Seven Silly Little Songs - (2009)
texts of Henry Aldrich, Gelett Burgess, Oliver Hurford and anonymous authors
for medium voice and piano
i. Animal Fair - [ 2 pages, circa 1'
I went to the animal fair,
The birds and the beasts were there.
big baboon. by the light of the moon,
Was combing his auburn hair.
monkey, he got drunk,
And sat on the elephant's trunk.
sneezed and fell on his knees,
And what became of the monk, the monk?
ii. Eve, apropos de Rien - [ 1 page, circa 40" ]
It is not fair to visit all
The blame on Eve, for Adam's fall;
The most Eve did was to display
iii. The Purple Cow - [ 1 page, circa 40" ]
I never saw a purple cow;
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell
I'd rather see than be one.
iv. Reasons for Drinking - [ 1 page, circa 40" ]
If all be true that I do think,
There are five reasons we should drink;
Good wine -- a friend -- or being dry --
Or lest we should be by and by --
Or any other reason why.
v. Judged by the Company One Keeps - [ 2 pages, circa 1' 10" ]
One night in late October,
When I was far from sober,
Returning with my load with manly pride,
My feet began to stutter,
So I lay down in a gutter,
And a pig came near and lay down by my side;
A lady passing by was heard to say:
"You can tell a man who boozes,
By the company he chooses,"
And then pig got up and slowly walked away.
vi. The Purple Cow Again - [ 1 page, 30" ]
Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"—
I'm sorry, now, I wrote it;
can tell you anyhow
I'll kill you if you quote it!
vii. The Frog - [ 4 pages, circa 2' 30" ]
What a wonderful bird the frog are --
When he stand he sit almost;
When he hop, he fly almost.
He ain't go no sense hardly;
He ain't got no tail hardly either.
When he sit, he sit on what he ain't got almost.
[ 12 pages, circa 6' 10" ]
This collection of texts flopped out, so to speak, of a poetry anthology
which I happened upon in a library. Yankee Doodles, a Book of America
Verse, ed. Ted Malone, New York, Whittlesey House, 1943. Much of the
collection is public domain material, with the occasional copyright noted.
These all fall within the public domain. Malone noted, "the most typical,
ingenious, and revealing example of American handiwork is what is commonly
called 'the doodle.' Unscientific investigations have too often confused
doodles with falderal, fiddle faddle, and other important
but dissociated topics for scholarly research." Humorously, the text by
Aldrich is in fact British and not officially representative of American --
or as Malone wished to note, Yankee -- doodle. Even so, it is
charming and worth the revisit.
i. Animal Fair (anonymous)
The simple and humorously awkward accompaniment separates gestures of the
diatonic scale by octave displacement. Many runs and trills decorate this
ii. Eve, apropos de rien (Oliver Hurford)
Long arpeggios and a few solitary deep bass notes provide the arpa
background for a tongue-in-cheek commentary on this side of the tale of
Adam's fall through the seductive offices of some leafy negligee.
iii. The Purple Cow (Gelett Burgess)
Frank Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) was an artist, art critic, poet, author,
and humorist. His poem, The Purple Cow, first appeared in volume 1,
number 1 (1895) of a "new" monthly magazine The Lark, published
in San Francisco. William Doxey as publisher, The Lark was edited and
written primarily by Burgess with , who took great delight in creating
pseudonyms for himself. The poem found great contemporary popularity, and
was included in Modern American Poetry (1919), edited by Louis
iv. Reasons for Drinking (Henry Aldrich)
Henry Aldrich (1647–1710) was an English theologian and philosopher.
Educated at Westminster School, in 1662, he entered Christ Church, Oxford,
and in 1689 was made Dean. By 1692, he was Vice-Chancellor of the University
of Oxford, and in 1702, he was appointed Rector of Wem in Shropshire.He also
composed a number of anthems and church services, and re-set music of
Palestrina and Carissimi to English texts. Yet this text in English
translation is, in Aldrich's original, in Latin.
Si bene quid memini, causae sunt quinque bibendi;
praesens sitis atque futura,
Aut vini bonitas, aut quaelibet altera
v. Judged by the Company One Keeps (anonymous)
Another anonymous text, this lilting setting with its leaning lower
neighbors and slight syncopation hiccup lightly through the scene's
vi. The Purple Cow Again (Gelett Burgess)
As Burgess had become too associated with his popular "cow" a brief four
lines long, he penned this alternative curse in verse, properly titled
Confession: and a Portrait Too, Upon a Background that I Rue, published
in The Lark, number 24 (1897). The title of the song is my simple
amusement that, no matter Burgess' threat, here are his poems again --
something I think he actually had in mind.
vii. The Frog (anonymous)
Flowing with seemingly bad grammar and coarse contractions for its time,
this little gem bubbles with its own humor, for which a longer short
setting called out with a quasi-strophic setting, the opening repeated at
the end as the vocal range rises to its final tonic as a button for the end
of this set of silly songs.
Ted Malone as editor of the anthology from which these texts are drawn
observed, "Because our Yankee sense of humor has a boisterous quality
throughout, you will find much laughter in the book. Because our optimism is
so near the surface, you will find our philosophy sometimes verging on the
edge of hokum." (page vi) Let these be hokum, then, and boisterous too.
The score for Seven Silly Little Songs 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 piano-vocal score.
Seven Silly Little Songs