, Michigan, married Aseneth Belle Latham, of St. Joseph, on November
27, 1883, in Chicago, and had two sons by her. King belonged to the Chicago
Press Club and to the Whitechapel Club, which attracted authors and
journalist. King published verse in newspapers and journals like The
Century, sometimes under the pseudonym Bow Hackley. King died on tour, April
8, 1894, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, after a public reading the previous
night before, and two days later was buried in St. Joseph. It was friends
from the Press Club who published Ben King's Verse in 1894, a collection
reprinted many times, because King's work was popular.
"Injun Summah" begins with a recitative, followed by a simple melodic chorus
accompanied by alternating major tonic and supertonic chords, as the
sentiment of the poem about Indian summer, that lingering season when a
period of mild, warm, hazy weather following the first frosts of late
autumn, is sung.
"The River St. Joe" begins with a short sweet rhapsody for piano to
introduce the lyrical tribute of the poem.
"The Cow Slips Away" is a one page humorous outburst, followed by the
pressing advice from gurgling frogs and catbird to "gather in your grain"
which King has written out in humorous dialect.
Jane Bunnell’s long association with the Metropolitan Opera began with her
critically acclaimed debut as Annio in La clemenza di Tito, and
subsequent performances in Le nozze di Figaro (Cherubino), Cosi
fan tutte (Dorabella), Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rosina), Les
contes d’Hoffmann (Nicklausse), Madama Butterfly (Suzuki),
Falstaff (Meg Page), Les Troyens (Ascagnio), Ariadne auf Naxos
(Dryad), Otello (Emilia), Romeo et Juliette (Stephano), and
Faust (Siebel). She has sung and recorded with the Metropolitan Opera
Tebaldo in Don Carlo and a Flower Maiden in Parsifal, and
reprised Emilia for the Metropolitan Opera Presents television broadcast.
She recently added Hermia in a new production of A Midsummer Night’s
Dream, Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, and Varvara in Katya
Kabanova to her Met repertoire, and has sung roles in Die Frau ohne
Schatten, Sly, War and Peace, Parade, and The Great Gatsby.
Bunnell has also appeared in a wide variety of roles with New York City
Opera including Rosina, Suzuki, and Natalie in The Merry Widow. She
was also featured in New York City Opera’s premieres of Argento’s
Casanova and Mozart’s L’oca del Cairo, as well as its
"Live From Lincoln Center" telecasts of Die Zauberflöte and La
rondine. With Houston Grand Opera, she has performed Hänsel, Suzuki in the
Ken Russell Madama Butterfly, and Smeton in Anna Bolena with
Dame Joan Sutherland. She has sung Amneris in Aïda with Opera
Roanoke; Auntie in Peter Grimes with the Teatro Comunale di Firenze;
and Suzuki with Opera Pacific.
Another cycle of Ben King's poems is titled The
Sum of Life (for tenor and piano) after one of his humorous poems. The
cycle, Injun Summah is also apt for a tenor or high baritone.
The score 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