Six comic songs of medium to high difficulty for mezzo-soprano, baritone and guitar; op. 20; INCLUDES PARTS.
“[Bestiary] is a sure-fire audience pleaser.”
––Rita M. Resch, Journal of Singing, NATS, March/April 2006
Preview: a sample PDF of Bestiary
Lyrics: Poetry by Theodore Roethke and Nancy Knowles
Written: fall, 2001
Duration: 12 minutes; 18 pages
Instrumentation: soprano, baritone and classical guitar
Difficulty level: Very difficult
Vocal range: soprano A3-F5 ; baritone G2-G4 (only one high G in a sprechstimme style
Recording: Woman of the Water by Duo LiveOak on Gyre, 2004
Bestiary was conceived as a light, comic moment with which to end our concerts. The texts are tongue-in-cheek commentaries on the lifestyles and characteristics of animals by Theodore Roethke and Nancy Knowles. You will hear a touch of Broadway from the Bear, lumbering imitative melodies from the Sloth, dark subterranean 12-tone arpeggios in the Mole, a jolly English country tune from the Cow, bluesy dissonance from the Snake and wild rhythms and wailing cries from the Serpent.
“Duo LiveOak…presented an exquisite program of their own music including Bestiary, a set of pieces built around poems by Theodore Roethke. These are lovely pieces with just the merest astringency of modernist tonalities.”
––Mark Greenberg on the First Skidmore College Guitar Festival, October 29, 2005 [www.nyccgs.org]
Copyright ©2001 Frank A. Wallace
Cover photography and design by Nancy Knowles
All rights reserved.
I. The Sloth
In moving-slow he has no Peer.
You ask him something in his Ear,
He thinks about it for a Year:
And, then, before he says a Word
There, upside down (un-like a bird),
He will assume that you have Heard–
A most Ex-as-per-at-ing Lug.
But should you call his manner smug,
He’ll sigh and give his Branch a Hug;
Then off again to Sleep he goes,
Still swaying gently by his Toes,
And you just know he knows he knows.
II. The Cow
There Once was a Cow with a Double Udder.
When I think of it now, I just have to Shudder!
She was too much for One,
you can bet your Life:
She had to be Milked by a Man and his Wife.
III. The Lady and the Bear
“O why are you fishing that way?
Tell me, dear Bear there by the stream,
why are you fishing that way?”
“I am what is known as a Biddly Bear,
That’s why I’m fishing this way.
We Biddly’s are Pee-cu-liar Bears,
And so, I’m fishing this way.”
“And besides it seems there’s a Law:
A most, most ex-ac-tious Law
Says a Bear Does-n’t dare Does-n’t dare
Does-n’t DARE Use a Hook or a Line,
Or an old piece of Twine,
Not e-ven the end of his Claw, Claw, Claw,
Not e-ven the end of his Claw.
Yes, a Bear has to fish with his Paw, Paw, Paw.
A Bear has to fish with his Paw.”
“O it’s Wonderful how with a flick of your Wrist,
You can fish out a fish, out a fish, out a fish,
If I were a fish I just couldn’t resist
You, when you are fishing that way that way.”
And at that the Lady slipped from the Bank
And fell in the stream still clutching a Plank,
But the Bear just sat there until she Sank;
As he went on fishing his way, fishing his way.
IV. The Star-nosed Mole
Oh the starnosed mole
is a bird
with a soul
for rather than
sing with a
cheep cheep cheep
or swim in the
deep deep deep
under our feet
creep creep creep
V. The Snake
I saw a young snake glide
Out of the mottled shade
And hang, limp on a stone:
A thin mouth and a tongue
Stayed, in the still air.
It turned; it drew away;
Its shadow bent in half;
It quickened, and waas gone.
I felt my slowblood warm.
I longed to be that thing,
the pure, sensuous form.
And I may be, some time.
VI. The Serpent
There was a serpent who had to sing.
He simply gave up serpenting
Because. He didn’t like his Kind of Life;
He couldn’t find a proper Wife;
He was a Serpent with a soul;
He got no Pleasure down his Hole.
And so, of course, he had to Sing,
And Sing he did like Anything!
The Birds they were, they were Astounded;
And various Measures Propounded
To stop the Serpent’s Awful Racket:
They bought a Drum. They, They,
He wouldn’t Whack it.
They sent, to Cuba
You always send,
And got a Most Commodious Tuba;
They [They, They] got a Horn,
They got a Flute,
But Nothing would suit.
He said, “Look, Birds, all this is futile:
I do not like to Bang or Tootle.”
And then he cut loose with a Horrible Note
That practically split the Top of his Throat.
“You see,” he said, with a Serpent’s Leer,
“I’m Serious about my Singing Career!”
And the Woods Resounded with many a Shriek
As the Birds flew off to the end of Next Week.
“The Sloth”, copyright 1950 by Theodore Roethke, “The Cow”, copyright 1950 by Theodore Roethke, “The Lady and the Bear”, copyright 1951 by Theodore Roethke, “Snake”, copyright @ 1955 by Theodore Roethke, “The Serpent”, copyright 1950 by Theodore Roethke,from COLLECTED POEMS OF THEODORE ROETHKE by Theodore Roethke. Used by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. “The Starnosed Mole” used by permission of the author.