Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


Whip-Poor-Will and Katy-Did - (2012)     

Paul Laurence Dunbar

for mezzo soprano and piano


Slow de night's a-fallin',
An' I hyeah de callin'
Out erpon de lonesome hill;
Soun' is moughty dreary,
Solemn-lak an' skeery,
Sayin' fu' to "whip po' Will."

Now hit's moughty tryin'
Fu' to hyeah dis cryin',
'Deed hit's mo' den I kin stan';
Sho' wid all our slippin',
Dey's enough of whippin'
'Dout a bird a'visin' any man.

In de noons o' summah
Dey's anothah hummah
Sings anothah song instid;
An' his th'oat's a-swellin'
Wid de joy o tellin',
But he says dat "Katy did."

Now I feels onsuhtain;
Won't you raise de cu'tain
Ovah all de t'ings dat's hid?
W'y dat feathahed p'isen
Goes erbout a'visin'
Whippin' Will w'en Katy did?

3 pages, circa 3' 50"

Paul Laurence Dunbar


The text is found in Dunbar's collection, Lyrics of Love and Laughter (1903), available at the very fine Wright State University Libraries online Dunbar Collection. For other song settings of Dunbar's texts, click here.



The contrast is between the subtle humor of the names of the bird and insect, containing the nicknames of "Will" and "Katy," alongside the crucial statement, "Dey's enough of whippin' / ''Dout a bird a'visin' any man" referring not to the bird but rather to beatings which are "mo' den I kin stan'." The puns and joke at the end are that when Will was whipped, Katy did it. So might one reach further into the imagery for the violence one might find in some personal relationships? A gesture reminiscent of a whippoorwill's call and the open fifths hinting at insect chirps opens the musical picture. The four strophes are treated in an ABAB form, altered for the second two verses.



The score for Whip-Poor-Will and Katy-Did 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.


Whip-Poor-Will and Katy-Did