Richard Rodgers part 3: Chromatic Lines

July 6, 2020


Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard: A Rough Guide for the M.D.

June 25, 2019


A Word About the Piece:

The Yeomen of the Guard is special. To state the obvious, it is the most serious Savoy Opera, the piece with the highest artistic ambition, the work susceptible to the greatest number of interpretations. It was as far as Gilbert was willing to go in the direction of Grand Opera. Sullivan would head on to Ivanhoe without him. (and without much success)

Sullivan is balancing several opposing aims in Yeomen. He is attempting to reference 16th century music and the Old English styles in particular in order to place the action in time and location. We hear these threads clearly in Here’s a Man of Jollity, I Have a Song to Sing, O, I’ve Jibe and Joke, and Strange Adventure, and perhaps other places I am not noticing. The Times recognizes this in their opening night review:

“The forms of early English music- the madrigal, the part-song, the glee – are as second nature to him, and he produces their modern counterparts with a freedom and faithfulness which alone would account for his unrivaled popularity.”

Against these references to older English styles, Sullivan is trying to elevate the musical language of the piece closer to high music drama, perhaps as exemplified by his favorite Wagner opera, Die Meistersinger, which also takes place in the 16th century. The tension between old Folk England and up to date musical storytelling accounts for a lot of the charm of the opera.

Sullivan is also trying to keep the piece from sounding like a set of discrete numbers. Gayden Wren talks about Sullivan’s frequent use of ‘big endings’, elaborate codas sometimes longer than the numbers to which they are attached, where the music takes the fore, as in the coda of How Say You, Maiden? We certainly feel this elevation in many places in the score, not merely where they normally occur in the finales. And yet as I read Yeomen, Sullivan also seems to downplay the endings of numbers in a curious way, including in the very number Wren uses as an example of his elevated codas. Perhaps Sullivan is attempting to avoid breaking up the action with obligatory applause. Numbers 3,4,8,13, and 20 all end without really asking for applause, number 18 has an instrumental coda long enough for the exit of the character who has just sung an extremely impressive patter song before he can acknowledge audience applause, no. 6 goes without pause into 7, and no. 21 at one point rolled directly into the 2nd act finale with no pause for the audience to acknowledge a moment of purely crowd-pleasing silliness. In no. 18, we also see Sullivan connecting moments in a different way, when he eliminates the first 2 pickup notes of the Tower theme to drop us into the action more abruptly after a gunshot. We also find Sullivan on a smaller scale extending musical phrases past their expected terminations. He had been doing this in other operas for some time, but never more beautifully than in numbers like “A Man Who Would Woo a Fair Maid”

Sullivan also connects material in the opera in a more subtle way that most people miss. For example, this figure, sung by the Yeomen at the top of the Act I finale uses what are sometimes called ‘horn fifths’ because they are playable by 2 natural horns.

Yeomen Example 1

This association gives the idea a regal, military, or hunting connotation historically, which is appropriate to the Yeomen. The Act I finale also ends with another theme based on horn 5ths:

Yeomen Example 2

At the end of the First Act Finale, as Elsie falls into Fairfax’s arms, the orchestra plays a figuration based on the Here’s a Man of Jollity motive, which was Elsie’s entrance music earlier in the act.

At the end of Hark! What Was That Sir, when the chorus seems to have moved on to a brand new hymn to the greatness of Shadbolt, you may notice that the violins are playing Shadbolt’s patter theme under the coda!  

It is tempting to join the many Victorian enthusiasts and even modern Gilbert and Sullivan scholars in calling these references leitmotivs, but I think that’s an error.

Firstly, it misidentifies the technique. Sullivan does not weave these tunes into the texture of an ever evolving musical tapestry; they function as callbacks or reprises. If these are leitmotivs, we may as well call Reno Sweeney’s reprise of I Get a Kick out of You at the end of Anything Goes a fine use of the Du Trittst Mich Motiv in Das eigentliche Gesamtkunstwerk von Kohl Porter.

Secondly, identifying these musical ideas in that way is an example of the kind of musical chauvinism that caused Sullivan’s identity crisis in the first place. When these ideas are tagged as leitmotiven, we are being asked to applaud Sullivan for transcending the simpleminded populism of his operettas by using his tunes more than once, in a German manner. Let’s allow Wagner to be Wagner and Sullivan to be Sullivan, and not insist that Sullivan’s extremely effective musical dramaturgy be constantly compared against the benchmarks of the Neudeutsche Schule.

Much is made in the literature about how critical Gilbert’s libretti are to bringing out Sullivan’s best talents musically. Less acknowledged is the way Gilbert’s demands for rewrites and cuts pushed Sullivan in the direction of pacing and audience appeal. After this opera, the two are no longer on good enough terms for this kind of relationship, which is why The Gondoliers is so discursive. But more on that later.

For all this high ambition, the British public had made up its mind about what the two men were about. The masses had enjoyed their prior work, and wanted more of the same.

As for the opinions of the enlightened , we may look no further than this withering dismissal by George Bernard Shaw, who was at that time writing under the pen name of Corno di Bassetto. As The Gondoliers was just beginning its first run, a year and two months after the Yeomen premiere, Shaw wrote this in The Star:

“A new Savoy opera is an event of no greater artistic significance than- to take the most flattering comparison- a new oratorio by Gounod. We know the exact limits of Mr. Gilbert’s and Sir Arthur Sullivan’s talents by this time, as well as we know the width of the Thames at Waterloo Bridge; and I am just as likely to find Somerset House under water next Easter or autumn, as to find The Gondoliers one hair’s breadth better than The Mikado or Gounod’s promised Mass a step in advance of Mors et Vita. The Savoy has a certain artistic position, like the German Reed entertainment, but it is not a movable position… I am already as absolutely certain of what The Gondoliers is as I shall be when I have witnessed the performance.” 

In the next two paragraphs Shaw lists every other operetta Gilbert and Sullivan had written in the previous 15 years with the glaring exception of Yeomen of the Guard. Shaw is delighted to inform us as he denigrates their work that he hasn’t seen any of it apart from The Mikado, under duress. Yeomen seems not to have even made enough of an impression to join the pieces Shaw dismisses. In such a climate, no work the men could have written would have made any sort of surprising impression. 

Gilbert and Sullivan: A partnership on the brink

It’s dangerous to read an artist’s work as a set of Freudian meditations on whatever he or she may be working through while writing, but Gilbert’s librettos for Sullivan sometimes feel as though they want to be read as a code for something else. Probably the most obvious example is Gilbert’s scenario for The Pirates of Penzance. Writing for Americans who had been pirating productions of HMS Pinafore, Gilbert invented a group of bumbling pirates who are dreadful at pirating, eventually bringing them back into the fold by reminding them that they’re actually English subjects.Was Gilbert inviting the unruly colonies to begin behaving properly again? An examination of the deteriorating relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan before, during and after the writing of The Yeomen of the Guard suggests a similarly pointed commentary.

I’m about to make an argument with which two of my favorite authors on Gilbert and Sullivan completely disagree. Gayden Wren argues that if Point is meant as a stand in for Gilbert, then he would never have written him as such a self-pitying plagiarist. And Carolyn Williams argues that if there’s a relation between the two, it’s figurative, not literal; that Gilbert is depicting an outmoded form of comedy that Gilbert is supplanting.  I’m trying to argue something slightly different here, although Williams and Wren have a much better track record for insight in this area, so perhaps you should trust them when they contradict me.

Gilbert was a man who ruminated on perceived injustices and nursed grievances. In writing any dramatic work, the author reaches into his or her mind over and over again to depict the way people think and behave, the way they interact, and the way they express themselves, in short: the way the world is. Of course Gilbert doesn’t intend Point to be a literal self portrait. But having established a doomed comedian as his protagonist, and needing that protagonist to speak in favor of comedy, we are apt to see some insights into Gilbert’s own opinions on the topic, because while he was writing the opera he himself had been advocating comedy to D’Oyly Carte and Sullivan as though his livelihood depended on it. I think I can back that up using Gilbert’s own words. By the same token, in setting up the love interest who would reject Point, and in writing the man she would choose in Point’s stead, Gilbert would naturally find in his own mind the characterizations that reflect his own wounded pride in his ongoing disagreements with Sullivan.

After the initial flush of success, Sullivan began to chafe at the kinds of pieces he was expected to write with Gilbert. After the opening of Princess Ida in 1884, he told Richard D’Oyly Carte he didn’t want to write any more Savoy operas. A composer friend had recently suffered a paralyzing stroke, he himself was suffering from health problems, and he had been knighted by the Queen for his service to British music. Time was short. Why was a man with his gifts wasting them on trifles? Sullivan’s expressions of discomfort with the situation precipitated a set of negotiations to try to get him to fulfill his contractual obligation to continue writing operas for Savoy. A sampling of their correspondence reveals the fundamental disagreements.

On April 1, 1884, Sullivan wrote to Gilbert:

“I will be quite frank. With Princess Ida, I have come to the end of my tether- the end of my capability in that kind of piece. My tunes are in danger of becoming mere repetitions of my former pieces… this very suppression [of music in favor of words] is most difficult, most fatiguing, and I may say most disheartening, for the music is never allowed to rise and speak for itself. I want a chance for the music to act in its own proper sphere- to intensify the emotional element not only of the actual words, but of the situation.

I should like to set a story of human interest and probability, where the humorous words would come in a humorous (not serious) situation, and where, if the situation were a tender or dramatic one, the words would be of a similar character. There would then be a feeling of reality about it which would give a fresh interest in writing, and fresh vitality to our joint work.”

Gilbert wrote back that he was deeply offended. He had always written in this way:

“It is inconceivable that any sane author should ever write otherwise than as you propose I should write in the future.”

The exchange deteriorated from there, Sullivan objecting to the ‘charm’ plot he was so tired of, and Gilbert accusing Sullivan of treating him as a servant. Eventually the impasse was broken when Gilbert proposed the plot of The Mikado. As it turned out, Sullivan’s insistence that Gilbert push in a new direction spurred both men to the faux Japanese opera that is often called their greatest achievement. Somehow the plot of Ruddigore was also picturesque enough to overcome objections and fire Sullivan’s imagination once more. But when, late in 1887 they set out to write their next piece, he rejected Gilbert’s first proposal as mechanical, ‘a puppet show, and not human’. And that’s when Gilbert proposed what would become Yeomen. A scenario that would allow Sullivan many serious moments, a Meistersinger inspired overture, an expanded orchestra, and some of his most glorious music. It is as close to Serious Opera as Gilbert was willing or perhaps able to go.

For all that, there were many difficulties. Sullivan asked for the second act to be reconstructed less than 2 months before the opera opened, and on the morning of opening night, Gilbert angrily insisted several numbers be removed because they slowed down the action.

Knowing as we do that Gilbert had been trying very hard to give Sullivan the ‘serious’ libretto he wanted, with very human characters, it’s hard not to read Jack Point’s character as a proxy for Gilbert’s own position. They are both comedians who hide their truth telling in humor. Point’s very first line begins making a case for comedy:

“My masters, I pray you bear with us, and we will satisfy you, for we are merry folk who would make all as merry as ourselves. For, look you, there is humour in all things, and the truest philosophy is that which teaches us to find it and make the most of it.”

This wisdom will shortly be thrown back in his face by two rustic would-be molesters.

Point will go on to sing about his methodology in not one but two further numbers. It is difficult not to hear Gilbert speaking about his own work when the jester sings:

I can teach you with a quip; if I’ve a mind

I can trick you into learning with a laugh;

Oh, winnow all my folly, folly, folly, and you’ll find

A grain or two of truth among the chaff.


When they’re offered to the world in merry guise,

Unpleasant truths are swallowed with a will,

For he who’d make his fellow, fellow, fellow creatures wise

Should always gild the philosophic pill.

In Oh! A Private Buffoon is a Light-hearted Loon, Point (again perhaps speaking Gilbert’s mind) makes an even more specific case for knowing your audience, as he was making to Sullivan in their correspondence:

Though your head it may rack with a bilious attack,

And your senses with toothache you’re losing

Don’t be mopey and flat- they don’t fine you for that

If you’re properly quaint and amusing.

Compare this passage from Gilbert to Sullivan after the production had successfully opened in 1889:

“I think we should be risking everything in writing more seriously still. We have a name, jointly for humorous work, tempered with glimpses of earnest drama. I think we should do unwisely if we left, altogether, the path to which we have trodden together so long and so successfully.”

Again, I’m not arguing, as some do, that Gilbert is deliberately setting out a case for his own methodology like some kind of legal defense. I’m proposing that while he is writing the libretto, Gilbert’s mind is constantly turning these ideas over, justifying his position to himself and nursing his wounded pride. Whether the author intends the writing to be autobiographical or no, the characters speak something on the author’s mind.

If we read Point as Gilbert, then his singing companion Elsie must be Sullivan’s stand in. Elsie makes clear their relationship in terms that might apply obliquely to Gilbert and Sullivan:

“May it please you, sir, we are two strolling players, Jack Point and I, Elsie Maynard, at your worship’s service. We go from fair to fair, singing, and dancing and playing brief interludes; and so we make a poor living.”

But of course, Jack values their relationship more than she does, and for a price, Elsie decides to marry another man, an alchemist who is as good as dead, just as Sullivan was anxious to leave Gilbert for the ephemeral prospect of English Grand Opera. Recall that Sullivan was awarded the Mendelssohn Scholarship at 14, which led to his study in Leipzig and his subsequent rise to prominence. Then note that Queen Victoria, 5 months before Yeomen opened attended The Golden Legend, telling Sullivan afterward, “You ought to write a grand opera, you would do it so well!” Then consider Gilbert’s lyric for Fairfax in Act II (in my far-fetched scenario trying to woo Sullivan away from Comic Opera to the more respectable Grand Opera)   

He should ‘prentice himself at fourteen

And practice from morning to e’en

And when he’s of age,

if he will, I’ll engage,

He may capture the heart of a queen

The heart of a queen!

Death hangs in the air through Yeomen. In the last moment of this, their most ‘serious’ work, this comic figure falls insensible to the ground, having been rejected by his partner. Controversy remains about whether Point is actually dead, which reflects a much more tangible reality: would Gilbert ever write with Sullivan again?

I know I am stretching these comparisons, but when read in this way, the central musical idea of the opera, I Have a Song To Sing O! is even more meaningful, as the words of the rejected comic are continually rewritten and recontextualized by the woman who wants out of the relationship. They both have a song to sing. But it’s not the same song. She will not sing the words he has given her. The fact that Sullivan had so much trouble writing it and ultimately needed Gilbert to sing for him the simple folk song it was based on makes the irony even more poignant, as does the fact that it would become one of their most beloved songs, the one most requested by Autograph seekers.  

Ultimately, of course, Gilbert and Sullivan did write several more operas together. Their last masterpiece The Gondoliers, which followed the next year, paints in its convoluted plot an even more bold picture of their artistic rupture: Two casts barely appear together onstage. One cast has a very involved musical characterization, the other a much simpler comic framework. Furthermore, the story revolves around two jointly ruling kings, unable to figure out which is in charge, and doing menial work as everyone else lives like royals, a mirror of Gilbert’s idea that others were profiting at his expense. At the conclusion of the opera, we find that neither of them are truly king, and the crown goes to the attendant to the Duke of Plaza Toro.

Following the Carpet Quarrel, a similar situation would unfold for D’Oyly Carte, who would be scrambling to search for composers and librettists to fill the gaping hole left when the partnership finally collapsed.

But let’s leave that story for another time and simply marvel that an opera grew out of the friction of an artistic impasse that is one of the greatest pieces of music theatre in the 19th Century.

Before You Start:

A great place to start with any G&S Operetta is the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive page.The page for Yeomen is pretty extensive, including interviews, reviews of early productions, higher keys for Phoebe’s two songs, and an extremely helpful list of errata.

The most commonly used edition is the Schirmer vocal score, edited by Edmond William Rickett. It’s good, and is accessible to most of your singers. I linked to Amazon here, because most people these days buy from them. But do be aware that they sometimes lump together more than one edition of the same score, so you might accidentally get a rival edition when you order. You may decide you’d like to go with the Oxford critical edition, which is very good, if more expensive, and connects perfectly with the full score you’re going to want to purchase. On that note:

As for the full score, you’re in luck. The old handwritten Kalmus score is $165, which is appalling, considering that the brilliant new Oxford edition edited by Colin Jagger is less than $90. The critical material at the beginning is stellar, and I only found a couple of head scratchers that couldn’t be clarified in the notes.

I believe in conducting chorus rehearsals from the vocal score until the chorus is off book, and then switching as early as practicable to the full score to conduct rehearsals. There is a real wealth of detail in the orchestration that you as a music director need to be aware of that is simply not present in the Piano Score. If you are renting parts, do check to see if you can get your hands on the score that goes with them to use as you rehearse. It goes without saying that conducting the operetta in performance with an orchestra from the Piano Vocal Score is an unpardonable infraction unless it is absolutely unavoidable.


As always, the OakApple Press page laying out all the major recordings is complete and fantastic. Many of these recordings are available on Spotify, but I encourage you to buy a hard copy. Looking to D’Oyly Carte for style or pronunciation help is a good idea, but I’m sorry to say that even in the case of vowels, you will find very little uniformity from one D’Oyly Carte recording to the next.

If you’re going to be Music Directing Gilbert and Sullivan, you’ll want to begin building a library of reference materials. I recommend getting these, as you are able:

The Complete Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan by Ian Bradley. You should probably get this one ASAP. There is a very expensive new edition I have not yet read. If it’s anything like its predecessors, it’s indispensable.

A Most Ingenious Paradox: The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan by Gayden Wren: Good stuff, especially seeing the shows in the context of the whole output. I come back to this book again and again.

The Gilbert and Sullivan Lexicon by Harry Benford: in which you will find the definitions of all those words you don’t understand.

I have recently added to my collection Carolyn Williams Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody. I had been skeptical at first of this kind of treatment of G&S, but I was very much mistaken. This book is just wonderful, and I found the chapter on Yeomen quite illuminating. Williams is the only writer on G&S I can recall reading that confronts difficulties in the works in their historical contexts. Most books either deny that there are problematic passages or approach them as though the authors should have been thinking then as we do now. I can tell that I’m going to learn quite a bit from the insights in this book as I continue to do Gilbert and Sullivan.

After you have procured some of these, set aside a number of hours to do the following:

1) Listen to the soundtracks with the score in hand, marking things that strike you as interesting. I also made a pass at one point with a metronome and marked the tempi of all the sections from several recordings so that I would have a benchmark of speed. When a singer complains about a tempo, it helps to be able to check and say, “Ah, yes, we’re too slow” or: “This is within the range of generally accepted tempi.” or yet again, “I’d like to take it this fast, but currently our diction won’t allow it.” Sullivan doesn’t always notate phrasing or articulations, and while it’s easy to say, “Let’s just leave it up to the taste of the players”, it’s sometimes necessary to actually make clear decisions as a conductor so that the ensemble is telling the same musical story. I have developed a system with colored pencils, where I listen to a recording of a particular year with, say, a red pencil in hand and just mark interesting articulation, dynamic, or tempo choices for the key moments. Then I go back with a different color and enter another recording’s take on the same moments. Pretty quickly one begins to realize what is standard, what is done almost every time, and what is open to interpretation. You will also find your own preference in those places where there appears to be a wide range of opinion. To me, this is the beginning of discovering your own voice as a conductor; finding where the limits of expression have been in the past, and deciding what you are drawn to in answer to the points that are vague.

2) Take the Lexicon book and copy in pencil all the definitions into the score where you don’t already know the meanings.

As You’re Casting:

Richard Cholmondeley

Sir Richard Cholmondely

Sir Richard is a role for a bass-baritone, hopefully an imposing one, since his character hasn’t much of a sense of humor and arrives to deliver important news at nearly every entrance. In How Say You Maiden, he not only begins the number, but has some extremely challenging passagework, and a nearly impossible passage in the Act II finale. Note that Lieutenant is pronounced ‘leftenant’ in England.

Colonel Fairfax

Colonel Fairfax

Fairfax is a tenor with a thankless task. Other characters tell the audience that he is brave and valiant, but we will see him behave in precisely the opposite manner in the piece, cavalier about the feelings of the people around him, and self-pitying in the face of mild annoyance. If the audience is to like him, he has to be terribly charming, and his devil-may-care attitude needs to read as sophistication, not egotism. He also has two arias that rely on beauty of tone. A harder role than you might at first think.

Sergeant Meryll

Sergeant Meryll

Meryll performs critically important plot functions in Yeomen, delivering important exposition and bridging several storylines. He must credibly be Leonard and Pheobe’s father. He must be able to hold the bass part of Strange Adventure, the fast section at the end of act II, (with the Lieutenant and Wilfred) and be rather adept at counting, since he has awkward entrances in two numbers. A role for a solid performer.

Meryll used to have a song between Nos. 3 and 4. It was cut on Gilbert’s insistence, and Sullivan was annoyed at being bullied into cutting it, although he agreed it was unnecessary to the plot. Apart from giving Meryll something interesting to do, it isn’t missed, especially since Meryll has plenty to do in the piece itself.

I suppose this is as good a place as any to point out the confusion you may first have as you begin working through the materials. Meryll is the last name of three of these characters, and the false last name of a fourth. In the score Sergeant Meryll is always referred to as Meryll, his real son as Leonard, Phoebe as Phoebe, and Fairfax as Fairfax, even when disguised as a Meryll.

Leonard Meryll

Leonard Meryll

Leonard exists to set up the plot, disappears for a long time, then provides information necessary to end the opera. In the interim, he can go back to being a chorister if that works with your staging and costuming. In fact, you should be casting a very fine tenor in this part, and you can’t afford to lose any chorus tenors, since you need several good ones as Yeomen, and you don’t want your chorus of townspeople to be tenorless. Leonard needs a high A flat.

Jack Point

Jack Point

Jack Point is one of the best and most challenging roles in the canon. He must have an extraordinarily good memory, for the ever changing I Have A Song to Sing O!, the many monologues, and the verses and verses of patter. He plays comic for most of the piece, but there must also be a slight sadness, or the ending simply will not play. Vocally the role is not terribly rangy, and could be played by a tenor or a baritone, but it must be someone who has crystal clear diction and the intelligence to understand what he’s doing and saying throughout.

Wilfred Shadbolt

Wilfred Shadbolt

Shadbolt must first of all have a wonderful stage presence and great comic timing. He must be adept at patter and have a good sense of timing.

Shadbolt had a number between When Maiden Loves and Tower Warders that I love. When Jealous Torments Rack My Soul was supposedly cut because it was serious in tone, being the second such number in a row at the beginning of the opera. I think my modern sensibility is differently calibrated, because I find both numbers musically light, if lyrically dark. Shadbolt’s cut number is in fact, full of truly delightful detail, with flutes imitating birds, the violins trilling a meowing cat, and a truly hilarious bassoon line. It also makes the reference to Shadbolt’s jealousy near the end of the opera resonate even better, since this number establishes jealousy as his central feature.  

The headsman

The Headsman

Pick your tallest/biggest actor. He wears a mask, so having somebody who is imposing and can wield an axe credibly without doing any harm to himself or those around him are the primary criteria.

First Yeoman

The First Yeoman is a Tenor or a Baritone who can sing a high F briefly.

Second Yeoman

The second Yeoman is a rangy tenor, or at the very least a baritone with a sustained high F. Be sure he can sing the passage in Tower Warders, but also check in on the Low Bb in the First Act Finale, where he seems to be more of a Baritone  

First and Second Citizens

These characters have no given vocal parts, they act like dangerous creeps in one scene. Choose them accordingly.

Elsie Maynard

Elsie Maynard

Elsie is one of the best soprano roles in G&S, despite the fact that she only has one aria proper. The role requires a strong actress with a very flexible voice, and real punch at the top of the staff. There are several places that are rather heavily scored. Conversely, she needs to be able to float some things as well. She also needs a very good memory. In I Have a Song to Sing, O!, the words and timing are very difficult to remember. And finally, she needs to be able to play comic scenes and several moments of pathos. It’s quite a meaty role!

Phoebe Meryll

Phoebe Meryll

Phoebe opens the show and appears at every important juncture. She’s really a mezzo, but you can cast a soprano if you move her two arias up a step. Both the lower and higher keys are legitimate choices sanctioned by Sullivan. She has a lot of lovely scene work, so cast a sensitive actor who can play comedy.


Dame Carruthers

Dame Carruthers initially appears to be a different kind of Contralto part, as the noble protector of history, but shifts somewhat awkwardly in Act II to fit the scary-contralto type to frighten poor Meryll and make us like him less. Carruthers needs a good ear for the various part work she sings, good diction for the patter, and a formidable stage presence.

Original Kate


Kate is an impossibly small part with a critical vocal line in Strange Adventure! A wonderful role for someone in your company who is building experience for larger roles, or for a soprano with a beautiful voice who for whatever reason wasn’t cast in the other roles.


In The Pirates of Penzance, Sullivan had split his male chorus into tenors and basses. Here we have a much more complicated demarcation, because you must have a full 4 part men’s chorus of Yeomen and a functioning section that hopefully balances the women’s chorus. The chorus of townspeople does not appear all that often, but when they do, it is extremely rewarding material to sing! This means you can afford to really finesse your choral rehearsals; you will have the time. It’s possible to cover all the chorus material in 2 well paced rehearsals and then move on to fine tuning details.

Here’s my suggestion for filling the yeomen positions: Put one of your strongest chorus singers on each of the yeomen parts: 1st Tenor, 2nd Tenor, Baritone, and Bass. Add them to Sgt. Meryll and the First and Second Yeomen you cast as principals, since there are times Meryll and those two yeomen are not able to sing the choral parts. Once you’ve set up that core group, be certain your remaining chorus of townspeople has a strong tenor and bass to ground the section. In all likelihood, you will be short on tenors, as we were. Don’t send them all to the group of Yeomen, or you’ll be in a bind.  If you should have chorus singers to spare, start doubling out the Yeomen with other singers. Meryll is likely a bass, your first Yeoman is probably a first tenor, your second yeoman a baritone or second tenor. So if you’re augmenting beyond those 7 men, add another 2nd tenor or baritone to make an evenly balanced 8 when everyone’s singing together. Then add one each of the other parts. I think 11 is probably too many, and if you can afford 11 yeomen and still have enough strong tenors to balance the chorus women in the remaining scenes, I want to talk with you about your recruiting. I also want to know about your costume budget. For the record, there are 37 warders in real life.

Your sopranos have a G above the staff, your altos an E flat above treble C, going down to middle C. Chorus tenors need the G above middle C, and the basses need the A below bass C.

The Yeomen First tenor tops off at an A above middle C, the second tenor The A flat above middle C, the Baritone needs an E flat above middle C, and your Basses need the F below the bass staff and the E flat above middle C.

General Pronunciation Advice:

I copy here general note from earlier G&S posts, with some slight emendations.

I am still no expert on RP English pronunciation, but I offer here a couple of basic pointers, to which I intend to add as I learn more:

1) Be aware of the Trap-Bath split. A fellow Savoyard in my tenor section made me aware of this chart, which is very helpful: trap-bath

2) ‘R’s that begin a word are tripped or rolled. ‘R’s that come before a vowel are tripped. ‘R’s that come after a vowel are generally dropped. At no point is the ‘r’ pronounced as we Amerrricans pronounce it. (although you may encounter different kinds of Rs if characters have regional British accents)

3) Mary, Merry, and Marry employ three different vowel sounds. Where I come from, they are pronounced identically. In Philadelphia, they are pronounced as three different vowels, but they aren’t the same vowels. Interesting chart on this matter:http://www4.uwm.edu/FLL/linguistics/dialect/staticmaps/q_15.html In G&S, you’ll want to say Mary with an eh as in air, Merry with eh as in get, and Marry with an ah as in cat. (someone will certainly correct me on this)

4) Many u vowels will need a y sound before them: duty becomes dyewtee, tuning becomes tyooning, new becomes nyoo, and institution becomes instityooshun.

5) Been becomes bean.

6) For words which in American English replace ‘t’s with a d sound, a true ‘t’ sound should be used. “Water” is not pronounced “wadder”, and certainly not wooder, my Philadelphia friends. But be careful not to overcompensate. I have noticed that some Americans are so anxious to Britishify their speech that they change to ‘t’ sounds that are truly ‘d’s. Lady should not be Laty, as I’ve heard people say when attempting to posh up their language. Not every ‘d’ needs to become a ‘t’, only the ones that are truly ts to begin with!

7) As I continue to conduct these pieces, and after continuing encouragement from the English members of our American company, I am beginning to become fixated on words like “all”, and the second syllable of “Doctor”, “Major” and “Sailor”. The British “all” has a darker vowel than the Americans use, almost to the point of sounding like ‘ole’, and the second syllable of the ‘or’ words is pronounced like ‘or’, not ‘er’, as Americans would say it. I am still conflicted about that particular one, because the D’Oyly Carte recordings are by no means consistent on that point, and especially at speed, it is very difficult to articulate a tall ‘o’ vowel in such a word. It is something to keep one’s ears open for.

This video may be of use to you.

That is by no means exhaustive, and I’ve probably gotten some of it wrong, but that’ll get you started. There are some places in this show where pronunciation will be governed by a rhyme. I will try and hit each of those points as we go.

Going through the show number by number:


This overture is one of the finest in the Savoy canon. Various commentators have suggested that it is modeled on Wagner’s overture to Die Meistersinger. One recent writer even insinuates that Sullivan chose to take this overture seriously for a change on account of the seriousness of the topic. A casual glance at his overture to Iolanthe shows that when Sullivan had the time to write his own overtures, he always did so with great care and diligence.

Those who see the Meistersinger connection are probably responding to the brass opening and subsequent episodes, and the appearance near the end of the Wagner of the King David motive with busy strings throughout. Sullivan loved Die Meistersinger, but if he was inspired by the overture, the differences are frankly more interesting than the similarities.

Wagner’s overture is built on a number of that opera’s main themes, just as Sullivan’s is. But Wagner’s orchestration is elaborate and thick, and the themes tend to spin out into sequences, each dissipating into the next idea. Sullivan’s language closes out the musical ideas and makes quite clear which instruments are melodic and which accompanimental. The Wagner at its best is a flurry of counterpoint; he dazzles us with his complexity, and when he denies us cadence, we find we have already moved on to the next busy episode. The Sullivan at its best is contrapuntally sound but always simple, clear and directionally oriented. The strongest case for comparison between the two overtures is also the strongest case for what makes them so different. Below I’ve reduced the four measure phrase at the return of the King David motive in Die Meistersinger, followed by the analogous passage at the close of the Yeomen overture.


Meistersinger Overture Example


Yeomen Overture Example

The old orchestration rule that there should never really be more than three distinct things going on at once is held in perfect clarity by the Sullivan example, whereas Wagner has three heterophonic versions of the bass, a brass idea that is beautiful, but lacks a strong profile, and a terribly busy chromatic figure in the second violins and violas that doesn’t so much add excitement as muddy the waters. By comparison, Sullivan’s passage is a perfect model of clarity.

Once you leave these grand and gilded brass passages, the development of these ideas is not at all Wagnerian, but displays the welcome influence of Mendelssohn, especially as the “All Frenzied With Despair” motive is nimbly passed between sections.

The overture is also in Sonata form, a form Wagner viewed with skepticism. I see people online describing this overture as being distinctive because it’s in sonata form rather than being a potpourri of tunes from the opera. I see this as a potpourri of tunes from the opera organized in Sonata Form. The same could be said of the Iolanthe overture. Unless you’re trying to write a Wagnerian music of the future, there is no shame in writing in Sonata Form; it is the tried and true way of organizing contrasting ideas! The introduction is the Tower Theme, followed by the Primary Theme, When a Wooer Goes a Wooing in Eb. (chromatically altered from its appearance in the opera so that it can be better used in this context) a transitional passage modulates us to the Secondary Theme area Were I Thy Bride in the Dominant, Bb. A development section is built on All Frenzied with Despair from the Act I Finale, with snippets of When a Wooer and Were I Thy Bride. After 44 measures of modulating passages with no full statements of any theme, the Tower Theme sneaks back to prepare the recapitulation, with artfully deployed Primary and Secondary themes in the tonic key and a further statement of the Tower Theme as a powerful coda.

The reduction of the full orchestration in the Schirmer piano vocal score, held over and cleaned up from the Chappell edition, leaves a lot to be desired; one wishes a very playable reduction occupied 2 main staves, with a smaller stave supplying other details above, as happens from pages 9 through 11. Much of this overture is laid out in a way that would be difficult for most accompanists who are not concert pianists. Of course, this is only really a problem if you’ve staged the overture, something that was not done very often when this edition was released in 1954.

The greatest difficulty I found in conducting the overture was establishing the proper tempo. The Tower Theme, heard immediately at the opening of the work, appears in three other numbers in the opera, and not always at the speed one finds optimal for the Overture. My mental picture of the theme happens to be too fast for the figure in the violins in the 7th measure, but I found I also ran a danger of over-correcting to the point where the brass figure in measure 16 was too slow. Once I discovered that the brass idea in measure 16 is the most critical passage to get in the right tempo, I used it in my mind to calibrate the opening. The overture basically moves at that tempo throughout. With Yeomen, Sullivan finally has the larger orchestra he wanted, and we will see how beautifully he uses the extra players. He also seems to favor the clarinet in lines he might have given the oboe. I wonder if the Savory orchestra had a personnel change.

The development section, which begins around measure 59, is a wonderful spinning out of the stretto at the end of Act I, in deftly modulating passages. Ask the strings to articulate it in the same way the brass do when they play it in measure 65.

Yeomen overture autograph


1. When Maiden Loves, She Sits and Sighs

When Maiden Loves Photo

This is the only Savoy opera to open with a solo, and if this weren’t G&S, we might think Phoebe is the main character in the piece. She does in fact appear subsequently at nearly every important juncture. The spinning wheel flavor of the song should help you establish your tempo. There are two traditional keys for this. If you cast a higher voiced Phoebe, she may well want the piece in Eb. Both are sanctioned by original performance practice.

This is the number where you will be glad you hired competent violists. The spinning wheel figure, which at first feels like a simple trill, terminates several times in a very specific and somewhat exposed way, which needs to be clean. Be careful 5 measures before B. (as it appears in the Schirmer score) There is a viola line absent from the vocal score that makes sense of the long pause before Phoebe begins singing again. With piano alone, one wants to start the next phrase too early. Write the line in, or work with your Phoebe to understand how the passage works.

The aria also presents a small conducting challenge. If you play the piece as written, you will quickly discover that the 4 measures before B and the 4 measures before the first ending seem very fast, and don’t in fact represent the way the piece is performed on recordings. Colin Jagger’s edition takes the position (as I read his critical commentary) that the meno mosso and subsequent a tempo are not sanctioned by the author, and that Sullivan did not intend these measures to be performed at half speed. I agree with him that Sullivan knew his mind and knew how to notate rhythm. And yet, as we rehearsed the song, we simply could not find a musically convincing reading of the passage as notated in the score. The 4 measure passages feel rushed to no dramatic end. I was also unable to locate any recording that played those passages at speed. Should you choose to be academically correct and perform the score as written, I tip my hat to you, and your orchestra will have no trouble following you. But if you choose to do it the traditional D’Oyly Carte way, you will either have to have a potentially long and confusing conversation with the orchestra at the sitzprobe, or you will want to re-bar the passages. I include parts and score below for you in both keys rebarred for ease of conducting.

This is a PDF of the low key and the high key of the Piano vocal. I’ve added cue sized notes for the viola passage I mentioned earlier, and I’ve changed the measures so you don’t have to wildly change your tempo to do it the way it appears on most recordings. I’ve also removed a rolled chord marking that Schirmer used to use whenever there was pizzicato. It may sound more like a badly coordinated orchestra playing pizz. to roll the chord staccato, but we hope our orchestra actually plays the pizz. simultaneously!

1. When Maiden Loves Rebarred Both Keys

Below is a document with all the orchestra parts so you can conduct it that way as well (in each key). I used the Schirmer rehearsal lettering and repeat format, which is different from the Oxford version. I conducted using these parts, marking the time signature changes in my score, and all was well.

When Maiden Sighs Original Key Barlines Adjusted Orchestral Parts

When Maiden Sighs Transposed Barlines Adjusted Orchestral Parts

2.Tower Warders, Under Orders

Tower Warders

This wonderful number shows Sullivan at a high level of musical pageantry, and will reveal to the audience immediately whether your chorus is big enough, and whether you distributed your tenors properly. If you don’t have enough in your chorus, they’ll know when the chorus begins singing. If you don’t have enough in the Yeomen, you’ll know when they have their very exposed part.

The rocketing triplet scale figure has been in several previous G&S operas, notably right before the recapitulation of the primary melody in the March of the Peers in Iolanthe, and it provides an identical function here in contrasting the martial duple figure preparing the entrance of the first theme.

The chorus of townspeople need a staccato articulation, which is difficult to maintain throughout the piece and prone to rushing. Keep an ear out for that in rehearsal. In the 18th and 22nd measures of rehearsal B,  the Yeomen split into 5 parts. Meryll has not yet entered, which means you are one Bass short. If you don’t have enough Yeomen to do that doubling, eliminate the lowest part, and let the second bassoon carry it. The horns, bassoons, and sometimes even clarinets double all these parts beautifully, particularly when the two choruses come together at the end. There is a slight danger that the tendency of the Yeomen to sing their legato phrases a little languidly and the larger chorus to rush the detached parts will create some phasing between the two. Tell your chorus to listen for the triangle at the top of the number, which plays every quarter note like a metronome, and at the end to listen for the flutes and oboes, who are also playing cleanly and staccato (one hopes)

There are several word changes in the Colin Jagger edition you will want to take note of, especially if you are rehearsing chorus from the Schirmer score, and conducting from the Jagger full score. One is in measure 32, where Jagger’s edition reads “We rejoice in talking over”. The Schirmer has “telling”. Jagger’s note clarifies the situation well. I mention it because when I switched to conducting rehearsals from full score, I found myself continually making notes to correct word errors that were not actor mistakes, but discrepancies. I’ll try and note them as they occur.

3. When Our Gallant Norman Foes

When Our Gallant Norman FoesCarruthers defense in her dialogue and subsequent paean to the Tower sets her up as the protector of tradition in the piece, and it’s truly a wonderful, very English moment.

A bugaboo for me was the word ‘twist’ in the Yeomen’s part, which needs to have the ‘s’ delayed, attached to the beginning of ‘and’. Of course Dame Carruthers can close to the ‘s’ as soon as she likes, but chorally, we don’t want to hear that.

Our director didn’t want to see a chorus of townspeople standing mute as the yeomen feebly echoed, so I assigned the first 2 phrases (‘The screw may twist’ through ‘men may burn’) to the full chorus. Going further would have drowned out her solo line.  

This is the first of the numbers in the opera to end with music underscoring the exit of the singer in a way that discourages audience applause. In performance I found this dissatisfying, but again, I think perhaps Sullivan was trying to keep the action moving and avoid the feeling of music hall construction

4. Alas! I Waver To And Fro

This first of many principle ensembles is tricky stuff, especially considering that you are likely to have cast your most experienced ensemble singers in other roles. The tempo is quick, Leonard’s part is high, and Meryll’s part is acrobatic. The cutoffs when 2 or 3 sing together are also awkwardly written, in the British manner, notated to stop ⅔ of the way through the measure beat quickly in one. I recommend adjusting those cutoffs for the sake of accuracy to the nearest sensible barline. Once again, the audience is denied a traditional ending with an extended coda that sneaks out the door as the characters do.

Alas, I Waver To and Fro

5. Is Life a Boon?

Much is made of the trouble Sullivan had setting this text. He wrote several versions, this final version having been completed 4 days before the premiere. In looking at the earlier version which still exists, available in the Oxford edition, I have my own observations:

The original version is much sprightlier and more vocally and musically interesting. It sounds more ‘English’ and more self consciously archaic to me. It also starts the second verse in the minor, which is better suited to the text, and the ending combines ideas from both verses. To my ear, it places Fairfax as a character far more specifically. The standard version has been much admired from the beginning, but I find the aria a little generic and perfunctory, rather like Fold Your Flapping Wings, which was cut from Iolanthe. The introductory measures do little more than establish us in Db major; Sullivan declines to use a number of melodic ideas that would have suited that opening moment, the melodic line follows the poetic meter without any of Sullivan’s inspired creative manipulation, and the vocal line is not very adventurous. Gilbert ostensibly rejected the earlier version because it resembled tenor arias from earlier operas, being in 6/8. Others have speculated that Gilbert wanted to deprive a tenor he disliked of a strong moment. But I wonder whether his real reason was that the joke is so hard to understand in the earlier version. Sullivan seems to have taken the sense of the lyric somewhat too seriously in the earlier version; in the final version, Fairfax simply tells the joke straight.

There is to my ear an obvious disconnect between Gilbert and Sullivan’s ideas about what should be happening here. With that disconnect in mind, consider the fact that Gilbert chose part of this lyric to appear on Sullivan’s memorial in 1903:

“Is life a boon?

If so, it must befall

That death whene’er he call

Must call too soon.”


That memorial and its Goscombe John sculpture of a partially nude young woman representing grief dramatically mourning under a bust of Sir Arthur are considered either the sexiest or most sexist memorial in London. The text is, of course, totally appropriate for a memorial out of the context of the opera. And yet considered in context, sung by a character who immediately thereafter says, in effect, “If I’m going to die, I may as well die now as any other time” seems mildly inappropriate to a memorial. And their disagreements about the setting of this text were surely on Gilbert’s mind, because when the statue was unveiled, he gave a speech, in which he remarked that:

“…he should like to bear testimony to the abnegation and self-effacement to which Sir Arthur was always prepared to submit himself whenever he had reason to believe that any part of his share of their joint work was inconsistent with the effect intended to be achieved by the whole design.” -as reported in The Musical Times, August 1, 1903

Anyone who has read their letters knows that Gilbert is stretching the truth here.

If you use the Jagger full score, you will notice a discrepancy in the pickup to the second verse. Jagger’s note explains the situation. I didn’t have a preference between the triplet version and the dotted eighth sixteenth version, but you might want to choose one yourself for clarity’s sake. If you take time at the end of the first verse, be prepared to cut off the strings in measure 40. Plan similarly in cutting off the strings 7 measures from the end.  

6. Here’s a Man of Jollity

This chorus number is wonderfully inventive musically. Sullivan is trying to evoke the rhythmic fluidity of Renaissance music here, although 5/4 would have been quite unusual. What is really striking here is how Sullivan builds a melodic rhetoric from motives which he repeats in various configurations. Some melodic patterns happen at the quarter note level, falling irregularly over barlines. Others are re-ordered in performance. The opening consists of just three ideas:

Jollity Example 1

Jollity Example 2

Jollity Example 3

But the ideas come in this fanciful order:


The chorus is essentially monophonic and in the Lydian mode (!), with chords appearing only in the mixed meter passages to help establish the cadences. It’s also striking that Sullivan writes an underscore for important dialogue, something he had not done in earlier operettas. It’s yet another sign that he was aiming for a more thoroughly connected musical drama.

Unless you’ve separated the sections on stage, I don’t see much point in splitting the groups antiphonally in their vocal parts when the chorus enters. At letters A and B, the high F may be too high for some of your altos and basses, in which case they can enter on the second notes of those phrases.

I think the faster the tempo the better. Conduct the 4/4 measures in 2, and the 3 and 5 measures in 3 and 5. If the dialogue is read quickly, you should be able to get through the repeated passage 5 times before moving on to No. 7.

Colin Jagger’s notes in the full score explain the bizarre situation between numbers 6 and 7. Here’s a man of Jollity clearly ends preparing us for D major, and yet in the Schirmer score, I Have a Song to Sing, O! Is in E flat. As I see it, you have 3 options: 1) take the last 14 measure repeated section of No. 6 up a half step and do No. 7 in Eb. 2) move No. 7 to D, as it will appear at the end of the opera or 3) Go from A7 to Eb major and hope nobody is paying attention. In truth they probably aren’t. I think the crossfade you encounter in one or two of the recordings is the most bizarre way to solve the problem, making an unusual harmonic moment in a Romantic Era opera into an outtake from Charles Ives’s Country Band March.

Here's a Man of Jollity.jpg

7. I have a Song To Sing, O!

In its profound simplicity, this song captures the central couple of the opera in their pre-fallen state. Gilbert has created something rare in his work: A text that refers to the character’s situations ironically, but not comically. It is also wonderful theatre that we know something will go wrong, but they don’t realize they are singing about themselves.

I don’t know that anyone truly sings every note of the melody as notated, and some places are rather awkward as written, such as “Who loved a lord, and who laughed aloud”, which is all quarters except for ‘lord and’. ‘And who’ eighths is much better prosody. You will need to decide for yourself how much of a stickler you intend to be about these moments.

The chorus that comes in at letter E sings on an Oo, then on an Ah! 8 measures later. When this moment is echoed in the Second Act Finale, the score indicates Oo! all the way. I thought Oo was unlikely to carry at a Forte dynamic, and that my chorus singers would perhaps not keep straight the two versions, so I made the last iteration an Ah! both times. Midway through that last choral phrase, it is effective to speed up to the end.

Incidentally, you must choose a sprightly tempo here, or your orchestra will fall asleep and/or lose their places. This is also a very fine reason to do no. 6 as fast as you can manage, because then the transition will be more or less l’istesso, and you won’t have to drive the orchestra ahead in the opening ritornello. One final point (pun intended) about the tempo: If your orchestra is good, they’ll be listening to the singers, and since there is so little going on in the orchestra anyway, it turns out to be very hard to get the tempo to move without the singers cooperation. They are in some way in charge of keeping the tempo moving themselves.

I Have a Song To SIng O!.jpg

8.  How Say You, Maiden, Will You Wed

Choose your tempo based on the ‘head over heels’ stretto. Elsie will want it faster, probably, and the men will likely want it slower. The three characters are so beautifully depicted in the music of their solo sections, and the ensemble work has the most delightfully witty orchestration. Beginning at the second ‘head over heels’ passage, Sullivan sets up a dialogue between the tutti woodwinds and the strings, which quickly becomes a game of tag or leapfrog between the two bassoons. The tutti, once again anticlimactic, continues the game, this time alternating flute/clarinet with horn/bassoon, until the pizzicato strings get the last word.

Practice cueing the bassoon entry in the last 6 measures of vocals and be prepared to explain the flute/clarinet pickup that follows to the rest of the orchestra.

9. I’ve Jibe and Joke

Jibe and Joke

A standard Gilbert and Sullivan patter song, which is to say: perfection.

The opening is a jig, with a wonderful sixteenth note figure, made even more wonderful in the 15th measure when Sullivan runs the figure into D minor ominously.

You may want to practice indicating the tempo with a blank bar, to align bassoon and low strings. It’s difficult to coordinate the very first measure. It turns out there are several versions of the woodwind passage here, and Sullivan’s preference seems to be unclear. Have a look at the parts your orchestra is using, and make sure they agree (ours did not) Enjoy the sforzandi. They are wonderfully fun.

Generally the last time through the chorus, singers slow down for “always gild the philosophic pill” This is tricky to conduct, so be sure to have a game plan.

10. ’Tis Done! I Am A Bride

This aria is some particularly fine writing, although this is one of those introductory 2 measure ritornelli that I do not find very inspiring. Pay attention to the 2nd violins, violas and cellos more than the rest in the opening there; they need more guidance than the others in establishing the triplets.

Choose a good fast tempo for the Allegro, and start small, so that the cresting waves in the strings have something to crest above! At 2 before C, you can let the singer take time, but get back into tempo at rehearsal C. The key to this number is forward propulsion that opens out into lyric long notes. We know this because Sullivan broke up Gilbert’s rhyme scheme to accomplish it.

Though tears and long-drawn sigh

Ill-fit a bride

No sadder wife than I

The whole world wide!


Ah me, ah me

Yet wives there be…

Sullivan pulls ‘Ah me’ back into the previous stanza, and we as an audience no longer hear any rhyme at all. But Sullivan is drawing the urgency of the situation in that moment, an urgency that can’t be achieved at a slower speed. Gayden Wren goes into much greater detail on this point, and I encourage you to read his chapter. In The Gondoliers, Sullivan would ignore rhythmic schemes even more, to the point where he makes Gilbert sound as though he doesn’t know how to rhyme at all.

The Allegro un poco agitato is perhaps the place in the score where you will most wish you had more violins. The writing isn’t always easy, and passing the passagework back and forth between players (as they will probably do) reveals quickly both the facility of the players and the depth of the sections. I told my section I was most interested in measures 23, 30, 43, etc, where the rocketing passages jump out from the texture and drive the piece forward. Keep in mind that conducting a sensitive rehearsal pianist to push and pull the tempo around the cadences is much easier than doing the same for the entire string section. I found it useful to conduct the cadenza once for the orchestra with the singer while they weren’t playing, so that they could hear the way it’s constructed. It’s also worth noting that the end of this is scored rather heavily for Sullivan. Listen for that balance so that your singer doesn’t need to oversing the cadenza.

Tis Done

11. Were I Thy Bride

Again, there are two key choices here. Both keys are available in the IMSLP orchestral parts, by the way. Be sure to choose a sprightly tempo, and note the character of the orchestration. As I hear it, Phoebe’s coyness is depicted in the way Sullivan mutes and divides the violins, first into 2 groups of 2 notes each, then eventually four groups of 2 notes each. More and more notes per chord, fewer and fewer players on each note! Under that is a tick-tock bed of pizzicato, and above it the occasional pad of woodwind coloring the flavor of the phrases. Students of composition note how Sullivan usually brings the winds in mid-phrase before a cadence and bridges into the next phrase. They’re a musical glue! Were I Thy Bride

12.FIRST ACT FINALE: Oh, Sergeant Meryll, Is It True

It isn’t as much of a thrill ride as the Finale to the first act of Iolanthe, and yet, I found this absolutely exhilarating to conduct, particularly the funeral march and the final stretto.

The first page of reduction is again pretty unsatisfying. The section in E major at the top of Schirmer page 97 is awkward passage work for both rehearsal accompanist and strings, but even allowing for that, the sense of what is happening on the first page of the Finale could have been conveyed much better.

Meryll’s entrance is actually quite difficult, because he’s essentially performing a canon with the trumpet at a beat’s delay. It is a wonderful line once you get it timed out, but budget some rehearsal there.

The violin sixteenth coming out of the fermata on the way into E (as lettered in the Schirmer score) is really difficult to cue! Your pianist will simply do it, but you need to plan for a section of violins. I actually got it wrong every single performance. As I’m thinking about it now, I think you need to say a prayer and give a strong 4 out of the fermata.

The Andante allegretto reinstates a repeat during the 1st and 2nd yeomen solos and a second verse in the Oxford Full Score that isn’t in the Schirmer score. I don’t think it’s worth reinstating, but you should note it so it doesn’t catch you by surprise.

The transition into H in the Schirmer score is prefigured in the syncopation in the previous measure. In fact, you could also make it l’istesso. You will almost certainly need to finesse this moment with your orchestra.

At rehearsal G in the Oxford Full Score (8th measure of H in the Schirmer vocal score), there is a passage that is pretty tricky for the orchestra. Your pianist will be fine in rehearsal, but the orchestra is coming out of 2 brief phrases and 2 unaccompanied recits, so they have no real bearing on the new tempo. When we come out of the recit, the tempo needs to be established on the downbeat of the cellos and double basses, who are marked piano. Every other instrument is primarily offbeats for quite a while, which adds to the confusion. Have the cellos and basses mark the singer’s text coming into that passage, and in the fermatas that follow a few phrases later, and have them bump that first downbeat up to forte. You may find yourself paying attention to the strings and flutes, but that’s a mistake. The main thing is the downbeat. Establish that, and the orchestra will have something to latch onto.

8 measures before J, you will note that the orchestra has a pickup quarter, but Wilfred has an eighth. The same thing happens 2 measures later. You may find it advisable to drop directly into tempo at the downbeat that closes Wilfred’s rather free recit so that things line up. Alternately, you can cut the clarinet and bassoon upbeat and let Wilfred take you into the next measure by himself.

I recommend you tacet the first notes in the trumpets at the top of the Allegro non troppo (full score measure 216, Schirmer 2nd measure of J. It’s hard to coordinate otherwise. You’ll thank me later.

The funereal march to mourn the condemned is situationally and mildly musically similar to the auto-da-fé sequence at the beginning of Act 3, Part 2 of Verdi’s Don Carlo (5 act version) Possibly Gilbert and/or Sullivan saw the first production of that opera in Italian at Covent Garden in June 1867.

At the Andante you will need to solve the problem of who plays that bell and who plays the timpani. They can’t be played by the same player, and the rest of the orchestra is occupied. See Colin Jagger’s note for some interesting backstory regarding the tempo. If you choose a backstage bell ringer, you’ll run into some problems with coordination, especially if they can’t see you. If you choose a visible onstage bell ringer, it draws focus from one of the most important moments in the show. If you hire a second percussion player, they will be doing nothing for almost the entire show. And for heaven’s sake don’t do it yourself. Your orchestra and chorus need you to shape this passage.

Work on those cutoffs at “The prisoner comes” This is an absolutely breathtaking passage, maybe the most beautiful moment in Sullivan’s work, but only if it’s clean, in tune and has beautiful vowels. Note where the diminuendo is and don’t anticipate it.

It turns out to be difficult initially to get “He is not there!” to come in correctly. Budget some time.

The patter passage when it’s first introduced has a wrinkle that you have to solve. “We hunted high” and “We hunted low” are both thirds, just as they are when the chorus sings it. There were originally four yeomen returning empty handed. Now there are only three. So your options are: 1) do it as written in the Schirmer score. 2) Get another yeoman in on the action. 3) Have Fairfax sing in both sections.

Budget time to align the girls entrance in “Now, by my troth the news is fair…” It will feel early.

In your choral warmup, spend time learning the “as escort for” passage in tempo. Work the words separately from the notes for clarity and consonants. Tune the word ‘sought’ the first time it appears and the word ‘with’ the last time it appears. These will be out of tune at first. There is another version of the lyric here in the Oxford edition you may want to use.

At T, the accompaniment is tossed between strings and woodwinds just as the Lieutenant sings. The last  time we had this kind of antiphonal interplay was in How Say You, Maiden, his first number.

The grace notes in the passage after T (in the Schirmer score) are among the most difficult parts of the opera for the strings. You may want to tell your less experienced players to play only the downbeats if they can’t tune it. The next passage should have a light touch, even as everyone is very agitated. This sets up the big tune well. Note that Sullivan brings in the timpani and horns as a pedal 4 before rehearsal V (in the Schirmer score) and then has the chorus join 2 bars later. Note also the chorus enters piano and swells to make the entrance of the big tune.

Jack and Elise have a completely different set of lyrics here NOT included in the Schirmer that they will likely want to use, because they’re specific to character. No audience member will hear them, but they are far more sensible for the characters to sing. You can see them in the Oxford score:


All frenzied, frenzied with despair I rave

My anguish rends my heart in two

Unloved, unloved to him my hand I gave

To him unloved bound to be true.


Unloved, unseen, unknown, unknown the brand

Of infamy upon his head;

A bride, a bride that’s husbandless I stand

To all mankind forever dead


To all man-kind forever dead

(she does not participate in the ‘thousand marks’ passage)

Forever ever dead forever ever dead to all man-kind forever

Ever dead.



All frenzied, frenzied with despair I rave

My anguish rends my heart in two

Your hand, your hand to him you freely gave

It’s woe to me, not woe to you!


My laugh is dead, my heart, my heart unmanned,

A jester with a heart of lead!

A lover, lover loverless I stand,

To womankind forever dead

(he does not participate in the ‘thousand marks’ passage)

To womankind forever dead

The Lieutenant sings the chorus lyrics with ‘my’ replacing ‘his’

33 measures from the end, at letter X in the Oxford score, 25th measure of Y in the Schirmer score, the high winds, horns and strings have a triplet figure against an eighth note pattern in the lower instruments. I suggest you ask the winds to play that figure detached. (the strings can’t really do that in their figure) The two ideas play off each other well, but can be muddy.  

I put a quarter rest in between the two iterations of “A Thousand Marks” in the Sopranos and Altos, and cut the downbeat tied over from the first ‘alive‘, to make room for breath. You may want to bring the chorus dynamic down on a-LIVE just a hair, so they can properly get a crescendo there to the sforzando.

The very end of the first act feels wrong in the piano reduction, as though you’ve suddenly struck the wrong tempo somehow, but just trust that when the orchestra is there, the bandwidth of sound, with the strings playing full chords and everyone in the optimal parts of their range justifies the extremely slow augmentation of the main theme.Act I Finale


13. Night Has Spread Her Pall Once More

Gilbert knew well how effective it is to begin a second act in the moonlight. The Sorcerer, HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, Iolanthe, and Utopia Limited also begin Act II at night. And yet in no other case did Sullivan capture the moonlight as beautifully as he does here.

Gayden Wren hears this as a reworking of the funeral march from Act I, but I don’t hear that. I do hear an exquisite depiction of moonlight worthy of Tchaikovsky. Have the strings play that unison melody fully and expressively, but also observe the dynamics, which are very specific.

It’s odd that Sullivan asks for the altos to sit out the whole first section. I treated the first phrases as normal, with all women singing the unison parts and the altos going down for the lower passages as needed. Aim for very strong ‘K’ consonants as they appear.  

If your Yeomen are not quite loud enough to pull off their passage alone, you can add the chorus men, changing all the ‘we’s to ‘ye’s. I know this isn’t Sullivan approved, but I don’t think he would have been happy with a weak men’s chorus there either. Avoid the temptation to slow down the penultimate measure of the chorus as though it were the last night of our Vegas floor show residency.

The piano score has a tremolando in the first 2 measures, but that’s really just so that the pianist can approximate the crescendo/decrescendo in the woodwinds. Don’t go too crazy. The IMSLP parts have a rearticulation in the winds in measure 2, but the Oxford score has it tied over (with no note in the Critical Commentary) I don’t know what to tell you there. The doubling of the tenor and basslines at 76 in the horns is extremely effective. I asked them to play out there, it makes the men’s section sound fuller. 

14. Oh, A Private Buffoon

Another perfect Gilbert and Sullivan patter song, after a perfect Gilbert scene. The traditional colla voce rit. in the 23rd and 24th measures may not be in your orchestra parts. They are very easy to cue. If only the lyrics were so easy to remember.

A Private Buffoon.jpg

15. Hereupon We’re Both Agreed

The faster the better for this fantastic duet. The words are likely to induce giggles in a modern American audience, and that’s fine. Note the words at “I to swear to, you declare to”, where the two swap lyrics. It’s actually pretty tricky! If your company does encores, you can begin at the beginning and take the second ending. It’s a nice effect to speed up the ending if you’ve done the encore.

There’s an odd bit I’m pretty sure is an error in the Oxford full score. The 2nd violins have a sixteenth rest at the end of measure 62 that should really be an A. I suspect that Sullivan asked the copyist to duplicate measure 58 in measure 62. In 62, the A is missing to facilitate the string crossing to the upper octave, but in 62, that’s no longer an issue. Probably your parts are correct; I’m not sure what is in the Oxford parts available for rental.

16.Free From His Fetters Grim

I like this aria much better than Faifax’s first act song. It has a wonderful melodic profile and a classic mock-bel-canto accompaniment.

The Oxford score has a half note and 2 eighths in the vocal part at measure 11, where the Schirmer vocal score has three quarters. There is nothing in the critical notes to explain the discrepancy. The Oxford score also reveals that there’s an error in the Public Domain parts. The woodwinds are tacet in the first verse from measure 3 through measure 22. The passages you hear are only for the second verse. Something the Oxford full score doesn’t explain is in measure 11, where the critical edition has a half note and 2 eighth notes in the vocal line, instead of the three quarters we find in the Schirmer score. 11 measures from the end, I recommend subdividing for the sake of clarity.  


17. Strange Adventure!

This is an exceptional Glee or Part song, which in Sullivan’s operas gets lumped slightly inaccurately into the Madrigal category. Sullivan was so good at writing this kind of music, and this is one of his very best. The orchestra serves only to make clear the key, and to correct the key after each verse if it has gone out of tune.

Pay attention to Sullivan’s delightful and specific dynamics and articulations and work hard to tune the piece; the delight is in the details, which allow the lyric to be as funny as the tune is beautiful.

18. Hark! What Was That Sir?

This musical scene is meant to come on the heels of the gunshot so quickly that Sullivan doesn’t bother with the pickup to the Tower Theme! It’s also an odd hybrid; a very dramatic scene that abruptly becomes an extended double patter song.

The Men’s chorus entrance turns out to be somewhat difficult to bring in. Rehearse it repeatedly from the beginning of the accompaniment pattern. (12th measure of A in Schirmer, A in Oxford) When the antiphonal passage begins, slowly work the melody while playing simplified chords underneath. When the women come in, play the downbeat chord, then the downbeat of the next measure and so forth until they hear how their melodies interact with the harmony. The men are not really echoing the ladies. It’s trickier than you think, so you’ll save yourself time starting there and learning it right the first time.

Your Wilfred may need to backphrase some of the patter to get the words out clearly. If that’s the case, the accompaniment should NOT slow down with him, and the chorus should not adjust to the slower speed. Take time to get both the notes and the dynamics when the chorus comes back in for “Down he dived into the river, it was very brave of him”

The stringendo before H in the Schirmer (before J in the Oxford) is great. Don’t miss it.

The tremolando passage has a detail that is awkwardly laid out in the Schirmer score at H. It looks as though the left hand drops down for the F natural and the E, then comes up for a measured set of sixteenths, but the whole 5 measure passage is really unmeasured tremolando, and those bass notes are pizzicato double bass punctuations, not part of any figure in the low strings.

The Oxford score has an extra three measures at the end. Cut 152-154 to get the Schirmer Vocal score version.

Before A Man Who Would Woo

19. A Man Who Would Woo A Fair Maid

The melodic phrasing of this number is exquisite. Hopefully you have sensitive singers, as I did!

There is one rather tricky melodic contour that you will want to examine. As the melody begins for Fairfax and Elsie, it dips down again and again to E, as the top of the tune climbs up to the higher octave. Then the static parts of the tune are in the middle of the range, as the melody teases the TOP E. Two repeated phrases follow, and then the melody grounds the TOP E as the moving part becomes the G#, F#, E motion. It’s easy to mistake the last phrase as another version of the previous repeated section.

Don’t let the ends of these verses slow down too much, and if they happen to slow, pick it back up again in the instrumental passage before the chorus.

The phrase below shows how sophisticated Sullivan’s musical rhetoric is in the realm of melodic contour and phrase length.

A Man Who Would Woo

I think it’s a wonderful effect to plan the breathing so as to connect ‘Jill’ with ‘If’, to underscore Sullivan’s felicitous extension of the phrase.

Be careful to manage the timing in the colla voce Pheobe has at the end of her verse. Remember that you have to bring the strings in with her.

The triple trill at the end is really great, and you’ll want to choose a manner of execution that suits all three singers and terminates properly. There is more than one way to do it.  

A Man Who Would Woo.jpg

20. When A Wooer Goes A-wooing

This is a personal opinion, of course, but I think this lovely number suffers somewhat from being directly after a minor masterpiece. In order to help it speak, I think we have to note and emphasize its special charms. The key, I think is in Jack’s line, “Oh the happy days of doing”. We discover its function when we see how it’s paired with the horn. The idea sounds slightly Viennese to me, although I can’t think of an analogous example. The horn call leads us gently into the chorus, and I think it’s stylistically appropriate to give it a slight ritardando, provided we pick up the tempo again into the chorus itself. At first the Point-horn duet leads us into the chorus in the same key. Then it bridges us from the minor into the major mode out of Phoebe’s verse. Then finally, the horn plays the line without Jack out of Jack’s verse back into the chorus. This is in fact, Point’s number, and Gilbert has arranged the text so that each singer has a more rueful take on the happy days of doing. I don’t know if this was Gilbert’s original intention, but it’s remarkable that all four characters echo Jack’s suicidal cri de coeur. It strikes me as out of character for Fairfax to consider Jack’s pain and for Phoebe to recognize Jack’s stake in the situation at all. It must be one of those moments where the logic of the choral moment supersedes the logic of the drama itself.

Appreciate the chromatic descending passage under Jack’s “Food for fishes”, which sounds like a body drifting to the bottom of a river. Make the most of Sullivan’s accents and the hairpin dynamics at the top of the phrase. Then note that Sullivan is getting quieter and quieter, as though the piece were turning into a miniature. And once again, Sullivan papers over the possibility of applause by underscoring their exits so that they are offstage when the music stops.

The Schirmer score has an error you should correct early. Point should sing ‘Jester wishes he were dead’, and the others echo in kind. ‘Was’ is not grammatically correct.

When a Wooer Goes A Wooing

21. Rapture, Rapture

I read somewhere that someone took Gilbert to task for writing the word ‘coyful’. “How can anyone be full of coy?”

To which Gilbert apparently replied:

“I don’t know, but for that matter how can anyone be full of bash?”

It’s interesting to me that Sullivan didn’t raise an objection to a number like this coming directly before the end of the opera, since this kind of number had become a mannerism in their work. Perhaps he did and Gilbert got the last word. One of the reasons it strikes me as so old-school Gilbert and Sullivan is that the rhymes and gestures are very similar to their earliest surviving work: The Sorcerer. Sgt. Meryll and Dame Carruthers are suddenly and unexpectedly John Wellington Wells and Lady Sangazure . 

You will perhaps have some difficulty choosing the ideal tempo here. Faster is better in terms of breathing for the patter, but slower is better in terms of the dancing. Pay attention to the singers and attend the blocking rehearsal to advocate for a space to recover from the dancing and singing.

22. SECOND ACT FINALE: Comes The Pretty Young Bride

From the piano score alone, you’d miss the lovely rustling flutes that continue the sixteenth notes in through the choral entrance here. Again, I think you’d be silly not to use the Altos here, even though Sullivan indicates only Sopranos. The phrasing in this melody is unusual, especially at the ‘love and obey’, for which your ladies will certainly need a strong sense of the beat.

The trio of the ladies is a marvel. The simplicity of the string line underneath is intentional. Note their dynamic is not always the same as the women’s. The Oxford edition clarifies that the forte dynamic for the women properly belongs at the first ‘with happiness’, right where the strings say sempre piano. At letter C in the Oxford full score (10 before C in Schirmer Score) make sure the chorus tenors and basses are really watching, and tell the horns and violas to really play out. It’s tough to establish that new tempo with so little going on.

The free for all at “Oh Day of Terror” is one of the more difficult fracases in the G&S canon. The tenors can get their B flat by moving a half step down from Elsie’s last pitch, but the G of the other singers takes a lot of drilling to land in tune. The Sopranos need to keep their half steps small in these phrases or the E at the next downbeat will tend quite flat. For the record, in the Schirmer score, Phoebe is the higher of the two lines on the same stave, Carruthers the lower. The C# line for the Lieutenant, Meryll and Wilfred is hard for the singers to hear, because it’s a tritone away from the G sung by Kate, Carruthers, and the Sopranos, Altos, and Basses of the chorus. It’s also hard for the audience to hear because it’s so low in their range. The extremely fast passage in the fourth measure is nearly impossible at the speed that seems sensible for the rest of the chorus and orchestra. If you feel ambitious, budget a lot of time to work that section, but it is indeed a lot of work for something likely to get lost in the shuffle of a general melee. If you elect to omit it, you will be none the worse for wear. 

Elsie’s last great solo here is substantial enough to offset her lack of a proper second aria. It is easy to get carried away on the piano and miss the essence of what’s happening here, a very quiet, hushed accompaniment, leading to a well timed crescendo from piano to forte in 2 measures, and then a further crescendo to fortissimo in the following 2 measures. It should feel like walking on eggshells until the crescendo, and then it opens out into a big glorious moment. There’s an odd difficulty in measure 126 if your soprano is taking liberties with the timing of this passage. (as I think she should) It comes down to how the flutes and first violins are bowed/slurred in opposition to the soprano word division, where she really should breathe. It’s slurred this way in the vocal score as well. If you tell the first flute and the first violins to watch and listen carefully, you may just manage to get it clean. Otherwise, I recommend you alter the instrumental slurring to match Elsie’s.

The choral passage that follows the duet is pretty standard, except for one detail you may miss. The orchestra drops to nothing abruptly in the second beat of the last measure of the chorus, but the chorus keeps on with their forte dynamic until the end of the note. They likely will do this anyway until the orchestra joins, and then they may be startled by the lack of accompanimental support. 

The reprise of I Have A Song To Sing O! Is at a much slower tempo than before until at least Elsie’s verse, if not later. The Oxford score has an animato at what is rehearsal J in the Schirmer score. There is also a crucial lyric change that did not make it into the Schirmer score. Elsie sings:

It’s the song of a merry maid nestling near

Who loved her lord but who dropped a tear.

This is a far less callous thing for her to sing at the conclusion of the opera.

Add your first sopranos to the melody line at the top of 236 in the Schirmer score, as they are in Act I. It appears so in the Oxford edition, and seems to be an oversight in the Schirmer. As I mentioned before, this is where you want the chorus to sing Ah instead of Oo, I think. (although Oo is what Sullivan wrote)

Your Orchestra:

With modern musicals I sometimes counsel music directors not to hire all the players, but with G&S, you’re dealing with a true orchestral color, so I think it best to hire as much of the orchestra as you can afford with good players. The original orchestrations are available here at a reasonable price or here for free. Reductions can be found here and here and here, but I’ll wager the best one is probably this one.

This score is the first of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas to have a third trombone and a second bassoon. Sullivan uses these to spectacular effect throughout. The third trombone allows the brass section to have a full bass sound with no admixture of Bassoon, which is critically important for the principal motif of the piece, where a bassoon doesn’t pack the right punch. The second bassoon is less critical, but still masterfully employed, both as it helps make an imitation choir of 4 french horns, (to spectacular effect in the Act I finale) and as it combines with the other woodwinds in a much more varied palate. With the smaller orchestra, Sullivan would often put the oboe above 2 clarinets and the bassoon for a reedy texture with 3 timbres. But here, he can combine clarinets and bassoons in 4 parts, (which he does frequently) and occasionally make a three part texture with the oboe, for a completely double reed timber with no clarinet admixture. He also writes pedal tones in octaves in the woodwinds, an effect unavailable to him before, since a clarinet at the octave on the pedal is too distant a tonal combination to read correctly to the ear. In the first act trio, the bassoons play a wonderful game of leapfrog in a range and dexterity unavailable to any other instrument in the orchestra.

If your company is used to hiring the standard sized orchestra for G&S, you’ll have to shell out some extra money for the extra two players. You can’t really just elect not to use the extra players, and go with the standard size, because important lines are covered there. If you use a reduction, it will cut out more than those 2 players.

Better that you do G&S than that you ignore it, but do try and do it properly if at all possible, with Sullivan’s magnificent orchestration in full color! Have fun with your production of Yeomen! I will be including more G&S as I music direct them! Ruddigore appears to be next!



Edmond W. Rickett

June 17, 2019

Last week I wrote about Gilbert and Sullivan Vocal Score editor Bryceson Treharne. Today I will bring you information about the other Schirmer G&S editor, Edmond W. Rickett, who edited Patience, Ruddigore, Yeomen, and The Gondoliers. Like Treharne, he was born in the UK and emigrated to the US in the early years of the 20th century. Like Treharne, he was an accomplished pianist, organist and composer who seemed to have enjoyed working with amateurs and had an ear for the poetic. But whereas Bryceson Treharne had spent his young adult years looking for truth in literature and doggedly composing in a German prison camp, Rickett was a working music director who collaborated briefly with W.S. Gilbert himself. As we will see, he had a great deal to say about the experience. From the beginning, we see Rickett combing through old music, often rearranging it for use in a production. And as a composer, he seems to have been very interested in tailoring his music for performer and audience.
Edmond William Rickett was born in 1869 in Birmingham, England about 10 years before Treharne. I found no information about his early childhood. Bryceson Treharne had studied at the Royal College of Music, but Rickett studied at the Royal Academy of Music, the oldest conservatory in the UK. To those of us on this side of the pond, this is somewhat confusing. Arthur Sullivan studied at the Royal Academy of Music and was briefly the principal at the National Training School for Music, which later was reconstituted as the Royal College of Music. So both institutions have a Sullivan connection.
I had difficulty tracking down any information about his school years, except that he seems to have gotten married to a student named Alice Hastilow in 1895. They would have two children, Harold (b. 1896) and Helen Margaret (Peggy). The trail picks up considerably right at the turn of the century, when for about a decade, Rickett became the music director for the Garrick Theatre on the West End. His young wife played in the orchestra with him. In his capacity as Music Director, he worked with the finest actors of the early century and wrote incidental music for many Shakespeare plays.

Garrick Theatre 1902

The Garrick Theatre around the time Rickett was music director

For our purposes though, we want to focus on his time in 1904 writing music for the last full length play W.S. Gilbert ever wrote, The Fairy’s Dilemma.

Fairy's Dilemma 2
In April 1934, Rickett told the New York Times about his association with Gilbert:
“My task was to provide an overture, a ballet, and much ‘incidental music’ all of which was to be selected either from the music of the sixties or in the manner of that period. The play was based upon that old-fashioned ‘harlequinade’ which is the traditional epilogue of the English Christmas pantomime- an entertainment, which, I may say for the benefit of the uninstructed, is more in the nature of a ‘revue’ and which has traveled a long and disastrous road away from its pantomimic origins.
I instituted a sort of house-to-house search of the old-established music-publishing firms, and I shall not forget Gilbert’s delight when at last I dug out of a dust-covered shelf in Charing Cross Road a parcel of long -forgotten melodies which included such gems as ‘Champagne Charlie’, ‘Villikins and his Dinah’, and others of the sort, which formed the basis of the music of the piece. Nor shall I forget the first night. I never before or since saw in a theatre such a concourse of gray-beards and bald heads. I can only suppose that the gathering consisted of all those old admirers of Gilbert and Sullivan who had followed their work from their first association more than thirty years before. Never were there such rapturous receptions of mere tunes as those old songs received. Indeed the eclat of that first night could only be equaled by the puzzled silence of their reception by subsequent audiences, who had not the least idea what they were or why they were.
Gilbert, at any rate, was pleased, and later asked me to write some music for his brilliant little skit on Hamlet entitled, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the occasion being a benefit performance for some charity, in which performance all the parts were taken by well-known dramatic authors. Gilbert himself played the King; Captain Marshall, the author of that delightful comedy, “A Royal Family” played Hamlet, while our own American Writer, Madeleine Lucette Ryley played Ophelia. Afterward I received a charming note assuring me that much of the success of the play was due to my ‘charming music’ which was very gratifying, but quite untrue. This fact remains: that for some reason- perhaps my devotion to the antiquarian research work above mentioned- I was one of the very few people who ever ‘got on’ with W.S. Gilbert.
It must be regrettably admitted that he was not easy. I had ample opportunity during rehearsals of studying his methods, and to tell the truth, they were not endearing; in fact, I soon came to comprehend why he was probably the most dreaded director in London- for he invariably directed personally and autocratically the production of his own plays and operas. Nor does this apply merely to the spoken word. He planned the scenery, the lighting and ordered not only the groupings of the chorus, but practically every inflection of the voice and every gesture of the actors. And there was no argument and no appeal from his decision. And when I add that he was invariably right, and in the habit of telling you that he was, one may imagine that he was not exactly loved.
His faculty for composing stage pictures was extraordinary, as anyone who remembers the Savoy productions will agree. Those charming groups of girls in ‘The Mikado’ so blended with the composition of the scenic background as to form a new and delightful picture with each change of pose, the masterly handling of large groups as in the combination of peers and fairies in ‘Iolanthe’, that never to be forgotten scene of the fight in Princess Ida- all were his and his alone. As to the poor downtrodden actor; I recall the sad fate of that very clever performer O.B. Clarence. ‘O.B.’ had made a name for himself in old man parts, but for some reason Gilbert had selected him to play the young curate in The Fairy’s Dilemma. The rehearsals were one long agony for him. At every sentence, nay, every word, he was pulled up with: “No, Mr. Clarence, too feeble. Please be a little manly.” Or: Mr. Clarence, will you please try to remember that you are not playing a doddering old imbecile.” And to me, aside, “These actors! I chose that young man because I thought he would be teachable. God knows I don’t expect intelligence.” Which was quite unfair, because “O.B.” was really an extremely clever actor, if perhaps a little unadaptable.
As to Gilbert’s autocratic manner, I remember a day when for about three hours he had the company repeating one short scene until every one was utterly weary, and the words had lost completely any meaning they might be supposed to possess. At last, when, for perhaps the thirtieth time, the author said, “We’ll go through again, please” the actor-manager Arthur Bourchier stepped forward and said, “If you don’t mind, Gilbert, I’d rather not do that any more now; let’s get on to the next scene.” “Very well!” said, Gilbert, and without a word picked up his hat and cane and marched gloomily out of the theatre. Whereupon the business manager was sent hastily out with humble apologies, and the assurance that there was not the least thought of opposing his authority. So he came back, majestically, and continued to rehearse the same scene for another hour.

Fairy's Dilemma 3 Arthur Bouchier

Bourchier, looking terrifying in The Fairy Dilemma

The very appearance of Gilbert was forbidding at these rehearsals, even terrifying to his victims. He was tall, with a florid complexion and a drooping moustache and- at these times- he wore a general expression of complete and utter disgust for the whole business and a very thorough contempt for his human material. However, when we came to the period of dress rehearsals, he professed himself satisfied, sat back in the orchestra surrounded by a bevy of ladies invited by himself, and to the huge relief of everybody, proffered not one word of criticism. On the first night, throughout the performance, he stalked gloomily up and down and would talk to no one.
It will be gathered from the foregoing that the mental picture one has of W.S. Gilbert as the leading fun-maker of his day was not ever present in the minds of those who worked with him. Still, that is just what he was, and the tales of his caustic repartees are many, and so good that they have been often repeated and credited to many other wits. It was Gilbert, for example, who, when asked by Tree how he liked his “Hamlet” replied, “Oh, I like it Tree. Fun, without vulgarity!” It is told also that once he met F. C. Burnand, who was chosen as editor of Punch in preference to himself, and said to him: “You must have some uncommonly clever and funny things sent to you for insertion in your paper, Burnand. Burnand answered, “Why, yes, we do. You’d die laughing if you could see some of them” Said Gilbert, “Well, why don’t you put ‘em in?” And one could go on indefinitely.

F.C. Burnand.jpg

F.C. Burnand is now best known as the librettist of Cox and Box

The tragedy of the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership was that neither of them ever realized how completely dependent on each other they were. Hence an endless squabble which, at last, not even the diplomacy of D’Oyly Carte could prevent coming to a final rupture. Afterward, they both had some disappointing experiences. Sullivan produced ‘Beauty Stone’ at the Savoy, and it failed; Gilbert wrote several comic operas with other composers and achieved only one comparative success, this being the delightful ‘The Mountebanks” with music by Alfred Cellier- an opera which, one would think, it would pay some enterprising manager to revive. Only together could they achieve success, and as ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’ they have become, and will remain two of the really great figures of stage history. ”
There is a letter from Gilbert to Rickett written in 1904 that is in the Morgan Library that I have not been able to access. Perhaps one of you will be able to visit and see what it says, and if it is in fact the letter he mentions in this interview.
In 1910, in his early 40s, he moved to the US to become the director of the music faculty at the Bennett School for Girls in South Millbrook, New York. The Bennett School’s main building was designed as a luxury hotel and retreat, but the hotel closed in 1901. 7 years later, the Bennett school moved into the facility.

Bennet College1910

Bennett School in 1910

I have no way of knowing why he chose to migrate, but a few years later on faculty at the Bennett school were the mystical Christian pacifist playwright Charles Rann Kennedy and his wife, the actress Edith Wynne Matthison, both of whom he had worked with professionally in London. They seem to have arrived at the school just as he was leaving in 1918 or 1919, and Rickett’s musical replacement was another young English composer; Horace Middleton. So there seems to have been an English connection to the school.

The setting was idyllic. Rickett must have performed programs in this hall:

Bennett College Auditorium.jpg

Which now looks like this:

Bennett School stage area
The school has been closed since the 1970s, and is now a very frightening ruin much admired by abandoned building enthusiasts! But at the time, these picturesque surroundings must have inspired Rickett, because he wrote a lovely poem that was printed in Harper’s Magazine in 1911.

Morning Song
Rickett’s position gave him a reason to write for young people, which led to the composition of some wonderful music. His Twenty Nursery Rhymes Set To New Tunes was published by Oliver Ditson in 1911.
One reviewer wrote, “If all musical works for the use of children were as good as Twenty Nursery Rhymes Set to New Tunes, the work of the reviewer would be much more pleasant.”
In 1916 the songs were recorded on Victor by the prominent American singer Kitty Cheatham:

In 1913, Rickett wrote music for a Fairy Tale Play of Snow White, which was subsequently performed by many amateur organizations.
The inspiration of nature is also evident in a piece he wrote for the commencement exercises in 1914 called “A Masque of Spring”, for children’s voices and a small chamber ensemble. The piece included dances and was ultimately published by Schirmer. The advertising for the school around this time emphasized how beautiful the area was in the winter, and the story of this masque involved the progression of Winter into Spring.
Rickett felt at home enough to become a US citizen with his family in 1917. He appears to have gotten a divorce in 1918.
Following his divorce, (it seems to have been around 1919) Rickett moved to New York and began to connect with a circle of people who were interested in bringing high culture to the Lower East Side, or rather, to bring high culture out of the Lower East Side. The group had recently opened the Neighborhood Playhouse, where they offered dance and drama training to children and teenagers. Rickett joined the faculty of the Henry Street Settlement and of Yvette Guilbert’s school of the theatre and allied arts, teaching the chorus and becoming Guilbert’s regular recital accompanist. Guilbert was a French Cabaret singer and actress who had been the subject of Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster works. He researched music history for her, in particular for her Medieval programs. In 1926, he completed 2 volumes of French songs with Ms. Guilbert that were published by Heugel. The Neighborhood Playhouse had wanted to respond to World War I with an ambitious theatrical event called Salut au Monde inspired by the words of Walt Whitman, and they had commissioned a score by Charles T. Griffes.

Charles Griffes

Charles T. Griffes

When Griffes died at the age of 36 in 1920, Rickett completed the score to Griffes’s Salut au Monde, which was ultimately presented in 1922. Rickett’s completion is disapproved of by Griffes scholars and enthusiasts, but it must be remembered that he was trying to assemble enough music for a theatrical event, and Griffes had not completed very much music. Rickett remarried actress and playwright Joanna Roos, (32 years his junior) who had attended Yvette Guilbert’s schools in New York and Paris, where she and Rickett met. The two appeared together in The Grand Street Follies of 1927.

Joanna Roos

Rickett’s second wife Joanna Roos

In 1923, Rickett had another son, Peter, who attended Juilliard and became a conductor, helming the Greenville Symphony for 34 years.
Edmond Rickett spent some time in the late 20s producing and acting in some plays in New York, receiving the following review in the New York Times for his small part in the play Stigma in 1927:
“Mr. Rickett and Mr. Duff, who are also the producers, make little of their parts”

Roos also appeared in Stigma.
In 1930, now in his early 60s, Rickett finally and firmly connected with the Gilbert and Sullivan community. He began a long association with the Blue Hill Troupe, which was at that point only a few years old. Rickett’s arrival seems to have coincided with a new stability in the company. The Blue Hill Troupe had first performed HMS Pinafore on the deck of a yacht lit by automobile headlights in 1924, but moved to New York in 1926. They did not perform in 1929. In 1930 they elected a Board of Directors and performed The Pirates of Penzance. In 1937 Rickett would lead the company in the second production of The Grand Duke in the U.S. (the Savoy Company, which I conduct, performed the third U.S. production the following year)
The thirties proved to be a very productive decade for Rickett.
In 1933, Rickett wrote a score to Moliere’s The School for Husbands, based on 16th and 17th century airs which was produced by The Theatre Guild, two years after they produced Green Grow the Lilacs and two years before they produced Porgy and Bess.

School For Husbands Program
In 1935, he became Organist and Choirmaster at Church-in-the-Gardens Forest Hills, Queens, where, among many anthems, he set The Lord’s Prayer to music in a way that delighted the parishioners. Some of these anthems were published by Schirmer. I was unable to find a photograph of Rickett that I could verify was in fact him, but I found this description from one churchgoer during this time:
“He was a short, somewhat stocky man, with grey hair and glasses without frames.”
He would continue to play multiple services at this church well into his 80s.

Church in the Gardens
Around 1940, Rickett wrote a book with Blue Hill Troupe director Benjamin T. Hoogland called Let’s Do Some Gilbert & Sullivan: A Practical Production Handbook, which did for Gilbert and Sullivan companies in the mid-20th century what I’ve been trying to do in my own modest way with this blog. Rickett’s authority at that time was extremely high, having known and worked with Gilbert, having worked both at the highest professional level, and with amateurs, and having a great deal of experience with the operas themselves. The book has held up very well. Each Gilbert and Sullivan operetta is covered in chapters that describe the relative levels of difficulty for every role and potential pitfalls for production. The general advice at the end of the book is fabulous, and includes the following note about watching the fellow down front:

“Watch the conductor. After all he is there to conduct you as well as the orchestra and its really better to let him do so. You need not stare at him–a little practice in keeping his baton in the corner of your field of vision will suffice. The spectacle of an enthusiastic chorus taking the bit between its teeth and galloping gaily all over the musical score is undoubtedly exciting, but has not yet been known to soothe the ear.”

I can’t be sure, but I believe it must have been around this time that Rickett made orchestral reductions of The Gondoliers, HMS Pinafore, Iolanthe, The Mikado, Patience, The Pirates of Penzance, Princess Ida, The Sorcerer, Trial By Jury, Utopia Limited and The Yeomen of the Guard for G. Schirmer. These allowed companies to perform the scores with smaller orchestras. It strikes me that he may have tried these reductions out with the Blue Hill Troupe. Ironically the only surviving G&S operas he seems not to have reduced were Ruddigore and The Grand Duke.
And so after the death of Bryceson Treharne in 1948, there was no person in America better suited to edit the last four Schirmer vocal scores than the octogenarian Rickett, who did yeoman’s work completing the Schirmer set.
He died in 1956 at the home of his daughter Helen Margaret Ramsperger in Madison Wisconsin at the age of 88.

I was able to piece together quite a lot of information about Mr. Rickett. If I’ve missed important information or have somehow mis-characterized any facts here, please let me know, and I’ll do my level best to correct it!


Richard Rodgers Part 2: Turnarounds

June 10, 2019


Bryceson Treharne

June 10, 2019

The G. Schirmer Vocal Scores of the major Gilbert and Sullivan works are in every enthusiast’s library. At the first rehearsal of nearly every production of the 9 most popular G&S operettas all over the English speaking world, the singers open their Schirmer scores, some brand new, some yellowed with age, and on the title page, they see one of two names:





Treharne edited Trial, Pinafore, Pirates, Iolanthe, and Mikado.

Rickett edited PatienceRuddigore, Yeomen, and Gondoliers.

(Schirmer never released editions of The Sorcerer, Princess Ida, Utopia Limited, or The Grand Duke.) 

In this editorial capacity, Treharne and Rickett are surely two of the most significant figures in Gilbert and Sullivan of the 20th century. It turns out they also led extraordinary lives.

Today I’ll tell you what I discovered about the editor of the five most popular scores: a brilliant musician who had a passion for amateur theatre and a man whose experience in the First World War would define his entrance into the American musical scene. I will cover the equally fascinating Rickett next week. 

Bryceson Treharne was born in Merthyr Tydfil, 23 miles north of Cardiff in Southern Wales, either in 1877 or 1879, about the time Gilbert and Sullivan were writing their first successful pieces together. He displayed musical talent early, working with the organist Thomas Westlake Morgan. Bryceson started studying music seriously at the age of 12 and became an accomplished pianist and organist with a mop of unruly hair. At the age of 16, he won the Erard Scholarship, which paid for three years tuition to the Royal College of Music in London and the loan of an Erard grand piano. In his case, the scholarship was extended by a year. The audition required him to play Beethoven’s 3rd piano sonata, a Chopin piece of his choice, and to sight read for the judges. Preliminary rounds were held in 12 cities, and the finals were held in London.  He must have been an exceptionally fine pianist.
Bryceson Treharne

At the Royal College of Music, Treharne studied with some of the greatest English musicians of his time. He studied organ with Walter Parratt, who was Master of the Queen’s Musick for Queen Victoria. Parratt was a genius who could sight read complicated organ music while simultaneously playing chess. Treharne studied piano with Franklin Taylor, who had worked with Clara Schumann, and he also worked with Hubert Parry and Charles Villiers Stanford. His classmates would have included a young Gustav Holst, John Ireland, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Like many of his countrymen, Treharne then went to Europe to study in Paris, Milan, and Munich, finally returning to Wales to teach at Aberystwyth University College from 1900-1901. He had music published in Aberystwyth, but he must have been restless, because in 1901, at the age of 22 (?) he moved to Australia to take a teaching position in Adelaide at the Elder Conservatorium.

Treharne AdelaideIn Australia, he played recitals of Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Bach, he preached a ‘sermon’ on Brahms, and he met Muriel Matters, who would become an important activist for women’s suffrage. The two of them would later be romantically linked and briefly engaged, but the match was a poor one. Matters biographers speculate that Treharne’s ideas about women were not progressive. They clearly shared a great interest in the latest developments in poetry and music. (Please do yourself a favor and spend some time looking into Muriel Matters)

Muriel Matters

Bryceson Treharne  was fascinated by the latest developments in the world of drama. In 1902 he started a discussion group for students interested in singing, literature, and drama, and in October, Muriel Matters read Tennyson’s Enoch Arden while he accompanied with a score written for the poem by Richard Strauss. At that time, the score was only 5 years old. Years of literary and dramatic exploration in Treharne’s class culminated on September 24, 1908 with a performance of Shaw’s Man of Destiny, and Yeats’ Land of Heart’s Desire. Interest was immediate and overwhelming, and soon a fledgling theatrical company had over 500 subscribers paying 5 shillings a year for two tickets. He advocated strongly for the importance of theatre, writing in 1912:

“I hold that the theatre is a public need; that its status is of vital concern to the community; and that in Australia at present it is not fulfilling its functions.”

He railed against melodrama and Music Hall productions, insisting that Ibsen and Shaw would clean the air of ignorance. He produced more than 80 plays, writing music for many of them, and then in 1911 Treharne returned to England. Some of the sources I found indicated he was on a sabbatical (from which he would never return). The company he started, the Adelaide Repertory Theatre is still in operation. It is, in fact, the longest surviving amateur theatre company in the Southern Hemisphere.

In 1912, Treharne went to Berlin to work with Gordon Craig, an English Modernist director and innovator then working in Germany. He spent time in Milan, Vienna, Paris, and Berlin. 1914 turned out to be a momentous year. He married Maud Thackeray, a soprano. Then in July, he went to Munich to see the Wagner Festspiel, intending to go on to the Salzburg Mozart Festival. He did not anticipate the outbreak of the Great War, and was detained in Lindau, with a group of English tourists, moving on to Kempten, and finally to Ruhleben, a prison camp converted from a horse racing facility west of Berlin. Maud was released and went to London to work for her husband’s release. 

The paintings of the camp here are by Nico Jungmann, another inmate.


“At first conditions were appalling,” Mr. Treharne said in an interview for Musical America. “There was not even a blanket to be had and we slept on the ground. Then, finally, we were given one blanket each; much later beds were provided, and prisoners were allowed to receive packages of food from home, but for the first six months we subsisted largely on acorn coffee- without milk and sugar- and prison bread. It was not the regulation ‘war bread,’ which is largely composed of rye and potato flour, but contained chopped straw and sand, to which the rye and potato flour was added. The sand got in one’s teeth in shocking fashion,”

His interviewer asked him why the bread contained sand. Treharne continued:

“Because, to comply with the requirements of international law, the bread served to prisoners had to be of a standard weight, and the straw was added for bulk. Once a week we got rice, for which we were very grateful, but the greater part of our meals consisted of the acorn coffee, prison bread and soup made from boiled cabbage or turnips; meat was a rarity. We were marched down to the kitchens to get our portion of acorn coffee at seven o’clock in the morning, then we were marched back to barrack before we were allowed to drink it; sometimes we were delayed a half hour in reforming in fours to march back, so the coffee was not very hot by the  time we got a chance at it. In some of the lofts in the stables at Ruhleben where we were held, there were from 250 men to 300 men; they were crowded so closely that it was impossible to lie on one’s back in sleeping, there was just room to lie on one’s side. Men with all sorts of ailments were crowded in together. There was one especially shocking case of tuberculosis, but finally we had a change of doctors and the new physician sent the man at once to a sanitarium. He was exchanged later and died shortly after reaching England.

“Our chief hardships came from the brutality of the guards who seemed to delight in ‘taking out’ their personal hatred of the English directly on us. Another hardship was in being refused all visitors, but we were allowed to receive and send letters. The English prisoners owe a very real debt of gratitude to Ambassador Gerard, for conditions became much better after he interested himself in our behalf.

“Yet, in spite of all the hardships and discomforts, I found Ruhleben a good place in which to work. One becomes very active mentally on a limited diet. It really seems to act as a spur; one’s head becomes clear and the amount of mental labor which can be performed under such conditions is quite surprising. Then the setting was ideal. Off on one side was a green, rolling forest. I never tired of gazing at it and it was no end of an inspiration to composition.

“We had plenty of music in camp at all times. A really fine orchestra was organized among the prisoners and we gave many concerts; once we presented the ‘Messiah‘ with a male choir, a very interesting innovation.”

Eventually the camp wore him down to the point where his health deteriorated, and he experienced a complete physical collapse. He was finally included among 150 men to be exchanged for German prisoners, but no papers of any kind were allowed to leave the camp. Treharne had written almost two hundred songs in the camp, one act of an opera set in Japan, and some orchestral pieces, so he begged the censor to use his influence to make an exception, and when the exception was granted, all the material was eventually sent to him in England. He returned to England by train on December 7, 1915.

Considering that Treharne would one day edit the standard vocal score of The Mikado, two details about his time at Ruhleben are startling. The Japanese opera Treharne was working on had a libretto by the Japanese Art critic Okakura Kakuzo, who spent his career exploring and contextualizing the intersection of Japanese and Western culture. According to press accounts following his release from the camp, Treharne made no attempt to imitate Japanese music. Without access to the opera itself, we can at least remark on how forward thinking Treharne’s approach seems to have been, in collaborating with a Japanese librettist, and in not attempting to mimic Japanese musical content.

The second, and more remarkable thing that happened at Ruhleben involved the many musicians interned there who organized a musical society. Treharne was a charter member, as was Canadian conductor Sir Ernest MacMillan. A group of these musicians worked to reconstruct from memory the scores of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, to be performed in an improvised theatre under the grandstands with men in the female roles and with orchestral accompaniment. Ruhleben MikadoThe first Gilbert and Sullivan they performed was a makeshift Trial by Jury, but the year Treharne’s health collapsed they were preparing and performing their second Gilbert and Sullivan operetta: The Mikado, complete with parody lyrics about the camp:

The footballer who kicks the ball

beyond the outer track

And then yells to some pedestrian

To go and fetch it back

And the people who in concerts

Will chatter to their pals

Or the choir of youthful

Cherubim that sing the madrigals

And the man who comes to see the camp

And says, “Wie schön es ist!”

He never would be missed”

MacMillan offered this lyric in a talk to the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Toronto, explaining  that the words referred to a madrigal choir had been formed, and that the last reference was to the Herbert Bury, Anglican bishop of Northern Europe who had been allowed to visit prison camps to see the state of things and had returned to England with a glowing report. The company would later put on Yeomen, Gondoliers, and Pirates, with all male casts.

Ruhleben Mikado 2.jpg

Imagine the future editor of The Mikado, seriously undernourished from eating sand in a German prison camp, working on his own Japanese Opera while his countrymen rack their brains to remember the details of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Japanese fantasy, a score they’d played a thousand times. It must have been like a fever dream.

When Treharne returned to England with nearly 200 songs in tow, he found the wartime atmosphere unenthusiastic about new music, and soon moved to America in 1916. Here he proved an appealingly romantic figure, accompanying Louis Graveure in an evening of his own songs in Aeolean Hall in New York in 1917, the year his son Frank was born.

Bryceson Treharne Musical America.JPG

It was also in 1917 that at singers began recording his song Mother, My Dear. The best of the 9 recordings of the song made between 1917 and 1926 was this one, made by John McCormack: (apologies for the graphic)

In 1919, his most popular work, Corals was printed. It shows Treharne strongly in the tradition of his contemporary Roger Quilter. It has appeared in a prominent anthology, and is sung beautifully here by Kayla Collingwood.

Following the teens, the enthusiasm for Treharne’s music seems to have faded. He taught from 1924-1928 at McGill University in Montreal, then in 1928 moved to Boston to become a music editor. From the late 1920s through the following decade, Treharne wrote Operettas for schools and three cantatas. One of those cantatas, The Banshee had some popularity, receiving a major performance in his native Wales. He became the Music director of The Boston Music Company, a branch of G. Schirmer. Under the pseudonym Chester Wallis, he made simplified piano versions of all the great composers for students. 

Grieg Wallis

Since most of the earlier Schirmer Gilbert and Sullivan Piano Vocal scores have no copyright date, it is difficult to know when or even in what order they were released, but they were without doubt the fruition of a lifetime of Treharne’s interactions with the greatest music of the past and with his own time, his passion for the literature of the stage, prepared with the care of a music educator who loved introducing regular people to great literature and music.

He left behind his wife Maud and a son, Anthony Francis (Frank) when he died on February 4, 1948 in Long Island.


I’ve done my best to provide accurate and complete information above. If you have access to more complete information or if I’ve made errors, please contact me and I’ll make a correction. 


She Loves Me: A Rough Guide for the M.D.

February 3, 2019

She Loves Me Logo

Before You Start:

  1. Listen to the 1963 original cast album with Barbara Cook. This is truly the definitive version. Listen to the 1993 revival with Boyd Gaines and Sally Mayes. Avoid the most recent revival, not because it’s bad, but because it’s a different orchestration, and if your production team gets those ideas in their head, you will wind up doing more work. If you want some major nerd points, listen to this crazy 1964 Original London Cast
  2. Watch The Shop Around The Corner (1940) with Jimmy Stewart. Even though the show is purportedly based on the original play, the authors really based the show on the film. Masteroff even claimed he never read the play, although Harnick did. Watch You’ve Got Mail (1998) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It has some nods to The Shop Around The Corner in it, which is fun. Watch In the Good Old Summertime (1949) with Judy Garland. And watch this little gem, a 1978 filmed version for the BBC. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db_HreIe5pY  At the end there is a terrific interview with Bock, Harnick, and Barbara Cook that I quote in a few places in this blog.
  3. If you have access to inter-library loan, or a few extra bucks to spend, grab To Broadway, To Life!: The Musical Theater of Bock and Harnick by Philip Lambert. This book is just wonderful; extremely well researched and sourced, with great insight into the score and the genesis of the work that can’t be found elsewhere. I am tempted to quote the chapter on She Loves Me extensively, but I encourage you instead to seek out the book itself and read the chapter.

Some Background:

She Loves Me is a perennial favorite among true devotees of musical theatre: It doesn’t enjoy a high name recognition among audiences, but among connoisseurs, it is widely considered one of the best constructed musicals ever written. New York Times Reviewer Frank Rich, for example says that the first time he ever walked out of a Broadway musical was when he left another play to rush over and catch part of the original production of “She Loves Me” one last time after it had posted its closing notice.

Since She Loves Me opened, reviewers have fallen all over themselves comparing the musical to food:

Richard P. Cooke wrote

“It is as nice a dish of its kind as a theatergoer is likely to get for a long time.”

Leonard Hoffman called it a

“warm, appealing story dripping of sentimentality like a chocolate drop.”

Howard Taubman wrote,

“A bonbon of a musical has been put on display, and it should delight who knows how many a sweet tooth. She Loves Me has been assembled by confectioners… they have found the right ingredients of sugar and raisins and nuts to add to their fluffy dough and have created a taste surprise.”

George Oppenheimer called it a

‘rich plum cake’,

Henry Hughes said it was

‘filled with all the rich Mittel-European pastry-stuffing of a bygone day.

John Chapman called it a

‘delicious pastry decorated with wonderful intricate dabs and curls of musical frosting’

Ben Brantley called it

“a tasty tale of love lost and found at the workplace”

Maybe the reviewers are clueing in to something Harnick himself was thinking. He said that converting the story into song was “like looking at a raisin cake and plucking out pieces of fruit.”

When people aren’t calling She Loves Me a dessert, they’re praising its jewel-box craftsmanship and elegance:

John Chapman wrote that She Loves Me is

“so charming, so deft, so light, and so right that all the other music-shows in the big Broadway shops look like clodhoppers.”

Whitney Bolton wanted to put it

“under a glass bell and look at [it] with pleasure for a long time”

Norman Nadel called it

“that rare theatrical jewel, an intimate musical that affectionately enfolds an audience instead of shouting it down.”

In 1993, John Simon wrote in a review in New York Magazine:

“The creators of She Loves Me have fashioned the perfect intimate musical. (Perfect? Yes, damn it, perfect)”

Jesse Green managed to combine both threads in two adjacent sentences in his Vulture review:

“I’ve seen She Loves Me, that nearly perfect 1963 jewel box, only four times — it’s not often done professionally — but have listened to the sublime OCR over and over for years. In some ways I know its voice better than I know my own, having learned to hear the world, in part, through its witty, melancholy, and whipped-cream accents.”

To the point we’ll explore in a moment, theatre historian Stanley Green said that She Loves Me

“…will stand as a model in its use of songs as an indispensable adjunct to the plot.”

And yet the original production closed comparatively quickly. As bookwriter Joe Masteroff put it:

“She Loves Me has probably gotten the best reviews of any show I’ve ever written. Reviews constantly would come in from all over the country from distinguished critics; ‘This is the best musical I’ve ever seen.’ It was astonishing because nobody was coming to see it.”

Why does this little musical, which only ran a little over 300 performances, command so much respect? I think it boils down to the extraordinary level of integration, made even more singular by Bock and Harnick’s unusual method of writing, which I’ll explain below. The way the songs function in She Loves Me illuminates character and moves plot forward in extraordinary and specific ways.

But first, some key concepts from the late Golden Age:

Experimentation, Adventurousness, and Opera

The late 1950s through the early 1960s saw the flowering of great ambition and adventurous experimentation on Broadway.  Writers had been flirting with Opera, as Rodgers and Hammerstein did writing roles for opera singers, starting in 1949 casting Ezio Pinza in South Pacific and then Helen Traubel in 1955’s Pipe Dream. Leonard Bernstein was thinking operatically for Candide in 1956 with his wacky American take on European operetta, just as Frank Loesser did that same year writing The Most Happy Fella for opera singer Robert Weede. That score is partly in Italian, and has very little dialogue.

In that spirit, She Loves Me includes one number, Vanilla Ice Cream, that has become a standard song for Opera singers looking for Musical Theatre repertoire. Further, She Loves Me attempts an operatic kind of immersive musical storytelling several times, and situations get musical treatment that would not normally be set to music, like trying to find one’s shoe. In a traditional musical, a scenario like that would not be significant enough to be told musically. But in the experimental world of this era, composers and lyricists were trying to find ways to musicalize anything and everything.

She Loves Me includes lots of examples of the innovations typical of the era, but what keeps us talking about this show is the way the musical aims all the innovation toward the specificity of the characters. We call this connection of song to story integration. The goal of integration is that every song is specific to character and story, that no song is ‘just a song’, and ideally no song could be switched from one character to another or from one show to another.

In She Loves Me, this integration extends musically into every area of each character’s expression, illuminating and informing us about their nation, their city, their occupations, and their states of mind. We hear their most mundane activities put into colorful and specific musical language that reveal character. Again, this phenomenon is not totally unique to She Loves Me. In 1954’s The Pajama Game, a character sings a duet with himself recorded on a Dictaphone in his office. In The Music Man (1957), We hear some salesmen on a train becoming the sound of a train through their chatterbox patter, we hear a young girl’s piano lesson become the accompaniment for her teacher’s yearning song, and we hear a group of gossips turn for all intents and purposes into clucking chickens. Here in She Loves Me, the store sells a music box that becomes the accompaniment for the main character’s desperate attempt to make a first sale and be hired, we hear a 4 note doorbell every time a customer leaves the shop, which becomes a recurring musical motive, and a group of Christmas carolers singing popular seasonal songs help underscore a comic sequence which shows the mania of holiday shopping while simultaneously telling the story of the growing love between Georg and Amalia. These musicalizations ground us in the world of the characters, and that’s very special. But that’s really just one instance of a major feature of the work; a concerted effort to depict the total lives of the characters.

In the New York Times Review of the recent Broadway revival, Ben Brantley perceptively wrote:

“…from the moment the show begins, with a salutation to the working day by the employees of a perfume shop in 1930s Budapest, “She Loves Me” is a sustained reminder of the pleasures of exalted ordinariness.”

Commentators often neglect this aspect of She Loves Me. These characters don’t lecture the audience about who they are in the manner of modern musicals, they simply inhabit their world, arriving at work, filling tubes of cream, selling items and taking returns, managing, hiring, and firing employees, serving wine and waiting tables. They talk about their clothes, shoes, glasses, soap, bubble baths, shampoo, perfume, weight loss, cartons, boxes, bottles, eyebrow pencils, lipstick, snoring, cracking knuckles, male pattern baldness, their schedules, and their sisters kids.  We see the weather change, the leaves and snow fall, we hear a man shoot himself, a kid on a bicycle nearly runs somebody down, trays are dropped in a restaurant, and a bunch of merchandise falls off a table. The writers establish the detail of the everyday world in beautiful and extravagant simplicity and specificity. It’s worth noting that one reason they can afford to craft all this detail is that they don’t have an enormous chorus and giant production numbers to use up all the oxygen. Conventional wisdom tells us this is one of the reasons why the original production failed; it didn’t meet the expectation of the audience for spectacle.

Showing, Not Telling

In contemporary musical theatre, characters would tell you about how they’re cultured or not, but these characters show you. Amalia mentions as asides the following cultural figures in her lyrics, casually during the course of conversation: George Bernard Shaw, Gustave Flaubert, Friedrich Chopin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jonathan Swift, Johannes Vermeer, Claude Debussy, Guy DeMaupassant, Alexandre Dumas, Paul Dukas, Raul Dufy, Guilliame Dufay, Daniel Defoe, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dante’s Inferno. We in the audience discover through her everyday conversation that she is even more cultured than Marian Paroo, who is after all only interested that her beau ideal like Shakespeare and Beethoven.

George and Amalia talk about Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Stendahl’s The Red and The Black, and even Ritter mentions Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh.

Making the Experience of Love Specific

One of the most difficult tasks for the lyricist is the love song. It’s been done countless times, and it’s hard to find fresh ways to express love. Oscar Hammerstein, the lyricist who helped start the trend of integrating musicals, had an oblique solution. (one I’ve talked about elsewhere on this blog) He would write a kind of speculative or hypothetical lyric that doesn’t say, “I love you”, but talks all around it:

People Will Say We’re in Love (Oklahoma! 1943)

If I Loved You (Carousel, 1945)

Some Enchanted Evening (South Pacific 1949)

Or occasionally, Hammerstein would write a lyric that is a philosophical question about love:

Why Do I Love You? (Show Boat 1927)

Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful? (Cinderella 1957)

Sondheim’s answer to the question is usually to draw a detailed portrait of a very intelligent person’s neurosis about being in love, in the form of a flow chart.

But these two approaches intellectualize the experience of love, and abstract the question into the head. Harnick’s approach, especially in She Loves Me, keeps drawing love lyrics into the realm of the physicality of the character and describing the situation the character is living:

Physicality of the Characters:

In the freezing weather of December I’ll be warmly waiting for our date…

I know I’ll drop the silverware, but will I spill the water or the wine

More and more I’m breathing less and less…

My teeth ache from the urge to touch her.

I’m tingling, such delicious tingles. I’m trembling, what the hell does that mean?

My head was beginning to spin and my forehead was covered with cold perspiration

Describing the Scene:

As I sit here looking out the window…

When I am in my room alone…

The flowers, the linen, the crystal I see…

Couples go past me, I see how they look…

I sat there waiting… you were outside…

All these features serve to reinforce the world of the piece and deepen our sense of its reality.

To What End?

So the musical is spending a lot of time showing us a world. What do we see in that world? Why should we care about these people? A distinctive feature of She Loves Me, one that resonates well with a modern audience, is the way each of the characters has to face the invasion of a public persona by a private reality. George and Amalia must reconcile the disparity between their public selves and their literary romantic selves. Ilona must find a way to actualize her resolution to ‘be a different girl’ by leaving the place where she has publicly expressed her workaday identity to explore the romance of a public space of literature and then the intimacy of the private apartment of a man of literary taste. Kodaly is driven only by ego and a possessive sexuality, expressed in a flattering public persona. But when his secret betrayals become public, the flattery is suddenly converted into cutting insults, and we see a dark reality; Kodaly despises everyone. Arpad has a journey of self-revelation; the inquisitive errand boy hides the would-be adult, and his sudden opportunity to be considered for a promotion unmasks a young man who has been scrupulously attentive to all the most arcane workings of the shop. This is most delightfully revealed not in ‘Try Me’, but in the first “Thank You, Please Come Again” in his new position, where Arpad is the perfect ‘swing’, able to seamlessly assume the role of the disgraced Kodaly. Even the Head Waiter in his brief scene has to balance a public persona against a private hell. And finally, Maraczek’s heartbreaking journey in the piece takes us from a friendly and well liked boss to a bitter tyrant, through suicidal cuckold to contrite friend. His journey culminates in a man rediscovering who he actually is, having finally put aside the illusions of his wife’s fidelity and embraced his true self among his real friends as mentor and benefactor. In this way, the secondary characters are beautifully expressing and illuminating facets of the same critical themes the primary couple is exploring. This function of the secondary characters was once the mark of strong musical theatre writing, and She Loves Me is one of the finest constructions along these lines.

The basic superstructure of the story laid out in the original play provides the framework for beautiful storytelling, but it’s notable that almost every instance I’ve mentioned above is expressed musically, and with a great deal more specificity than the source material. Bock and Harnick understand the function and beauty of these interlocking narratives, and they employ sustained and specific integration to execute the storytelling that elevates it above the already excellent source material.

Behind this deeply impressive outer skin is the musical’s superstructure that plays out these same dynamics at the skeletal level.

Interruptions and Connections

As if mirroring the disjunct public and private personas of the characters, many of the numbers in She Loves Me are interrupted mid-idea. Sounds While Selling is of course a screwball assemblage of odd bits of conversations interrupting each other, but that’s only the beginning. Tonight at Eight is interrupted by a table of music boxes being knocked over, Romantic Atmosphere is continually sidelined by crashes and asides, Vanilla Ice Cream is ostensibly a letter aria, but the letter begins 3 times, interrupted fantastically by a meditation on frozen dairy dessert. Grand Knowing You is a traditional showtune that drops its classic melody like a hot potato after one iteration for a series of flamboyant burns in a Hungarian style, only to return to to the earworm melody for a final pass so blisteringly fast it can’t really be processed by the listener. A friend remarked after seeing the production, “Are any of the numbers full length?” That’s by design.

Other numbers are an assemblage of wildly disparate elements. Perspective has 4 distinct (and disjunct) musical sections, Try Me has 6 as I count them, A Trip To The Library only has 3 sections, but they are from different worlds; a Spanish Bolero, a Hungarian cadenza, and a swinging Broadway soft shoe.

These schizophrenic breaks and frenetic pacing threaten to make the piece burst into pieces, but another dynamic is at work. In keeping with the show’s themes of public breaks and private connections, there are many ingenious points of connection between musical numbers; not in the way of leitmotivs, but in much subtler ways, sometimes using musical motives in similar ways, at other times placing numbers as matched pairs in the story, and at several points even literally bridging two numbers with a single gesture.

I attempted to chart below the connections and disconnections in the score. Some of these are just the run-of the mill reprises and scene changes, but other connections are more deliberate and structural.

(I’m having a little trouble embedding images in wordpress. Right click anything that you can’t read and open the image in a new window)

She Loves Me Chart

How Did They Do It?

So how did Bock and Harnick achieve this level of sustained integration, and why does this score sound so distinctive?


After their 1960 musical Tenderloin went through terrible book problems, Bock and Harnick made a concerted effort to be more involved in the book end of the writing process. Joe Masteroff was enlisted to write the book, and although he had written plays, this was his first musical. (He would later write the books to Cabaret and 70, Girls, 70) The collaboration, and Masteroff’s willingness to work closely with Bock and Harnick pushed an already very collaborative process even further.

From a 1978 Interview with Craig Zadan:


Did the show break any new ground for you? From what you had done in the past in musical theatre?


I think very much so. Compared to the shows we’d written, She Loves Me was a totally new adventure. We had always instinctively felt like writing the so-called integrated musical, and this was an opportunity for us to really explore that in depth, thanks a great deal to Joe Masteroff, who once finished the book, said, “take it over, do as much, musicalize it as much as you possibly can. “

He had no ego about salvaging scenes, lines, jokes, his attitude, which became our unified attitude was to absorb most of that play into music.


He had never done a musical, and he said, “How do I do it?” And since we didn’t know how to give him specific directions, we said, “Why don’t you just write a play?” Make it shorter than you would ordinarily, because we’re going to have to fill in the time with songs and with dances.

So he did, he just wrote it, and said, “I don’t know where the songs are, but use whatever you want, and partly because of the nature of Joe’s writing and partly because of the nature of the story itself, the show just called for music all over the place, and in fact, we wrote too much, and  on the road, if you remember, we had to cut, Am I right in remembering about 45 minutes of music?

It’s the process of arriving at that music that I find fascinating. Later in the same interview:


He gave me a tape with a lot of music on it. And by the time I got the tape, I had been studying both the original play by Miklos Laszlo, and I knew the film, which I loved. Joe Masteroff had given us certain scenes, and by going through that, I knew there were certain moments which appealed to me so much, I wanted to start with them, I thought they’d be great fun to work on, I don’t remember what they were. But when Jerry gave me a tape with music on it, I listened to the tape and as almost invariably happened there were moments on the tape that coincided with the moments that I wanted to try and work on…


Is that unusual for your collaboration, up to that point?


No, invariably


No, That’s how we worked together.


At a certain point, when there was no existent music yet for something I wanted to say, Then I would write lyrics first, and Jerry…


To the question, What comes first, the music of the lyrics. In our case for the first half of the adventure, the music comes first. For the probably most important part, the lyrics begin to come first because the requirements become more specific: The needs are words to shape the rest of the characters to express the characters, We manage, fortunately, to be able to work both ways.

Many years later, in a Fresh Air interview, Bock explained how he found the sound world for Fiddler on the Roof:


Jerry Bock, when you were writing the music for “Fiddler On The Roof,” how – how Jewish did you want the music to sound? How much did you want it to sound like Klezmer music and how much did you want it to sound like Broadway music?


It never entered my mind in either case. I knew the ambiance was going to be Russian and that it took place in a shtetl. But I had no compulsion to research either early Klezmer or, particularly, Russian music at the turn of that century or just before the turn of the century. The music that I hadn’t been able to write with all our shows was something that I had silently deposited in my creative mind. And the opportunity to now express myself with that kind of music just opened up a flood of possibilities for me.


What did you listen to when you were writing the show? Did you listen to much music?


Not really. Somehow, as I said, I had unknowingly, unwittingly stored a lot of the sound of it without having been able to express myself with it. I love Russian music. I love Romanian music. Minor is my major key.

Harnick said in another interview about Fiddler:

“Jerry Bock, on the other hand, was afraid to do research. He was afraid some of the music might work its way into what he was doing, so he just called on his own emotions and his own memories of when he was growing up.”

I was unable to find any source where Bock says unequivocally that he did no musical research on She Loves Me specifically, but Bock and Harnick were sketching She Loves Me and Fiddler on the Roof simultaneously, and we know from several sources that Bock was not researching Jewish music for Fiddler, relying instead on memories from his childhood. I think it’s safe to assume that he was also drawing on memories for the Hungarian aspects in She Loves Me, not on research.

One source I found claims Bock’s father was a Hungarian salesman, and he called himself.  “Russian-Hungarian-German Jew, mostly Russian.”.

So Jerry Bock was drawing on his memories of Hungarian music for the flavor of the material he was writing, recording, and sending to Harnick. From that 1978 interview about She Loves Me:


Jerry, how did you decide what kind of music you wanted to write for this score?


Well, the key was Hungarian. The word Hungarian. And, that is, you know, very general, mind you, but it gave me a sound, a shape, the period, the feeling that I began to string melodic notions and guesses around that kind of instinct.

Europeans, particularly Hungarian. Not that all the songs are Hungarian, but that gave me a platform from which to take off.


I would also imagine that, whether this was a conscious decision or not, The word romantic must have entered, because it’s a highly lyrical, highly romantic score…


Well, I equate Romantic with Hungarian.

As to what came first, Bock said in that same interview,

“Our answer has become ‘the book.’ That is the fountainhead. We could work both ways, but the book predominated our thinking.”

In a 2004 interview, BOCK said:

“I, along with Sheldon, I just bury myself in the book, and start to gravitate toward the period, particularly. That gives me a head start in each show. And then imagining the characters in terms of what they might sing, who they are, where they are and what they might sing under certain circumstances. I have no idea in writing of a style because I’m too immersed in the content of what we’re doing, really, and that’s why when I said She Loves Me was our first Romantic show considering The Body Beautiful, considering Fiorello, and Tenderloin, particularly Fiorello and Tenderloin, period pieces, She Loves Me gave me an opportunity to write a Romantic Score, but equally important, a Hungarian Romantic Show.”

I know that’s a lot of source material to quote, but I hope the point comes across: Bock and Harnick saw that the story was set in Budapest, and so began with the idea of Hungarian music, Jerry Bock drawing from his own memories of Hungarian music.

How Hungarian is the Score?

Having established that Bock was relying on his memories and existing conceptions of Hungarian music for the flavor he was seeking out; it’s worth asking the question, what was that conception? What ideas were part of Bock’s experience of Hungarian music? How are those ideas expressed in the musical?

My answers here will be speculative, of course. Bock is no longer around to ask, and in interviews he seems never to have been any more specific than in the passages I quoted above. He was above all, an intuitive composer in both method and execution. (it was his great strength)

In Philip Lambert’s book, he makes a great deal of the famous Russian (not Hungarian) folk song Otchi Chorniya, which was used by Werner R. Heyman in The Shop Around the Corner as the tune played by the music boxes, and by the orchestra in the cafe. He makes the case that a typical ‘chromatic double neighbor tone’ melody as found in Otchi Chorniya appears frequently in the score. I encourage you to check out that chapter. For anyone who hears a similarity between the Russian music in Fiddler and the Restaurant scene in She Loves Me, you’re really hearing the overlap between Romani music and Russian music. (Klezmer ideas overlap here as well)

For our purposes here, I want to look at other ‘Hungarian’ musical ideas that crop up in the score, ideas that would have been commonly known by Americans in the early 60s.

The Style Hongrois

The style hongrois is a vocabulary used by composers in the European classical tradition to evoke the culture of the Romani. (formerly known as Gypsies) Before Bartok and Kodaly reclaimed a different kind of Hungarian music in the first half of the 20th century, this set of musical ideas would have been synonymous with Hungary to the rest of the European world. Composers as far back as Schubert and even Haydn used this musical vocabulary, but it reached a kind of flowering with the music of Franz Liszt, who was Hungarian himself. (although not Romani) Any casual classical music fans in the mid 20th century would also have been very familiar with Brahms’s take on this music, which included his Zigeunerlieder and Hungarian Dances, Sarasate’s Zigeunerweise, and the innumerable Hungarian characters in Viennese Operetta, especially the Cszardas from the second act of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, which is sung by a character pretending to be Hungarian. Die Fledermaus is the only the most enduring operetta of many that would have been commonly known by the theatre going public, including Operettas by Herbert, Friml, and Romberg, but the trope of the exotic Hungarian was even current enough that it appeared in 1956 in My Fair Lady in the character of Zoltan Karpathy. More on his musical depiction shortly.  

I’m just going to identify 3 basic style hongrois ideas and show you examples from various places in classical music, especially as they appear in Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, which is probably the most popular ‘Hungarian’ piece in classical music. Then I’ll  show how these ideas appear in the musical:

The first idea is a repeated short-long pattern, often followed by a melodic idea. This rhythm is related to the natural rhythm of the Hungarian language.

As it appears in Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2:

Liszt Example 1

As it appears in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, sung by a character pretending to be Hungarian:

Fledermaus 1


As it appears in My Fair Lady, after Higgins has just told the Zoltan Karpathy story:

My Fair Lady 1

As it appears in Perspective:

Perspective 1

The second idea is a slow polka that speeds up gradually.

As it appears in Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2:

Liszt Example 2

As it appears in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus (it’s not marked in this score, but this passage is always performed getting gradually faster)

Fledermaus 2.png

As it appears in Perspective

Perspective 2

As it appears in Romantic Atmosphere:

Romantic 1

As it appears in Vanilla Ice Cream (with apologies for the hole punch in my score, which eliminated the treble clef)

Ice Cream 1

And a third idea, a very fast scale passage. Liszt loved alternating octaves between the hands, perhaps in imitation of the Cimbalom, common in Hungarian music. Observe this most famous passage of the Second Hungarian Rhapsody; appearing in innumerable cartoons.

Liszt Example 3

At the end of Vanilla Ice Cream, Bock uses that idea pretty clearly, even though he isn’t alternating octavesIce Cream 2.

Non-Hungarian Threads

At some point, Harnick used up all the music Bock had written on spec, or would need to move in another direction not compatible with the music he had provided ‘on spec’ at which point, Harnick would write a lyric first, for which Bock would provide music. I think this is where most of the more conventional Musical Theatre tunes in the show originated.

One way of spotting these pieces is looking for a ‘thumb-line’, longer, slower moving notes held by the thumb of the accompanist within a more active oom-pah accompaniment. This style of accompaniment had become very common in musical theatre in the early 60s.

Here it is in Tonight at Eight:

Tonight At Eight 1

Here it is in A Trip To The Library

Library Example 1

Here it is in Try Me

Try Me Example 1

In Grand Knowing You

Grand Knowing You Example 1

It’s used in a very unorthodox way, but here it is in Where’s My Shoe?

Where's My Shoe Example 1

There is a very small bit of more ‘mod’ musical theatre in the show as well: a one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two rhythm that would have felt more up-to-date, even perhaps self-consciously pointing toward youth culture.

Here it is in 1961’s How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (watch the accents):

How To Succeed Example 1

And here in 1963’s Funny Girl:

Funny Girl Example 1

In both of those cases, they would have read to the audience as being in a modern style. So it shouldn’t surprise us to find it in She Loves Me in the rhythm of the younger characters in moments of drive and energy:

Here in Try Me, sung by the youngest character:

Try Me Example 2

Here in the title number:

She Loves Me Example 1

And here in the music of the newly liberated Ilona:

Library Example 2

If you’ve followed my argument this far, you won’t mind a closing idea linking these threads:

When writing teams started working hard in the ‘40s and ‘50s to integrate the songs with the story, the position of the lyricist was elevated. After all, songs are integrated in content, which is mostly found in lyric. When the writing process begins with lyric, many structural decisions are made before music enters the equation, unless the lyricist and composer are one and the same person. In this dynamic, composers are left to establish the musical world of the piece as a secondary concern while they try to do justice to the parameters laid out by the lyricist. I think this is one of the reasons the ‘showtune’ has such a strong identity in music of this era. Oddly the drive to make songs specific to character in the lyrics makes them more generic in the music.

But Bock and Harnick’s unusual method of working flips that dynamic on its head. The very first element in their creative process is the development of a musical and tonal world, pulled from Bock’s memories of sounds that evoke time, place, and energy. Harnick, being himself an exceptional musician, molded and shaped that raw material, always aiming it at the specifics of character. Only when these building blocks had been exhausted did they set their sights on more traditional musical theatre fare. This is why each of their shows sounds so distinctive, and why their most popular songs could never have been written by anyone else.

What about the disconnect between the connoisseur and the layperson? I’ll let Jerry Bock have the last word. An interviewer once asked him what the problem was with She Loves Me, why it hadn’t been a success with its original audience. He said,

“There was no problem with the show. I mean it was everybody else’s problem. Sometimes you do the best you can, and you think you’ve done well- you know you’ve done well- and other people don’t agree with you. So be it.”

As You’re Casting:


One of the greatest roles ever written for a young tenor. A very physical role for a good actor with a wonderful song and some great scene work. Requires good musicality and the ability to play comedy well. Should be sung without a lot of pop-musical-theatre mannerisms, something that is unfortunately rarer and rarer these days. This is as good a place as any to note that Sheldon Harnick is a master at writing the young person on the brink of their future. (see Motel’s Wonder of Wonders or Matchmaker for further proof) Bock and Harnick have created a deeply funny and human portrayal, far more sympathetic than the character appears in The Shop Around The Corner. You should hear some of the middle of Try Me at callbacks. 


Arpad Range


A wonderful character role for a comic baritone. Needs excellent diction and good comic timing. Could be played by many kinds of acting singers. You should hear the patter section of Perspective at callbacks. 


Sipos Range.jpg


Baxley, Cassidy

She’s referred to both as Ilona and as Ritter throughout, so get used to both names. This role is often played as a floozy, which is a big mistake. Ritter is no dummy, she has a wonderful character arc that’s fun to play, and the music is more difficult than it sounds. We’ve come a long way from Ado Annie and Miss Adelaide. Cast an actress with a sensual side, but be sure you cast someone who can deliver a complex character.

You should hear your Ilona candidates sing the following passages:

  1. The opening of A Trip To The Library
  2. The very end of I Resolve
  3. The “If he isn’t too handsome” section of I Don’t Know His Name

If your Ilona can’t get through those, you’ll have a tough time getting this show up.


Ilona Range


Cassidy Baxley

Harnick said in an interview that Kodaly was kind of fun to write because he was ‘totally immoral’. In The Shop Around The Corner, Kodaly has few redeeming qualities, but in the musical he is terribly charming and has a quick wit. Your Kodaly should be a charming flirt, but one with a bit of an edge.  At auditions, be sure to give him a chance to sing the middle of Grand Knowing You (for comic timing, diction and ability to stay with you as a pianist) and the end (for the high note!)


Kodaly Range


Daniel Massey Barbara Cook

Needs to be cast with a likeable baritenor. Likeable because we need to still root for him when he acts like a cad midway through the show. Even though he’s the man in the primary couple, this show is really about Amalia. Georg delivers a great story arc, but the main point is that he can play exasperated without seeming unredeemable, to give Amalia something to play against.


Georg Range


The three part chorus of women in Sounds While Selling is potentially a little tricky, but the remainder of the number is not terribly difficult. Only 3 customers are necessary for that number, although if you’re looking to expand your cast, you can double or triple up those parts without damaging the number.You’ll want dancers for the Romantic Atmosphere scene, (but nowhere else) and you’ll want people with some choral chops for the Christmas Sequence. (but nowhere else) These features are part of what makes She Loves Me ideal for a university or small theatre company, but less of a draw for large community groups that rely on the chorus participating fully in the production.


Maraczek should be played by an older actor whenever possible. The number he sings is not difficult, and could even be spoken. But the monologue delivered on the phone, along with the scene at the top of Act II require a really fine actor. And as a corollary to my earlier remarks about Arpad, Bock and Harnick have also given us the greatest portrayals in the literature of middle aged people. Sondheim gave us many examples of bitter, cynical adults. Bock and Harnick give us adults trying hard to make sense of a changing world, but finding a way toward acceptance and grace. Tevye and Maraczek are worlds apart, but are both men who are finding their places in the world of the young.


Maraczek Range


Barbara Cook 1

This is one of the finest legit roles in Musical Theatre. Complex, funny, and tragic, she needs to have a terrific instrument capable of singing Vanilla Ice Cream, and the comic timing to sing Where’s My Shoe. (probably while hefted over the shoulder of Georg) Don’t program this show unless you know you have a very fine Amalia prospect.


Amalia Range


A tenor, but could be mostly spoken, and the high note could be falsetto or changed. Should certainly be able to play an imperious taskmaster, but also has a rather subtle exchange with Amalia that is tricky to play.


Waiter Range

A Few Things to Note About the Music Director’s Materials:

I belong to a Music Director’s forum online, and every so often someone posts about She Loves Me’s materials. Then follows a litany of complaints in the comments about the shape of the score. A lot of Golden Age scores have been restored and re-engraved at this point, but for this show, the score you get in the mail is the same one MTI sent out 15 years ago, which I believe emerged from the 1993 revival. Having spent the last couple of months with these materials, I’ll summarize what I found here.

Most of the score comes from the original production, in a copyists handwriting, with markings that reflect the original orchestration. That orchestration had (as far as I can tell) 5 reeds, 5 brass, full strings, harp, accordion, and percussion. The handwritten score is sometimes cramped or poorly aligned, but everything is there, and it’s pretty easy to read. The orchestration that comes with the rental material is extremely well reduced for a smaller ensemble, but the piano vocal is sometimes miscued now for the larger instrumentation. If the whole score were like this first bit, it would be fine.

Another chunk of the score is professionally engraved, and fairly well! Short passages of Three Letters, Tonight at Eight, I Resolve, Romantic Atmosphere, the Entr’acte, Twelve Days, Thank You Bells, a few scene changes, and the entire Vanilla Ice Cream are executed on Finale or Sibelius. These sections look pretty, but are sometimes frustratingly misspelled, and worse yet, they are not cued at all, so conducting from them requires a lot of comparing parts and score. And if you’re conducting from the keyboard, you have no idea what you’re supposed to play and what is being covered by others.

A third part of the score is simply not at a professional level of copying. It looks very much like it was made on Encore or a lower level copying software in the 90s, and printed on (I’m not exaggerating) a dot matrix printer. What we’re seeing here is a copy of a copy of a copy of something that wasn’t great to begin with. Most of the places where the score does not correlate with the parts come in these passages. In some spots it’s tough to even piece together what is supposed to be happening, the parts will have a whole note and the score a quarter or vice versa; score and parts have scales or arpeggios that go in opposite directions, or parts and score have different ways of numbering the pickup measure, causing the whole song to be mis-numbered. These passages simply have to come from the ’93 revival, because these are also the pages where scene change or underscore sounds like good ‘90s musical theatre, and not like classic 1963.

The orchestra parts are very well done, with the exception of the reed parts in No. 19, which are criminally bad. There are a handful of other mistakes, which I’ll point out where I can. The rest you shouldn’t have trouble catching. On the plus side, these parts are clean and easy to read. As I said before, the reduction is also excellent; everything is covered tastefully. The reed books contain options for every kind of doubling; if you don’t have the alto flute or the oboe or whatever, there’s a transposition right there for an alternate. This is ideal! One word of warning though, from experience; there’s a 2 reed version and a 3 reed version. They send you all those books with your pack. But MTI sent me 2 books for Reed 1 (2 reed version) and forgot to send me Reed 2. We sent that book back, requested the replacement, and a week later, we got a second copy in the mail of Reed 2 (3 reed version). The third time they sent us what we actually needed. Make sure when those books arrive you carefully check which books you received to allow plenty of time to correct it if they’ve sent you the wrong thing.

As I go through the score, I’m going to explain what I found where I can. At one point what they sent is so bad that I’ve posted my mocked up accurate version to help people out. One wishes that the show had been enough of a success in its original incarnation to warrant a mass market vocal score. For now we have to wait for MTI to find it in their hearts to hire a few NYU grad students to fix it.

Going Through the Score Number by Number:

1A. Overture

This Hungarian overture-into-opening scene seems to have been conceived by Bock. Harnick describes the tape in an interview:

“[Jerry Bock] had done the music for the opening, which was an Overture which segued, which just flowed right into the first scene. And it was so charming I had an idea for it that I started, I think that  was the first thing I started working on. But that was a wonderful way for me to get started because I didn’t have to shape the lyrics, the music was there to determine the shape.” 

The first section is really an set of cadenzas followed by a passage of Perspective. First for the trumpet, then the accordion, then the violin.

1B. Opening: Act I

The bass book has an error in measure 45. The last beat should read F, not Bb.

1C. Good Morning, Good Day

If you watched “The Shop Around The Corner”, (and I hope you did!) you’ll note that this song is a musicalization of the opening sequence of the film. To my mind, though, the authors have clarified the action and accomplished much more effortless exposition and character work right off the bat. Arpad conveys a wide eyed innocence and desire to please, although it’s clear he’s very green and naive, Sipos is doing the bare minimum to stay employed, we find out he’s married and happy to have a job, Ilona’s relationship with Kodaly is crystal clear, her insecurity about her age and Kodaly’s expensive tastes and George’s charm is clear. We’re aware of the weather and the work, we immediately know these people. This is the way Golden Age musicals used to show you character. Ironically, it would be She Loves Me’s original director Hal Prince who would revolutionize the opening number with Bock and Harnick’s next show, Fiddler On The Roof, by having all the characters simply introduce themselves and tell the audience who they were and what they did. From Sweeney Todd to Ragtime to Hamilton, that method of ‘tell-don’t-show’ has become very common. But here we’re seeing the new masters at work in the old style.

To Broadway, To Life!: The Musical Theater of Bock and Harnick has a brief but interesting little analysis of the melodic material in this number centering on the use of the 6th scale degree; which will become a central feature of the musical material. I don’t want to steal that chapter’s thunder; you should go look it up. 

Reed 2 (2 reed version) has an error in measure 78. That figure should come on the downbeat of the measure, not halfway through. The Bass book has an error on the downbeat of measure 85, which should read an F again, not a G. The fermata in measure 92 you can see in the piano score is not in the parts. In measure 97, the last eighth in Violin I should read E natural. The rit. In measure 139 does not appear in the parts. Give your players some word cues to get out of measures 55, 66, 82, 98, and 108 in case an actor fumbles.

2. Opening the Shop

The piano reduction for this number is so inaccurate in 2 or 3 places that I redid it. If MTI sends me an e-mail telling me I have to take it down, I’ll do so, but I can’t imagine anyone using it for any purpose other than as a scene change in a production of the show, so I don’t feel any qualms about violating intellectual property. MTI is also welcome to use this reduction in the score themselves if they like.

2. Opening the Shop Page 15

2. Opening the Shop Page 16.jpg

3. Sounds While Selling

I’ll come out and say that I think this number doesn’t really work in the way it was intended, at least not with modern ears. It seems to want film treatment, where we can see flashes of each part of the conversation. But the music itself can’t draw the eye around the stage, so the joke wears thin. Your mileage may vary.

The ending introduces the doorbell- thank you idea, which Philip Lambert points out as another example of the prominence of the  6th scale degree, this time functioning as a part of a planing 6/9 chord.

I would teach the entire melody of Sounds While Selling to everyone and then split the tune up among the singers after everyone knows it. It may help as you teach measures 35-43 to play some chords for context. (not during performance, of course) Db works from 35-39, then play Bbm on the downbeat of 40, and Db again on beat 3. Play Gb on the downbeat of 41, F#m on the downbeat of 42, F#sus on beat 3, A on the downbeat of 43, and B7 on the downbeat of 43. I don’t need to tell you that the doorbell motive gives you each of the pitches the actors need, and that they then plane up and down stepwise from their first note. It may be wise to make that clear from the beginning. I also made every fermata on ‘Madam’ a dotted half note, (basically a 4/4 measure) just to eliminate confusion and coordinate cutoffs.

If you’re trying to expand the ranks of your female chorus, you can double or triple up the parts in the canon and distribute the solo lines among more singers.

The Doorbell idea grew out of a line in Masteroff’s script, where Good day-Thank You-Please Call again appears 4 times. In the original play, “Goodnight, Madam, Thank You Very Much, Call Again” appears 9 times. (This information again comes from Philip Lambert’s terrific book)

4. Reading The Letter

This beautiful underscore is best with just the strings. Our violin/cello combo along with keys 2 playing a string patch sounded terrific.

5. Days Gone By

Amid all the experimental and even operatic storytelling in this musical, it’s easy to forget that Bock and Harnick were also very good at writing traditional musical theatre songs; here given to the oldest member of the cast. We will see shortly that more contemporary musical ideas are deliberately assigned to younger members of the cast.

At the lyric ‘around, around, around’ we hear another example of the prominent 6th scale degree.

Measures 83-102, where the engraving suddenly gets computerized and rather poor, we also get some conflicting signals in parts and score. The piano vocal score has a jazz waltz accompaniment pattern from 87-97, and from 99-102, but the strings (and the drumset I think) are playing old fashioned quarters. Better change them while you’re in rehearsal because it alters the groove the choreographer is working from.

6. Music Box #1

The music box figure should be recorded and played as a sound cue. Our sound designer built a bluetooth speaker into one of the boxes so the sound could be localized. During rehearsals you’ll need to play. I found it oddly difficult to memorize, considering its relative simplicity. If you can memorize it, though, I would, so you can watch the actors open and close the box.

7. You Will Pay Through The Nose

It really doesn’t matter if Maraczek is in key here. Let him pick whatever starting pitch he likes.

8. Music Box #2

See notes above

9. Doorbell #1

Our pit was situated directly above the action in a loft, which made it very easy for me to time my doorbells to the door openings. A sight line is great.

10. Music Box #3

See notes above

11. Amalia’s Entrance

See notes above

12. Thank You Madam, #1

See notes above

13. Music Box Surprise

Note that the key has changed here. If you pre-recorded this one too, be sure you’re in D flat now. The enharmonic spelling is nasty, but it’s not particularly hard to play. Because No More Candy should really be slower than the other iterations, it may be a good idea to start this version a little slower than before to ease the transition.

14. No More Candy

How wonderful that this odd little music-box theme accompanies the simplest of melodies in AABA form, the A sections completely constructed from descending and ascending three note phrases.

Don’t forget that the celesta sounds an octave higher than written, so if you’re playing this on the piano, you may want to play up the octave.

In comparing the piano scores from the two times I music directed this show, I noticed both times I needed to give a note to myself to play slower, and that in measures 11-13 I wrote in chord symbols: C#m/E and Ab/Eb for measure 11, E7/D and A/C# over measure 12 and Ebm/Gb for measure 13.

I think it’s a nice touch to treat the last measure like the music box is winding down somewhat.

15. Thank You, Madam #2

See notes above.

16. Three Letters

This brilliant number was originally a more complicated number called Seasonal Changes. It was extended in the London Cast to include the ensemble more. You can hear that version here at 8:24:


Boy it’s interesting! But not, I think, an improvement.

Jerry Bock uses a delightfully jaunty left hand figure reminiscent of what he would do later in Oh, To Be A Movie Star from The Apple Tree.

Movie Star Example

A true understanding of the charm of Bock’s writing involves appreciating this flavor; a composer like Jerry Herman has a strong harmonic sense, and his melodies are nearly always built around arpeggiating the chords and emphasizing the tendency tones of the very sensible harmony. (hum Hello Dolly and you’ll see what I mean) Accompaniment patterns are just strumming in most of Herman’s songs, though. Richard Rodgers had a stronger sense of what the accompaniment could do to set off the melody, as chromatic interior lines undergird simple and self referential melodic patterns. And Sondheim creates elaborate webs of interlocking ideas in his accompaniments in a dizzying display. But compare Bock’s effortless chromaticism in the accompaniment here. It’s wildly active, but somehow doesn’t distract from the melody, which is only a sing song; something you’d hum to yourself. In fact, the harmony is almost completely static. When you learn to hear this quality in Bock’s music, you’ll marvel at the effortless fecundity that never draws attention to itself.

Reed 2 (two reed version) has an error in measure 41, which should read F# half note, F natural quarter note, and E natural eighth note. (compare piano vocal) Your score also doesn’t have a vamp in measure 50, but the parts do! It makes sense there. Near the end, the drum book has a 3 measure rest that should be a 4 measure rest.

By now everyone knows when they get to their seats that the two co-workers are penpals and aren’t aware of it. But in the original production, this reveal must have been wonderful. The conclusion of 3 letters is such a clever device to make that plot point!

17. Tonight at Eight

According to Harnick, this number nearly killed him.

“I was working on a number for She Loves Me. It was called Tonight at 8. I was walking around New York singing the melody to myself, trying to write the lyrics, and I stepped in front of a truck. The driver slammed on the brakes, honked his horn. I looked up, startled, and then kept right on walking, working on the song. Jerry told me to be more careful.”

There is one pronunciation problem in this lyric, because tete-a-tete doesn’t rhyme with eight if you pronounce it in correct French. So you have a choice: you can say “tate ah tate” at “ate” or “tet a tet” at “et” Otherwise it sounds like Harnick doesn’t care if it almost rhymes.

For (and on) the record:

1963 Original cast: tate a tate, eight

1964 London Cast: tate a tate, eight

1993 Revival: tet a tet, et

1994 London Revival: tet a tet, et

2015 Prince of Broadway: tet a tet, ate

2016 Revival: tet a tet, ate

So as you can see, people have cared more about the correct French pronunciation over time and less whether the thing rhymes or not. I sort of think it should.

I thought I had found a rare Harnick near-rhyme in this lyric until I realized I had mis-identified the structure of the rhyme scheme. Ape does not rhyme with Eight, obviously, but they’re not supposed to. Because the lyric is actually:

In my imagination

I can hear our conversation

Taking SHAPE

Tonight at eight


I’ll sit there saying ab-

Solutely nothing or I’ll jab-

Ber like an APE

Tonight at eight

And it goes by so effortlessly, maybe you missed the impressive triple double rhyme at the end:

If it goes


Who knows

I might




At eight.

You might also notice there’s a cute little closing figure under the last word 3 measures from the end. It’s a prefiguring of the opening of I Don’t Know His Name.

End of I Don't Know His Name

Top Of I Don't Know His Name


Since the lovers’ aspirational numbers are back to back, this tiny connecting fiber is a nice touch.

In the Piano Vocal Score, measure 71 is blank. In the parts, there’s accompaniment. I suggest you make that measure tacet in the band for the sake of bringing the ensemble in cleanly.

18. Tonight Tag

In the parts, this is called Shop To The Back Room. Might want to change that title in the Piano Vocal so if you call the number, they know what you’re talking about. One of the reeds has an instrument switch, so you may want to wait a sec before starting…

19. I Don’t Know His Name

I Don't Know His Name 1

There’s a lot to unpack here. Firstly, it’s a canon followed by a quodlibet. Secondly, the melody is very Lydian, with a prominent #4 scale degree that conveys Amalia’s aspirations well. In fact, the Fi-Sol idea so prominent here will turn out to be the main idea in Will He Like Me! Lydian melodies tend to inflect the piece toward the subdominant. But this progression modulates DOWN instead, starting in G, then tonicizing F#. When the B section begins, the progression is even more unusual, using a descending sequence to work from IV through iii through ii through I in F# major, but then overshooting the I chord to cadence in Bb major, of all keys! A very deft modulation allows us to return to F# major and repeat the process, this time cycling back into F. After the underscore of Amalia’s Monologue, the B section repeats a half step lower than before with Ilona singing the bass line up the octave! The number concludes with a return to the original canon, now a whole step lower than originally. As in the other numbers, Bock has also written an extremely active accompaniment that manages not to feel busy. Oddly, none of this unusual modulation or figuration feels forced or unusual; we accept it as listeners that it’s a perfectly ordinary tune.

Finally, it’s worth noting the similarities and differences with Marry The Man Today from Guys and Dolls. Both are canons, both are about two women dealing with men. In each case, one of the women is a soprano with high ideals and the other an earthier belter who’s seen some things. Marry the Man Today has some nice character touches, as when Sarah corrects Adelaide’s grammar. But I Don’t Know His Name is a far higher level of storytelling. Ilona doesn’t sing any of Amalia’s music until she’s taken Amalia’s side. The canon is a musical depiction of Ilona’s agreement, a dramatic shift which happens during the song. Good musical theatre song placement lands on the point of decision, in this case Ilona’s decision that she should get a library card and expand her horizons. Marry the Man Today takes place after the two already agree. Amalia and Ilona also have deeply distinctive lyrics. Amalia shows herself extremely literate and articulates one of the most important ideas of the musical: You don’t need to physically meet someone to fall in love with them. Ilona’s lyric is far more grounded, but not in the cliches of ditzy chorus girls. Ilona’s concerns are practical. What if he’s horrible to be around? What if he’s terrible in bed? When Ilona finally agrees, she doesn’t parrot Amalia’s lyric wholesale. Her echoing phrases are a realization that she’d fallen into a misconception.

There are some awfully strange errors in the reed books here. I’m referring to the 2 Reed version here. I don’t know if these problems are in the 3 reed version. The first issue is kind of hard to describe: Reed I is supposed to play Alto Flute. If they don’t, a regular flute part is provided. Reed II is supposed to play regular flute. If they don’t, a clarinet part is provided. If there isn’t a Reed II, there’s a bit that the orchestrator has moved into an optional Reed I flute part. So far so good. But it sort of looks from the Reed I book that the optional flute part might be for when Reed II just can’t play flute. (which isn’t the case; it’s covered in the clarinet) Having said all that, I can’t figure out what the orchestrator was going for with the division of measure 12. Also in the last beat of measure 12, 3rd sixteenth of beat 4, Reed I needs a concert E sharp, which you can see in beat 3 of the optional flute part, but which didn’t make it into beat 4. Reed 2 clarinet part is just wrong from 14-16. Wrong key signature to begin with, (should be A major) and then the clarinet part should be a whole step higher than the Flute part is, from 14-16. In measure 19, the last note in the Bass book should be G, not a D. In Reed I, measure 22, the third sixteenth of beat 2 should be a concert B, not a concert C in both Regular and Alto Flute parts. I think beat 3 in Reed II should be a concert C#, not a concert E flat, which wouldn’t make harmonic sense. In measure 31, in Reed II, the first 2 notes should be D flats (concert C flats), and the 3rd and 4th notes should be B flats (concert A flats) These reed parts need a redo.

One last thing:

When I undertook this correspondence

Little did I know I’d grow so fond

Little did I know our views would so correspond.

That’s magical.

20. Back Room To Shop

This is one of the pages that looks newer, but has a dreadful spelling! The last measure is a G6 chord, but the C flat makes it look like some kind of C/G thing. Write a G6 symbol or rewrite the chord.

21. Thank You, Madam

See notes above

22. Perspective

The piano accompaniment doesn’t play easily, but it’s perfection. Sipos has what is surely the most Hungarian music in the show, and he expresses a philosophy you’d find in no other character in any other musical. Obviously, the most difficult passage is the middle section, but I’ve coached it many times and found most people can find their way through it. The trick is to ignore the note values and focus on lining up the stressed syllables with the big beats:

I am only ONE


SEVERal in a rather small per-


And so forth.

23. Doorbell #2

One of these doorbells has been cut each time I did this show. Not sure if that’s a score/script discrepancy or what.

24. Thank You Madam #4

See notes above

25. Doorbell #3

See notes above

26. Doorbell #4

See notes above

27. Goodbye, Georg

Note how we are 27 numbers into the score at this point, and there have only been 4 normal songs where characters simply express their thoughts. All the other numbers have been people shopping or reading letters or doorbells or music boxes. Here the authors have dipped backward into the score to add a layer to an existing number, as the staff mournfully wish Georg good luck.

I think this long stretch of musical shop interactions is the last vestige of a bigger scheme which was ultimately dropped. Sheldon Harnick said in an interview:

“This is a piece that’s not going to be hard to find music for. In fact, we found too much. Everything wanted to be sung. Our initial mistake, which I think we rectified was that we decided we were going to have musical bits. We were going to have songs and developed pieces, but we were also going to have a lot of musical fragments. What we discovered was that it’s hard enough on first hearing to absorb all that music. Then if you deluge audiences with additional bits, eventually the mind will stop hearing. The audience just gives up.”

The trick with Goodbye George is finding the right tempo. I found about 114 to the quarter note worked pretty well. Even though the content is sad, it shouldn’t descend into a dirge. The customer melody is essentially the same as Songs While Selling, down a half step, with a new countermelody for the staff. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to try and line up the dialogue with the music as it appears in the score. We found that if you begin in measure 12, it timed out okay without trying to line up measure 33. I didn’t want to have to hassle with conducting the caesuras in 75 and 76, so I counted 2-3 after the first So Long, 2-3-4 after the second So Long, and then on to the end as in all the other times.

28. George’s Exit- Will He Like Me

I found measures 9-12 easier to get through in 4 than in 2, but you may feel it differently.

29. Will He Like Me

Thanks to the internet, we can look at some of the writing and editing process for this show. Will He Like Me is an expansive ballad in the classic Late Golden Age style, a cousin to My White Knight, also sung originally by Barbara Cook. But this wasn’t the first number Bock and Harnick wrote for this moment. Originally there was a number entitled Tell Me I Look Nice, which is much more in the vein of I Could Have Danced all Night or I Look Pretty, although it begins in 5/4!


It’s a lovely number, and it must have been difficult to cut! In fact, Sondheim lists it as one of the “Songs I wish I’d written”. But as delightful as the song is, its replacement is much better. Will He Like Me is vulnerable and specific, and it helps earn the difficult sentiment of the end of the first act. Harnick said in a 1983 interview,

“I never mastered the knack of getting the right idea the first time around. In fact, what I found out about myself was that each draft acquainted me with another level of a character’s personality, so successive drafts made the character more real to me, more three-dimensional, which in turn affected the show as a whole. I always took to heart the truism, “Shows are not written, they are rewritten.”

Philip Lambert goes into some great detail in his chapter about She Loves Me regarding Jerry Bock’s use of the 5th and 6th scale degrees for expressive purposes. I’d like to make some similar points here, with an acknowledgment of Lambert having arrived here first in analysis. I think this is, in fact, where the 6th scale degree idea functions most beautifully. The melodic content of the song is as sophisticated as what Sondheim would be doing decades later. The melody is, in fact, a master class on how to shape melodic contour rhetorically to reinforce the dramatic moment. 

Consider what’s happening in this melody: for the first 4.5 measures of the tune there are only 2 notes; Sol and La. We are hearing a rumination; Amalia is thinking through the most important idea in the show so far: Will she live up to his expectation? When she breaks out of this stasis, she finally ascends the scale up to Mi, (…the girl that he’s imagined me to be?) then on the title of the song, a yearning Fi (#4 scale degree) leading to Sol. (scale degree 5) She’s in the same Lydian mode she was in for I Don’t Know His NameWill He Like Me Example 1The second A section is a direct repeat, again breaking free of the Sol and La at the critical line, “…there’s more to me than I may always show”

The B section begins a full octave above the A section. Sol La is again the key idea, but now it’s urgent, and an octave higher, with an expressive dip down to Re. The idea is then sequenced at Fa Sol, dipping down to La, then closing with a descending scale that again sets up Sol and La.

Will He Like Me Example 2

The return of the A section is identical to the first two, except that it has an extension Do Do Do Re (…He’s just got to) which is just heartbreaking. This is the kind of thing Andrew Lloyd Webber keeps trying to make happen in his tunes but far less effectively. Think of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, when the tune goes “I kept my promise… Don’t keep your distance.” or “Where am I going to… where am I going to…” in Another Suitcase in Another Hall or the weird “We taught the world new ways to dream” that comes out of left field at the end of As if We Never Said Goodbye

But this little echo phrase does its job wonderfully, perfectly closing the old idea while inaugurating the new one, a bridge that is just as active as the main body of the song was ruminative. “When I am in my room alone” sounds inevitable, because it’s appeared in the accompaniment already in measures 20, 28 and 44. Again the sharp 4th scale degree gives the melody a yearning quality, and when the melody gets sequenced, it moves from G flat major to E flat minor, and takes on a melancholy quality, which quickly passes as we head to a thrilling approach to D flat, a dominant that will bring us to the original B section.

Will He Like Me Example 3

The last A section, beginning at measure 76 takes us through familiar territory, and our two note idea is still the main course, but the melody ends on a very daring La Ti, a beautiful, but dissonant major 7th against the root.

Will He Like Me Example 4.jpg

Amalia has unfinished business at the end of this song. (and just to pique your interest, the unfinished business will be payed off in Georg’s big song in act II) This kind of melodic sophistication is worthy of Jerome Kern and prefigures what Sondheim would be doing in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Next time I music direct this, I’m going to build a new Music Director part for this song from the parts, because this one is a real mess. There are many places where the note lengths on long notes don’t match the conductor score or one another, so it’s tricky to know when the players will cut off. I didn’t anticipate this being an issue, but I should have gone through and at least checked each part against my score so I had some sense of it. (particularly in measure 85) The piano vocal is also pretty poorly spelled, as in the end of measure 55, where D minor is spelled with Ebb and Bbbs, (surely the left hand should have them too?), and the second half of 64, which really should be spelled A7, not Bbb7, however harmonically correct that may be. You need a courtesy F natural in measure 70 in the first violin, by the way. The reed entrance halfway through 76 comes in on the and of 2, which I think is an error. It doesn’t do that anywhere else in the score.

29. Will He Like Me Scene Change

I wonder whether this is from the 90s. The top of the scene change feels very right, but the ending sounds like the bumper from a cop show, and the quote in the bass clarinet from I Don’t Know His Name feels harmonically odd. Come to think of it, there may be some typo in the parts I never identified. Have a look.

30. Ilona

This number is also a second draft! You can hear the original number, Merry Christmas Bells here:


It’s easy to see why Ilona is a better thought for this moment, but more intriguing is how Bock and Harnick kept the basic idea in the old number as an interlude in the new version. The old version was about the sentiments of the whole room simultaneously, as in Sounds While Selling. But the new version solves a key problem; we need to understand why Kodaly is attractive to Ilona. The old version is also musically static, relying on mode mixture for variety. The final version is very harmonically active.

I have to point out that Kodaly’s melody obsessively (and rather mindlessly) traces an Ebsus chord for quite a long time. This pattern is related to the shop idea, only in 4ths instead of 5ths.


Ilona Comparison

Some of this interlocking 4ths idea is also present in the title song of the show, but Georg abandons the idea immediately to explore other avenues. To Kodaly, this is another in an endless stream of sales pitches. We only see him start to think outside the box when he’s mercilessly ripping everyone apart in Act II.

I found the number works best when you take it at a very fast clip. A moderate tempo requires a surprising amount of breath support from the singer.

31. I Resolve

Bock and Harnick replaced I Resolve with a new number for Rita Moreno in the Original London Cast called Heads I Win. You can hear that song at 22:13


The number isn’t available to use in production, but it paints a much more complicated mental state for Ilona! It’s a terrific lyric with some very subtle double entendre.

There’s something very odd in the score; Lines for Kodaly in measures 6 and 8 that there actually isn’t any time for. The revival solves this problem by eliminating the accompaniment and adding caesuras. If you want to do that, play a Bb minor chord on the downbeat of measure 3, then tacet unil the downbeat of measure 5, where you play another Bbminor chord. No accompaniment after, Caesura following measure 6. Bbmajor on the downbeat of measure 7, then nothing through measure 8. Caesura after 8, Bb major on downbeat of 9. No accompaniment through the downbeat of 10, then play from beat 2 of measure 10 through the rest of the number as written. I do wonder how the original cast did the thing; the lines don’t appear on any of the early recordings.

The off-beat accompaniment is tricky for some singers, and the last 4 measures of accompaniment are very counterintuitive. You’re playing in F minor (?) until you suddenly cadence in G minor. It takes some work.

Again, note how just like Amalia did, Ilona often vacillates between 2 notes as she works through her issues. Note also how Bock has provided the most delightful and unusual accompaniment imaginable. And note how empowered and active Harnick’s women are. As woke as our current musical theatre is, so many of the female characters written in today’s musicals simply wallow in self pity. Ilona’s sexuality gets her in trouble, but she’s nobody’s fool.

32. Ilona’s Exit

Write some courtesy c naturals in for yourself in measures 10, 13, and 14.

33. Street To The Shop

Both times I played this I needed to write naturals next to some Cs here as well.

34. Goodbye Love

I read that there was originally a number called Hello Love that was cut which was in this spot. (I think) I would very much like to hear that number, although it must have been cut for length. The underscore that is currently here strikes me as a 1993 confection. The music is really beautiful, but this way of using Lydian repeated ideas everywhere and the elevated repeating phrases somehow don’t feel like 1963 to me at all. They feel like they came from a Maltby-Shire show….

That’s not an insult, I’m just saying it doesn’t really fit here.

35. A Romantic Atmosphere

Romantic Atmosphere 1

There’s a problem here for a modern production, particularly if a) you don’t have a proscenium stage or b) you staged Goodbye Love on the set instead of in front of the curtain. I believe what’s supposed to have happened here is a gunshot/crash, after which the curtain immediately opens and we see a waiter looking down on a fallen platter. ‘Did we hear a gunshot?’ we think, but we won’t find out until act 2. Unfortunately, this complicated set change is probably going to take a while, which means you have some choices to make. If you add music between 34 and 35, it can be either more of the Goodbye Love music, which seems like a pretty depressing choice, or Romantic Atmosphere music, which will just make us tire of this new number before it even starts. We opted to use 37.Tango Tragique as a scene change.

Looking at the PV, it sure seems like there was a full measure of rest after 5 and after 8 at some point; and that tends to work out most of the time, if you want to just time out the fermatas instead of cueing out of them. I think the ‘Victor Hugo’ line comes from the 1993 revival, where I want to say it reads as though two men are lovers. (although I can’t be sure) The original Broadway and London casts have someone giggling in the second rest.  

The dance break is rather difficult to play, particularly from 71-78, which is wild. Don’t ask me what Hotsy Hungarian Jazz Style means. Tell your players to feel free to klezmer it up a little, particularly around 89.

36. The Cafe Imperiale

This number is so fun to play.

37. Tango Tragique

This delightful and brief vocal version of this number doesn’t appear in the 1964 London production or the 1993 or 2016 revivals, being replaced by a monologue with essentially the same material over an underscore of the original tune. The first act is long, but by my calculation, putting the number back into the show adds only one minute to the act.

If you want to include it, everything is actually already there, you just have to reassemble it correctly. You can find the singer’s version of the number in the Singer’s Musical Theatre Anthology Tenor Volume 2. https://www.amazon.com/Singers-Musical-Theatre-Anthology-Piano-Vocal/dp/0793523311

Measure 1 should be played by the Piano or Accordion. The orchestration of measures 2-37 are measures 2-37 of 36 The Cafe Imperiale as it currently exists in underscore form. Measures 38-46 are measures 55-63 of 37 Tango Tragique. Measures 47-49 are measures 39-41 of 36 The Cafe Imperiale.

I suggest you play 37 as written in underscore form, timing it so that the end of the dialogue lines up with one of the open G chord cadences, such as measure 26, or best of all 49, which has a nice dead stop. If you have trouble lining that up, start the number later, or cut passages until it lines up properly.

37 as written as a scene change has one error in the Piano Vocal (that I noticed) The right hand downbeat of measure 10 should be a C, not a D.

38. Mr. Nowack, Will You Please

This is a shorter version of a much longer original. (or so I’m led to believe) It’s a rather operatic moment, in a mock Viennese style. I adored playing it.

39. Dear Friend

Of course this number is perfection. On the other hand, it’s troublesome to stage today, since the comedy of watching a woman at the lowest point of her life trying to muster some hope while being insulted by the waitstaff reads differently now than it did in 1963. We found leaning into the uncomfortability was helpful, so the crash right at the top of the number was useful in establishing that this is a tragi-comic moment.

I could make a tenuous case that the first gesture in Amalia’s melody (…flowers, the) here uses the exact three pitches as her first melody in the show, (we become) drawing a connection between the insecurity of the woman afraid of overeating in her sales pitch and the insecurity of a woman waiting for a man who might not show. That seems like a bit of a stretch, though. This melody is built of thirds and sequences just as No More Candy, and it has a prominent Lydian moment as the chorus begins, which in the vocabulary of this piece is aspirational.

Note the subtlety of the rhyme scheme here, and note how Amalia drops her Dufy-Dufay-Defoe wit and trick rhymes as she goes, opting for a simpler and more heartfelt expression. In fact at the end, the trick rhymes almost disappear:

The flowers, the linen, the crystal I see

Were carefully chosen for people like me

The silver agleam and the candles aglow

Your favorite songs on request.


Each colorful touch in the finest of taste

And notice how subtly the tables are spaced

The music is muted, the lighting is low

No wonder I feel so depressed


(AABC, DDBC, and reader please note agleam-aglow, music muted, lighting low wordplay)


Charming, Romantic, the perfect cafe

Then as if it isn’t bad enough a violin starts to play

Candles and wine, tables for two

But where are you,

Dear friend


Couples go past me, I see how they look

So discreetly sympathetic when they see the rose and the book

I make believe nothing is wrong

How long

Can I pretend?


Please make it right, don’t break my heart, don’t let it end

Dear friend



You sort of need a violinist on stage. Obviously a real violinist actually playing is ideal. Fake violin playing is atrocious. Also, for any potential Amalias out there, you must play against the tragedy in the number. It’s far more meaningful to watch Amalia try to get enough courage to believe she still has a chance than it is to watch her wallow for 5 minutes.

All measure numbers are wrong, because the parts list the pickup measure as measure 1. Both times I music directed this, the section beginning at 76 wasn’t anywhere near enough underscore for the entire dialogue. For one production I played painfully slowly through the underscore. If you need to get people offstage before intermission (as we did in our thrust space) you can play the last page again, giving the melody to a violin or a trumpet.

40. Entr’acte

Considering the length of the show, I can’t imagine playing this Entr’acte, but it’s a good one. I suggest starting Act II with 41 Opening Act II.


Both productions I’ve music directed were directed by the wonderful Matt Decker, who commented in rehearsal about the incredible string of numbers that opens Act II. If you’ve ever written a 2 act musical, you know that the beginning of Act II is the toughest nut to crack. If you’ve ended Act I in such a way that the audience wants to come back, Act II must drop the audience back into the action, delaying the resolution of the story without making the audience feel like they’ll be there forever, and getting across new information without getting bogged down in book scenes. At this critical juncture, Bock and Harnick deploy 5 of the best numbers in American Musical Theatre, one after the other. It is a tour de force.

41. Opening, Act II

This quirky little opener is similar to 2. Opening the Shop, except the Piano Vocal seems to be error free!

42. Try Me

Arpad and Motel the Tailor from Fiddler are clearly cut from the same cloth. With the possible exception of Tulsa in Gypsy, I think they’re the two finest roles for young men ever written, and again, the attention to detail of character here is astonishing.

After the opening lick, which reminds one of I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady, Arpad launches us into a wonderfully declamatory verse that keeps ratcheting up, from C to D to E to F to G to A, always major, finally dropping into a very ‘mod’ sounding groove which contains the hook. As is typical of this show, the catchy tune appears only briefly before an extended retail fantasy, which hits so many marks and wanders so far afield, it’s a wonder the number still holds together before returning for a final pass of the chorus.

A few performance tips: It is possible to play the glissando with two fingers of the right hand in measure 13. It’s kind of fun; it just takes a little practice. Some tenors have trouble hearing the D in measures 60 and 81, especially as the piano so clearly plays a C. The G in the right hand in measures 135 and 136 may be an error; it certainly fights that F in the woodwind line above it. I think you want to play D minor 7 for those 2 measures. 

43. Maraczek’s Memories

You may need a little more music here, in which case I suggest you repeat the first 16 bars.

44. Where’s My Shoe?

Where's My Shoe

I live in one of those odd houses where 6 different people actually sing this song whenever looking for shoes. What else would one sing? Only in a Bock and Harnick musical could such an oddball story moment result in such an outside-the-box number, and one of the highlights of the show at that!

Musically it’s a wonder! The accompaniment is a romp, with a chromatic interior line and an oom-pah passage that can’t seem to decide if it’s in 3 or in 6. Melodically, Amalia is utterly unhinged, arpeggiating the tonic chord, but veering off into sharp 5, twice, then snaking up from Fi to Ti chromatically. 3 seven note scales sequence over a circle-of-fifths progression twice, then the arpeggiated A section begins all over again. George is much more grounded; his melody is a single note when it isn’t a perfectly rounded phrase or a simple scale.  

This number is not so terribly difficult to prepare, the trick is to make it feel like it’s going off the rails without it actually going off the rails. Traditionally it’s staged with a lot of acrobatic chasing and throwing Amalia over Georg’s shoulder, which is not conducive to beautiful singing. Either you have to get used to the idea that it will be funnier than beautiful, or you’ll need to get involved with the staging so that Amalia isn’t supporting the weight of her head with her neck muscles while singing the G, for example. Keep in mind that she needs to play a scene, then sing Vanilla Ice Cream in about 4 minutes.

The lick in the last 5 measures is a bear to play. I recommend leaving the left hand out.

45. Vanilla Ice Cream

This is justifiably one of the most talked about numbers in the history of American Musical Theatre:

Will Friedwald wrote: “Ice Cream is one of the theater’s best songs of self-exploration and discovery, the kind usually given to leading men in Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, such as the King of Siam puzzling out A Puzzlement and Billy Bigelow contemplating parenthood in Soliloquy. Ice Cream repeatedly changes keys, tones, melodies- the works- mirroring the thought process even more ambitiously than Adelaide’s Lament in Guys and Dolls in a way that seems completely random but is obviously carefully concocted.”

The number replaced an earlier song, The Touch of Magic, which was converted back into a monologue.

In Jennifer Packard’s interesting book A Taste of Broadway: Food in Musical Theater, she points out that Joe Masteroff’s insertion of Ice Cream into the scenario is more related to his childhood in Philadelphia than any Hungarian roots. She also observes that it was Masteroff who introduced the Pineapple into the romantic story between Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz in Cabaret 3 years later.  

The ‘Ice Cream’ part of the melody once again embraces the 6th scale degree, and again I’ll refer you to Philip Lambert’s excellent  book for an analysis along those lines. I’ll work my analysis here along broader lines.

The famous opening letter passage combines the two most compelling Amalia ideas from Act I. A celesta plays a music box idea; different from the cigarette boxes near the beginning of Act I, but tonally reminiscent, while below, a we hear the melody of Dear Friend from the end of Act I.  

Amalia’s letter is interrupted by a Hungarian idea once again looping around neighbor tones, with another Lydian inflected Fi. Just as this Csardas seems to be going off the rails, Amalia regains her composure and starts the letter again, this time with no countermelody from the restaurant! She has already started to move on, and spectacularly so, culminating in a tiny bit of coloratura in thirds with a flute, which I’ve always heard as a callback to the Mad Scene in Lucia di Lammermoor..

America’s conceptions about Opera have changed quite a bit over the years. Today Vanilla Ice Cream’s operatic flavor at the end reads to general audiences as a fanciful touch, even a little loopy. But for Barbara Cook, who played this part originally, Opera was meaningful on its own terms. She said once to an interviewer:

“Opera was such a huge part of my growing up. I don’t quite know how it happened because nobody cared about opera in particular. When I was a little girl, I would always ask my mother or my grandmother to call me when the Saturday afternoon broadcast was beginning. It was a beautiful, beautiful part of my life.”

In the 1960s American audiences had a much higher level of Opera literacy than they do today, and for audiences familiar with operatic tropes, the end of Vanilla Ice Cream signified more than just whimsy. Mary Ann Smart wrote in an oft quoted passage from a 1992 article in the Cambridge Opera Journal:

“Trills, melismas, and high notes suggest hysteria, an unbearable pitch of emotion; they liberate music from text, allow it to escape from the rational, connect it with pre-symbolic modes of communication. In a sense coloratura is free from the confinement of music an of language; a syllable stretched beyond recognition is an escape from signification, the emergence of irrationality and madness.”

Smart was writing generally about coloratura in an article specifically about Donizetti’s opera Lucia Di Lammermoor, and it’s the mad scene that most opera fans would have thought of upon hearing the very brief moment of coloratura at the end of Vanilla Ice Cream. Both are accompanied by a flute after the orchestra has dropped out, although Amalia’s ascent into the stratosphere isn’t anywhere near as long or complicated:

Lucia Mad Scene Snippet

Vanilla Ice Cream 1

The mad scene from Lucia is only the best known of a long list of soprano arias accompanied by flute, including examples from almost every important French Opera composer of the mid-19th century. Lucia is by far the most famous example. As of this season, it is the 15th most performed opera at the Met, with 611 performances, more than any opera by Mozart or Strauss.

So is Amalia going mad? Of course not. But as the number veers toward opera, she is in a very real way liberated from language, which had up until this point been not only her character’s interest as a reader of books, but her mode of expression; wordy, articulate, reasoned. We are seeing an ecstatic moment that sets her character on another course.

I don’t have much in the way of words of wisdom as you coach this number, except to encourage your soprano not to overdo the difference between the vocal quality of the two sections; the lower part should not really be belted. And then the portamento between the High B and the E is important. To do it in a quasi-operatic style, use vibrato as you descend; it’s a great effect.

Most of the parts have only 1 fermata in 96, not 4, so your players may need clarification. If you are conducting from the piano, your trumpet players and others who have a similar rhythm may have trouble figuring out your tempo, since what you’re playing sounds like triplets. Show them your part and all will be well.

Should you need a playoff, you can go back to 74, 82, or 98.

46. She Loves Me

She Loves Me 1


When David Gordon asked Joe Masteroff and Sheldon Harnick if they would change anything about the show, Masteroff said:

“I must say the one thing I didn’t like… I like the song She Loves Me, I hate it as the title for the show. It seems so cliche. It seems like every other title you’ve ever heard.”

Harnick then suggested it was probably Hal Prince’s idea, and Masteroff continued:

“I’m sure it was Hal. He never asked me about anything. There ought to be something like ‘She Loves Me?’ with a question mark, which is more effective as a title, I think. It gives the audience something to wonder about.”

In an interview for the 1993 book Creativity: Conversations With 28 Who Excel, Harnick said:

“ I was very pleased when I wrote a song like ‘She Loves Me’. I thought, ‘Oh, good, the analysis is working.’ I’m able to say things that really come right out of me, unselfconsciously. For instance, there’s a line, ‘My teeth ache from the urge to touch you.’ [sic] And that was because there have been moments when I’ve been with a girl and the back or my teeth hurt.”

There’s an odd notation at the top of the piano vocal score that Amalia says, ‘well, well…’ and then Georg saying, ‘well!’ before launching into the song. Those lines don’t appear in the script at all, and I have no idea how they would! But this makes me think that at one point, the authors had attempted a seam between the previous scene and this song similar to the seam between Maraczek’s suicide attempt and A Romantic Atmosphere! But even without this glue, there’s plenty of connecting material between this number and other material in the show, beginning with “Will wonders never cease?”, a clear callback to the previous number. Amalia just sang that 4 times.

The ‘well well’ passage slips chromatically and hilariously from Le down to Do, as Georg nearly abandons language himself, but the “I didn’t like her” section jumps spastically up from E flat to Bb, Db, C, Eb, Fb, Georg is wildly attempting to ground a tonality before finally settling on the same 2 pitches (Db and Eb) Amalia was vacillating between at the top of Will He Like Me!

She Loves Me Example 2

Let me put too fine a point on that: Georg is answering her question. “Will he like me?”, she asks. “I didn’t like her”, he answers, but then using the two notes that represented her confusion, he adds: “Now I do!”

It took me far too long to notice that Georg’s lyric refers back to itself:

I didn’t like her But now I do

Didn’t like her? I couldn’t stand her! And I could

Couldn’t stand her? I Wouldn’t have her! And I would

I wouldn’t have her I never knew her! And I know…

Melodically, we are also once again hearing the prominence of the 6th scale degree (the song ends on the 6th!) Georg’s main melody begins similarly to Kodaly’s in Ilona, except that Georg’s accompaniment is actually going somewhere. In fact, the melody pays off the exploratory jumps and descents of the introduction, this time climbing the scale in a very satisfying way!

She Loves Me Example 3

Note also that Georg has taken the ‘mod’ rhythm from Try Me as his new motif. He is a younger man as a result of this revelation.

When accompanying with piano, it is possible to follow the singer through all the ‘well’s. But when conducting, it’s far more difficult. I suggest the singer follow you, or work out a very consistent pattern of speeding up.

In measure 14, reed I needs an F flat.

47. She Loves Me Playoff

There is a pickup to measure 1 in the parts (A in the trumpet). Yet another example of the shoddy copywork in this strata of the vocal score.

48. A Trip To The Library

Philip Lambert shrewdly notes that just as Ilona forms a matched pair with I Resolve, A Trip to the Library matches with Grand Knowing You. In the first matched pair, Ilona is seduced, then finds a new determination in rejection. In the second matched pair, Ilona is again seduced, but this time by a better man, and she makes good her resolve, which reveals Kodaly’s true, embittered self.

It has always been a go-to for audition material and for the discerning actor-singer, because the material is so character driven, and the actress gets to sing 3 characters: the one telling the story, herself, and Paul! It’s a number for a belter that doesn’t go terribly high, relying on characterization and comic timing rather than vocal fireworks.

The first section is a bolero with the rhythm played on the flute, a clear nod to Maurice Ravel. Ravel’s 1928 Bolero is a sinuous, sexy kind of piece with a dramatic finish, and any theatregoer in the 60s who was mildly literate in classical music will have had some contact with it. Older people today would associate it with a particular scene in the movie 10 that made Ravel’s Bolero the bestselling classical piece in the world.

Bock’s melody is amazingly even more repetitive than Ravel’s, which perfectly illustrates Ilona’s nervous energy.

Four measures of very dramatic Hungarian music follow, as Ritter’s low-key nervousness explodes into melodrama. But then we find ourselves in a classic early 60s show tune. As far as I can make out, this is the longest time in the whole show we hear a classic showtune. Embedded in this part of the tune is some of the most exquisite timing in any musical. We hear this kind of thing between Golde and Tevye in Fiddler, but it’s extremely rare, particularly in a straight ahead tune. I’m talking about pauses and placement in the bar that emphasize intention and depict the speed of thought in the character’s mind.

…quietly said to me…. “Ma’am”

I said “No”….. (off the beat, as if suddenly changing her mind)”Yes I am!”


What happens if things go wrong?

It’s obvious he’s quite strong….. (the longer the pause, the funnier the payoff)

He read to me all night long.

Under this perfectly constructed musical storyline is the wittiest imaginable orchestral accompaniment, alternating a seductive thumbline against jaunty chromatic punctuating phrases, culminating in that ‘mod’ rhythm we see whenever the story is aiming at the storylines of younger people.

After another bolero and Hungarian passage, the second chorus of the ‘tune-proper’ has a saucy woodwind counter-melody that is worthy of Nelson Riddle.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed, having coached this song for dozens of singers over the years:

  1. Some singers struggle with the timing of the first entrance, since that bolero rhythm is repetitive and easy to get lost in. I tell singers to listen to the bass, which is far easier to latch on to. Tell your drummer to play in the bolero as quietly as possible and emphasize the double bass part.  
  2. I rarely hear the correct notes in measure 18. Measure 19 is easy to hear, but the starting note for “and there was this…” is surprisingly hard. Drill that a bit at the beginning of your process. That passage happens a couple further times, including after a fairly subtly voiced key change. Make sure we get that first starting note correctly each time, and aim for a bright tone so the voice cuts down there so low.
  3. Most people can sing the passage “A trip to the library has made a new girl of me”, but singers have more trouble with the chromatic “I can see.” Keep those half steps small, or the following passage will also be wrong. This applies all four times that passage is heard.
  4. For some reason the text in the second bolero trips up singers more than the first. Learn it slow at first.

49. Sipos’s Exit

There is no repeat in the parts. (that’s written on the bottom of the PV page, but it’s easy to miss) I only mention this because if you need more time, you may accidentally ask your players to make the repeat into a vamp and they don’t have the repeat.

50. Dorbell #5

See above

51. Doorbell #6

See above

52. Thank You, Madam #5

Arpad’s part in measure 8 is wrong, and I’m pretty sure the parts are mislabeled in the vocal books. 

53. Grand Knowing You

There was a different, and very successful song in this spot originally, called My North American Drug Store, written to get Kodaly offstage after being fired. (imagine the moment without a number for a quick laugh, Kodaly simply slinking off! Impossible)


It was hard to make this cut, since the number was doing well with audience and performer. According to Harnick:

“I was never happy with it. I got to know Jack [Cassidy] and realized he needed to be bitchy and terribly funny- but there was an innocence to the bitchiness. It was witty rather than mean, and I thought, ‘this is the kind of song to try.’ We came up with Grand Knowing You. Jack was very reluctant at that point to do a new song, because North American Drug Store was stopping the show. You couldn’t argue with that, but we showed it to him and said, ‘Jack, this is a better song. It’s a character song… it was a combination of his character, his personality, and the character of the show.’  

The rewritten version is not only a better tune, but much better written to character, with a bitterly cruel and very funny middle section that paints Kodaly beautifully. It’s another example of Harnick’s rewrites getting closer to the truth of the characters.

Of the 6 numbers in She Loves Me that speed up from slow to fast, this is the first that doesn’t sound ‘Hungarian’. I might have said the ‘only’ number, but the number that follows is actually built as one enormous gradual accelerando, and it doesn’t sound Hungarian at all. The main melody is deceptively difficult to sing well; it requires a good deal of breath support. Choose your tempo for the first section based on what your singer can sustain, leaving room, of course, for it to get much faster at the end.

The middle section is very fun, and something of a bear to play and coordinate. If you listen to a few recordings, you’ll hear that the tempo is extremely fluid, but oddly consistent. That is to say that it speeds up and slows down, but in the same way every time. Because there is so much crazy style hongrois passage work in the orchestra, you will have to work out with the singer when to wait for the band and when to go on. And ideally it should always feel like the singer is driving those choices, not just waiting for the band. That’s hard! Finally, you’ll have to let the orchestra know how to get through those passages, which is really very difficult if you’re conducting from the piano.

You may also find that the passage beginning at measure 64 will come out wrong at the sitzprobe 2 or 3 times before your rhythm section understands what’s happening. In fact that’s a spot you may want to address before you even begin running it with the band.

54A. Christmas Sequence

After a true ‘string of pearls’ of fantastic character songs, Act II give us its last major number with a chorus feature, exactly the opposite of what most musicals would do in Act II.

This is marked Fast Chase, but I chose to do it slower, which made the rit at 8 much easier to handle from the keyboard. I don’t know how you could possibly slow down from the previous number’s speed to that fermata gracefully using only your head nodding to indicate tempo.

54B. A Christmas Carol

Measure 23 has a poco rit. in the parts. (but not in the Piano Vocal Score) It’d be nice to know that when rehearsing the number, no?

If you were very short on chorus guys, you could make the chorus all female, either by treating the parts as a true canon, all in the same range (which does mostly work) or by putting every F# from measures 10-23 up the octave and eliminating the lowest notes in measures 24-33. But truthfully, you only need 1 tenor and 1 bass.

54C. Twelve Days To Christmas

I like a little crescendo in measures 32-33.

Be sure you choose your tempo at the top of 54C with some room to speed up. After all, that’s the name of the game here. If you start slower, the speedup will be more dramatic.

The last note in the vocals in measure 45 should be an A.

Measures 119 and 120 have the left hand a whole step high. If you can’t figure out what the measure is actually supposed to be by this time in the show, I don’t know what to tell you. The left hand in measure 121 is missing a quarter note rest, and all the parts have a half note on beat 2 with a fermata on it. Again, super important information missing from the conductor score.

Keep an ear out for the rhythm change in measures 166-168. I suggest converting measure 171 into a 4/4 measure, especially if you’re conducting with your head and playing. The original cast recording has something else here, and in the 1993 recordings and following, it’s sloppy and unclear. It’s hard to establish that new tempo for just one bar or to relate the 2/4 tempo to the 6/8 tempo. For my money, we lose nothing by changing it to 4/4 and treating the new 6/8 dotted quarters with the same pulse of the old quarter. Trust me, it can still feel ‘off the rails’, it just won’t actually be off the rails. And that, incidentally, is the principle that should guide you: As fast as you can go without being sloppy.

Your players may find themselves wanting to slow down in the last 6 measures, but I think you want to just plow through.

55. The Invitation

The underscore that sits here now is simple and perfect. Should you need more music to cover the scene, I suggest repeating 25-32 and 41-44.

56. Closing the Shop

There was a lovely Christmas number that was cut from the show in previews called Christmas Eve that you can hear here. (I’m guessing at the placement in the show, although someone will surely correct me)


The cue for this number is, “You’re right, my boy. You won’t get it.”

57. Finale, Act II

Many writers have commented on the brilliance of repurposing the Vanilla Ice Cream thematic material with a new lyric here. This stroke of genius apparently occurred in the Philadelphia tryout. Originally it had been a reprise of No More Candy..

This is also a kind of a bookend to Three Letters at the top of the show. Three Letters revealed to the audience that the main characters were writing one another when Amalia reads Georg’s letter. The Finale reveals to Amalia that Georg is her pen-pal when Georg quotes Amalia’s letter. And how wonderful that when they sing together, nothing rhymes and there is no attempt to allow the audience to process their separate thoughts. The lovers are so excited that they drop their carefully curated facades of language in favor of a stream of consciousness. As Amalia said: “There’s no hiding behind my paper and pen.”

We opted to have the accompaniment begin in measure 3 in our production, so that Georg could take more ownership of the moment. I suppose if you like that thought, you could even begin even later.

58. She Loves Me Bows

The first measure is in 2 in all the parts, but in 3 in the score. All the measure numbers in the piano vocal are wrong following measure 41, (renumber your book continuing from 41) and from 54 to the end, the clarinet part in Reed I is mis-transposed.

Other than that, this is a nice Bows.

59. Thank You Bows

26-45 makes a decent repeat if you need one.

60. Exit Music

Measure 95 is marked Allegro Con Brio in the parts, but not in the Vocal Score, and the metric modulation is wrong, I think. If you take a reasonable tempo for She Loves Me at 53, and you treat the new half like the old quarter, it’s so fast, the orchestration doesn’t make sense. If you take the old meaning of the metric modulation, where the new quarter is the old half, it’s painfully slow. I think you gotta treat the new quarter like the old quarter and just switch up the groove. OR pick a new tempo for the Allegro con Brio that has nothing to do with the old one.

Pit Orchestra Considerations:

A few instruments are essential: The trumpet and violin have important cadenzas right away. It helps to have a violinist who doesn’t mind being onstage during Romantic Atmosphere and Dear Friend. You need to pick between the 2 reed version and the 3 reed version. The 2 reed version is very good, so I can’t imagine a situation where somebody has enough money to hire the extra reed instead of another player elsewhere, but perhaps you have a bigger budget than me.

I used violin 1, cello, reeds 1 and 2, Trumpet, bass, drumset, and keys 2. Keys 2 really helps fake a string section, especially if you have real strings on the outside of the texture. I cued up my vocal score using the keys 1 book, and played mostly a somewhat french sounding accordion patch, harp, and piano sounds.

Enjoy your production of She Loves Me! I sure did!





Richard Rodgers: Turnarounds

October 3, 2018

Some of Rodgers best turnarounds.


Richard Rodgers: Johnny One Note

September 25, 2018

I’m going to do a few videos on Richard Rodgers. Here’s the first of what I think will be 3.


Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe: A Rough Guide For The M.D.

September 9, 2018

Iolanthe Poster

A Word About the Piece:

Iolanthe is a wonderful operetta. It has many of the qualities Gilbert and Sullivan fans admire in other operettas; a ravishing overture, hilarious plot complications, scathing commentary on class distinctions, pointed and very funny dialogue, and some extraordinary music.

It also represents a few steps further down some avenues Gilbert and Sullivan had been exploring for several operettas now:

Copyright Protection

Gilbert and Sullivan were irked by the revenue they lost by pirated productions of Pinafore, and in the operas that followed, they worked diligently up front to put a stop to the copycats. They took the Pirates of Penzance to America itself, establishing copyright by premiering it simultaneously in the UK, although the UK performance was not a real production. Here they would actually open an American and an English Iolanthe on the same day, the American production conducted by Sullivan’s right hand man Cellier. Here, to pull a fast one on anyone trying to steal their work, Gilbert and Sullivan actually operated with a false title for nearly the entire rehearsal process, changing the name of the operetta and the title character at the last moment, just as Verdi had kept La Donna è Mobile under his vest until the last moment in the first production of Rigoletto.


HMS Pinafore had referenced living public figures, Pirates is, I believe, an elaborate in-joke on copyright piracy, and Patience had been a satire of the Aesthetic Movement. In fact, G&S and D’oyly Carte had been concerned that American audiences wouldn’t know enough about the Aesthetic Movement to get the joke, so they sent Oscar Wilde on a lecture tour of the states to fill people in. Here in Iolanthe, Gilbert has chosen a topic of great interest in the Victorian era: they loved fairies. And within the piece itself, public figures of the day are satirized. At one point, a character breaks the fourth wall and addresses a real celebrity audience member, Captain Shaw.   


Patience had been the first Gilbert and Sullivan operetta to appear at the newly completed Savoy Theatre, the first public building in the world lit entirely by electricity. But Patience hadn’t opened there, so it wasn’t written to take advantage of the newest technology. Iolanthe didn’t pass up the chance to use newfangled electrical wizardry. The fairies each had a battery pack that lit stars in their hair and the tip of each wand.

fairy queen

A contemporary cartoon from Punch, December 9, 1882

In that spirit, our 2018 Savoy Company production in Philadelphia equipped each of the fairies with transparent wings that lit up in various colors reflective of their mood. The wings were each connected to the wifi in the venue, and could be controlled by an app on a cell phone. Our production staff is pretty amazing. 

Sullivan and Wagner

We often read that Iolanthe is the operetta in which Sullivan most references Richard Wagner. But to most fans of his work, Sullivan is the precise opposite of Wagner; witty, economical, allergic to pomposity, and never ever dull. So what did Sullivan think of Wagner? And how Wagnerian is Sullivan in Iolanthe, anyway?

In Purgatory

An 1878 cartoon in The Musical World entitled In Purgatory shows Sullivan beset by demons, including Anton Rubinstein and Richard Wagner

When the teenaged Arthur Sullivan went to study at the Leipzig Conservatoire as the first recipient of the Mendelssohn Scholarship, English culture was in the grip of a Mendelssohn Mania. There was an expectation that Sullivan would return to become the English Mendelssohn, and Sullivan came home with a suite of incidental music to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, an obvious nod to Mendelssohn’s wildly popular Midsummer Night’s Dream music, also written by a composer in his teens.

In Leipzig, Sullivan had encountered the music of Schumann, Schubert, and also music of the New German School: Wagner, Liszt, and Von Bulow, who were not well known in England at that time. It is telling that when he returned to England, he told everyone who would listen about Schumann, and in December that year, he sought out Rossini in Paris and played through his Tempest score for the Italian master. 5 years later, he and George Grove traveled to Vienna to track down some lost scores of Schubert. These friendships and enthusiasms confirm the young Sullivan’s musically conservative tastes. He remained ambivalent about Wagner his whole life, interested in the new work and ideas, but skeptical of the execution of those ideas in the operas themselves. (Sullivan adored Die Meistersinger, but we’ll save that discussion for next year when I cover Yeomen of the Guard)

Audiences have identified many Wagnerian threads in Iolanthe, but I have only found a couple of places where Sullivan’s music is specifically referencing Wagner.

There is a Wagnerian flavor to Sullivan’s music accompanying the Fairy Queen near the beginning and the end of the opera. Here’s the queen’s explanation of Iolanthe’s banishment:

Iolanthe Example 1

And here’s a very similar bit of music in Act III, Scene I of Wagner’s Die Walküre as Brünnhilde gives the broken pieces of the sword Nothung to Sieglinde:

Iolanthe Example 2

Another place that seems to be a Wagner quote is the end of Phyllis’s very sad commitment to give herself away to any old Peer at the end of Act I:

Iolanthe Example 3

Which seems to be a rather silly quote from the Prelude to Tristan Und Isolde:

Iolanthe Example 4

Entire books have been written about the daring first chord in Wagner’s version. The chord has its own Wikipedia page. Sullivan harmonizes it with a simple Italian Augmented 6th chord.  

Other places people have identified as potentially Wagnerian seem like a stretch to me. Many of the spookier passages, including the fairy “Aiaiah!” passages might just as easily be from Weber’s Der Freischütz, and Sullivan had already covered that ground in The Sorcerer. The oboe solo when Iolanthe rises from her prison doesn’t really remind me musically of Die Alte Weise from Tristan und Isolde, the downward scale of the Chancellor’s fugue doesn’t really sound like Wotan’s spear motive at all, and Iolanthe’s scene with the Lord Chancellor isn’t musically anything like Wotan’s farewell. Many have also pointed out that Sullivan gives ‘signature tunes’ to many of the characters in the opera, and he includes them in the overture to tremendous effect. But Sullivan had been doing that for several operas now, and he seems determined not to develop the ideas in the orchestra during the piece, only in the spectacular transformation of the Captain Shaw motive into the gem at the center of the overture. One way of describing it is that Sullivan uses motives symphonically, but in a pre-Beethoven symphonic method, in arriving back at a familiar musical idea after some time away, as when Sonata Allegro form arrives at a recapitulation. By contrast, Wagnerian drama uses motives the way a post Beethoven symphonic development would, where the excitement arrives by just how many possible permutations of a tune a development can reveal. .

Gilbert had many years of experiences writing burlesques of opera, and Iolanthe has many spoof connections, not least of which are the costumes. The Fairy Queen’s costume, for example was a carbon copy of Brünnhilde’s in the Ring Cycle, which had only that year reached  England.

And “Willahallah! Willaloo!” is a hilarious replacement for “Weia! Waga! Woge, du Welle, walle zur Wiege! Wagalaweia! Wallala weiala weia!” even if the music isn’t anywhere near what those ridiculous Rheinmaidens sang.

What Sullivan had to say about Wagner gives us a wonderful insight into his mind and should make us very happy that he was not a Perfect Wagnerite.

Sullivan wrote in his diary after seeing Das Rheingold:

“It is difficult to know how Wagner could have got up any enthusiasm or interest in such a lying, thieving, blackguardly set of low creatures as all the characters in his Opera prove themselves to be.”

He wanted to empathize with his characters so that he could make them musically compelling and distinct from one another, a distinction he did not hear in Wagner. He wrote after seeing Parsifal in 1884:

“There is nothing characteristic in the music sung by each individual. The music of one individual would do just as well for any other.”

(Five days after writing that line, he would start work on The Mikado)

He liked the idea of musical themes returning to connect the evening together, but he found Wagner’s use of continuous motives tiresome and boring. After attending Götterdämmerung at Bayreuth, he quipped:

1st Act 4 to 6 Dull and dreary. 2nd act 6:30 to 8. Just as dull and dreary. 3rd act 8:45 to 10 Very fine and impressive.”

He wanted the Orchestra to be subordinate to the voices, telling the San Francisco Chronicle in 1885, “[Wagner] has shown us the combination of the drama and the opera, but deviated from his theory or was at fault in practice in concentrating all the dramatic effects in the orchestral portions of his work, and subordinating the stage and its action to the orchestra. He has shown us a picture that can be painted, but has not painted it himself.”  (emphasis mine)

In the same interview, Sullivan laid out his own vision of opera, which he did not think he had yet achieved:

“The opera of the future is a compromise. I have thought and worked and toiled and dreamed of it. Not the French school, with gaudy and tinsel tunes, its lambent lights and shades, its theatrical effects and clap-trap; not the Wagnerian school, with its sombreness and heavy ear-splitting airs, with its mysticism and unreal sentiment; not the Italian school, with its fantastic airs and fioriture and far-fetched effects. It is a compromise between these three – a sort of eclectic school, a selection of the merits of each one.

Yet that is exactly what he had already done with Gilbert, his music combining Mendelssohn’s grace, Rossini’s tunefulness, Offenbach’s genial humor, Schubert’s creativity of accompaniment, and just enough Wagner to give us a good laugh at ourselves.

Gilbert and the Politics of Encore verses in 2018

We presented Iolanthe in the Spring of 2018 in America and in the Summer at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Harrogate, during a particularly fraught political climate in both countries. In each venue we included some encores that poked a little fun at the Trump administration and at the Brexit negotiations. Both at home and abroad, we experienced both delight and dismay, with the thought occasionally expressed that potentially polarizing political opinions were perhaps inadvisable. On one of the facebook Gilbert and Sullivan forums, a festival attendee pointed out that a great number of the amateur companies had made allusions in their productions to current political situations. (the only other one I saw was a very pointed Trump impersonation in the second act of The Gondoliers by a Canadian company. It made me laugh) The aforementioned Facebook poster questioned the wisdom of inserting such material, especially given the unpredictable politics of the audience attending the festival. The responses to that post were generally in favor of such insertions. For my part, I understand and partially sympathize with the view of those who want the theatre to be a place where people of broad political outlooks can agree at least on their love of G&S. But I think it’s also worth noting that Gilbert’s lyrics and scenarios had some real teeth in their contemporary world. It’s only our temporal distance from Victorian concerns that make them seem tame. They were not. I offer these quotes from contemporary reviews of Iolanthe from the original production:

“He…[Gilbert] tries to prove that members of the House of Lords are a collection of amorous and senile do-nothings, scarcely removed from idiocy, and that the members of the House of Commons are dull and stupid, the mere creatures of party… Thus we find, within the compass of a two-act piece, derision of the judicial system, of the Peers and Commons, and of Love, Truth, and Friendship… As a moral lesson, I prefer ‘Punch and Judy’ to Iolanthe.”

-Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, December 2, 1882

Others were more positive in their assessment. The barbs were funny because they were true:

“The witty playwright has shown us the ridiculous side of many things before now, and we can only suppose that the umbrage taken in the present instance is because the cap happens to fit better than usual.”

-The Weekly Dispatch, December 3, 1882

And to the precise point that our contemporary audiences expressed, using remarkably similar language, The Globe questioned whether the Comic Opera was the place for such observations:

“Mr. Gilbert’s cynical allusions to the House of Peers may be prompted by strong political convictions, but are surely out of place in the libretto of a comic opera, produced before an audience of presumably varied political opinions

-The Globe November 1882 (emphasis mine)

“When therefore, a first night’s audience, prepared to laugh itself sore, and in great measure consisting of Mr. Gilbert’s avowed admirers, finds that gentleman exhibiting a tendency to import pathos and politics into a ‘book’ like that of ‘Iolanthe’, it may be excused for expressing disappointment as well as surprise- the more so because the pathos smacks of anger, a passion altogether out of place in a ‘fairy opera’, and his politics are bitterly aggressive. Anything like a moral, pointedly recommended to public attention in connection with ingenious buffoonery and put into the mouth of such a character as Mr. Gilbert’s hero- a diverting monstrosity, half fairy, half mortal, whose only raison d’etre is the wealth of comic contrasts suggested by his dual nature- is calculated to exercise a depressing effect upon people who went to laugh, not to cry; to be tickled into complacency, not roused to indignation. The libretto of ‘Iolanthe’ has been utilized by its author as the vehicle for conveying to society at large a feeling of protest on behalf of the indigent, and a scathing satire upon the hereditary moiety of our legislature. Advocacy and denunciation of this sort are all very well in melodrama, where telling ‘points’ may always be made with the unmerited wrongs of the poor and the reprehensible uselessness of the aristocracy. But they jar upon the ear and taste alike when brought to bear upon us through the medium of a song sung by half a fairy in a professedly comic opera.”

-William Beatty Kingston The Theatre, January 1, 1883

(I am indebted to the new critical edition for my access to these reviews)

In light of that, I think the most Gilbertian thing to do is to point the satire wherever the barbs will land best. Another way of putting it: If you are among those who think politics should stay out of G&S performance, you would probably have been among those deeply disappointed at the premiere of Iolanthe.

Before You Start:

A great place to start with any G&S Operetta is the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive page.The page for Iolanthe is pretty extensive, including interviews and reviews of early productions. It seems to be missing an errata list. I’ll cobble one together as I go.

The most commonly used edition is the Schirmer vocal score, edited by Bryceson Treharne. It’s perfectly acceptable. I linked to Amazon here, because most people these days buy from them. But do be aware that they sometimes lump together more than one edition of the same score, so you might accidentally get a rival edition when you order.

When it comes to the full score, you’re in a major bind. The old Kalmus Full Score is, as of my typing these words, about $140 with shipping and handling. But this score is infamously awful, and paying that much for something that’s widely loathed seems like rewarding something we don’t want to encourage. Fortunately, there is now a magnificent Broude Brothers 3 volume Full Score, with a critical source report, all the available cut material and fragments you can’t find anywhere, like the original banda parts. It’s a smorgasbord; it literally has everything, it’s handsomely bound, and the layout is easily legible. Unfortunately, this full score set is over $400. Unless you are a spectacularly well endowed company and can afford to accumulate a library of critical editions, or perhaps you are a wealthy music director who is doing this for fun, this edition is not financially feasible. I am fortunate enough to work at a University through which I was able to borrow the score through interlibrary loan, and perhaps that is the best option. As wonderful as the new Broude Trust edition is, though, it is not without its own errors. I will point out the handful that I discovered while I was using the score. What this score needs is an Oxford University edition, like the Yeomen that recently came out, edited by Colin Jagger. That comes in under a hundred dollars, and seems to be pretty good, if not completely exhaustive.

I believe in conducting chorus rehearsals from the vocal score until the chorus is off book, and then switching as early as practicable to the full score to conduct rehearsals. There is a real wealth of detail in the orchestration that you as a music director need to be aware of that is simply not present in the Piano Score. If you are renting parts, do check to see if you can get your hands on the score that goes with them to use as you rehearse. It goes without saying that conducting the operetta in performance with an orchestra from the Piano Vocal Score is an unpardonable infraction unless it is absolutely unavoidable.


As always, the OakApple Press page laying out all the major recordings is complete and fantastic. Many of these recordings are available on Spotify, but I encourage you to buy a hard copy. Looking to D’Oyly Carte for style or pronunciation help is a good idea, but I’m sorry to say that even in the case of vowels, you will find very little uniformity from one D’Oyly Carte recording to the next. 1960 D’Oyly Carte is the one to have.

If you’re going to be Music Directing Gilbert and Sullivan, you’ll want to begin building a library of reference materials. I recommend getting these, as you are able:

The Complete Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan by Ian Bradley. You should probably get this one ASAP. There is a very expensive new edition I have not yet read. If it’s anything like its predecessors, it’s indispensable.

A Most Ingenious Paradox: The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan by Gayden Wren: Good stuff, especially seeing the shows in the context of the whole output. I come back to this book again and again.

The Gilbert and Sullivan Lexicon by Harry Benford: in which you will find the definitions of all those words you don’t understand.

After you have procured some of these, set aside a number of hours to do the following:

1) Listen to the soundtracks with the score in hand, marking things that strike you as interesting. I also made a pass at one point with a metronome and marked the tempi of all the sections from several recordings so that I would have a benchmark of speed. When a singer complains about a tempo, it helps to be able to check and say, “Ah, yes, we’re too slow” or: “This is within the range of generally accepted tempi.” or yet again, “I’d like to take it this fast, but currently our diction won’t allow it.” Sullivan doesn’t always notate phrasing or articulations, and while it’s easy to say, “Let’s just leave it up to the taste of the players”, it’s sometimes necessary to actually make clear decisions as a conductor so that the ensemble is telling the same musical story. I have developed a system with colored pencils, where I listen to a recording of a particular year with, say, a red pencil in hand and just mark interesting articulation, dynamic, or tempo choices for the key moments. Then I go back with a different color and enter another recording’s take on the same moments. Pretty quickly one begins to realize what is standard, what is done almost every time, and what is open to interpretation. You will also find your own preference in those places where there appears to be a wide range of opinion. To me, this is the beginning of discovering your own voice as a conductor; finding where the limits of expression have been in the past, and deciding what you are drawn to in answer to the points that are vague.

2) Take the Lexicon book and copy in pencil all the definitions into the score where you don’t already know the meanings.

As You’re Casting:

Lord Chancellor

The Lord Chancellor

This is one of the great patter roles in the repertory, primarily because he sings one of the greatest patter songs ever written, the Nightmare Song in the second act. He also has some dialogue and monologues about conflicts of interest that are a hilarious rough draft for Pooh Bah in The Mikado. If you run a Gilbert and Sullivan company, your candidates for this role will be the same people who play the Major General and Joseph Porter. That is to say, terribly high class, fast talking Baritones or Tenors who don’t mind not having any high notes.  



Lord Mountararat

Mountararat is a baritone, the more prosaic of the two principal peers, and sings an important patriotic (?) song near the top of Act II. If he has a high E, there is an ossia note at the end of his song that is nice. Otherwise it is a very ordinary baritone role, playable by your Chief of Police from Pirates, your Corcorans from Pinafore, or your Pooh Bah’s from the Mikado. (The Broude edition mistakenly identifies Mountararat as the tenor and Tolloller as the baritone)

TollollerLord Tolloller

Tolloller is a great role for a comic tenor. The most beautiful moment for the character comes in No. 8 My Well Loved Lord, in which he sings ‘Of All The Young Ladies I Know” His lyrics are much more poetic than Mountarrarat’s, and Sullivan’s melodies for him far more lyrical. If played in this way, the dialogue between the two men in Act II is even funnier, as Mountarrarat plays on Tolloller’s sentimentality to try to goad him into giving up on Phyllis’s affections. Without this distinction, (and the distinction of their vocal ranges) the two are basically identical, and we’d agree with Phyllis that “There’s really nothing to choose between you.”


Private Willis

Private Willis

Willis is a wonderful role for a bass or a baritone who doesn’t mind standing at attention for the better part of an act. In exchange, he can sleep through Act I entirely, unless your production is so short on men that he is required to be a peer as well.


Strephon is the kind of character type that would normally be a tenor, but Strephon is really more of a lyric Baritone, playable by the same kind of actor that plays the Pirate King in Pirates. As I’ll mention when I get around to discussing Phyllis, I think Sullivan is making a choice to simplify the romantic leads in the operettas, having experienced particular difficulties casting Frederic in the American premiere of The Pirates of Penzance, he wrote a far less demanding tenor role in Patience, and here a role with a low G that tops off at an E flat.

Queen of the FairiesQueen of the Fairies

This role is best sung by a true contralto, if you have one. And for once, Gilbert doesn’t spend the entire opera mocking her, she’s a strong, assertive woman, playable by the same type of actress that plays Ruth, Lady Jane or Buttercup. Our Queen aptly described her as a ‘cougar’. You will want to hear the passage on 118-119 in the Schirmer Score, which tracks both the higher end of the queen’s register, and also the mock-Handelian runs she has to navigate in the Act I Finale.


Gilbert and Sullivan are so wonderful in the way they distribute interesting parts for different ranged voices of different ages. Iolanthe is nominally a soprano, but rangewise more of a mezzo, a mother, and a very young woman. (otherwise the plot doesn’t work) This makes her a really interesting part to play, and she has the most moving aria in the opera.


Celia is the higher voiced part of the two featured chorus Fairies, although there are alternate notes that make her somewhat more manageable if you wish to cast a lower voiced singer. Gilbert in his planning thought of Celia as the ‘first fairy’, or the higher part, but Sullivan thought of Celia as the higher of the two. The higher part on page 16 of the Schirmer score is the one Sullivan wanted; the lower version is his rewrite when the original Celia couldn’t hit the high notes.


Leila is the lower voiced part of the two featured chorus Fairies. The Broude edition has swapped the voice types of Leila and Celia in the Dramatis Personae, becauset originally Celia was supposed to be the higher of the two voices, and the authors quibbled on this point They also swap the solo lines in the opening number. . Figuring that most productions are going to use the conventional Schirmer score, I’m listing them as they normally appear. The lines are fairly evenly distributed between Celia and Leila. Leila had a number near the beginning of Act I, “Five and Twenty Years Ago”, which was cut for pacing reasons.


Fleta is a non-singing role, and a wonderful role to assign to a deserving company member who is not always among the competitors for the important roles.


Phyllis is the soprano lead in Iolanthe, but one gets the sense that Sullivan was holding back somehow in his writing for her. There is one rather challenging Offenbachian moment and a dramatic descending passage in the first act finale, but none of the fun or pyrotechnics of Mabel or even Patience here. She is the first soprano lead in the G&S canon who does not have a stand-alone aria. (and I believe Iolanthe and Utopia Limited are the only two G&S operas with no proper Soprano arias at all, although surely someone will correct me if I am mistaken) There were two numbers for her in Act II, which were cut. I suspect that the authors had encountered so many headaches casting and recasting the spectacular sopranos and tenors for touring productions that they wanted to tailor a few parts that could be more easily filled, or perhaps Leonora Braham wasn’t quite up to the task. (although that seems unlikely given what they wrote for her subsequently) Even so, your Phyllis should be able to sing in tune the descending diminished arpeggio on page 119 in the Schirmer score and the passage on pages 103 and 104 convincingly. They are by no means easy.


Gilbert had developed many formulas by the time he wrote Iolanthe, and one of his most basic conceits is the presentation of normal English life, turned upside down by a chaotic force. In Trial by Jury, it had been a faithless fiancee, in The Sorcerer, the power of magic. In Pinafore, it had been a young couple’s desire to marry outside their stations. In Pirates, the Pirates are a force of chaos, and in Patience, it is, of course, the two poets. This is the first time Gilbert gives us a story in which the women are the force of chaos, and in which the chaos isn’t English. As such, this women’s chorus is one of the most delightful to sing.

Your sopranos have an A flat above the staff, your altos an E above treble C, going down to the G below middle C.

The need for a substantial men’s chorus is also pronounced in this operetta, if for no other reason, because of the March of the Peers. They have four way part splits frequently, so you will need strong voices in each subdivision.

First Tenors sing up to the A above the staff, second tenors to G flat above the staff, but hopefully also the A. (this lady’s his what?) Baritones and basses sing up to the E flat above middle C, and ideally down to the E flat below the bass staff. (although some baritones can probably get away with only the low G)

General Pronunciation Advice:

I copy here general note from earlier G&S posts, with some slight emendations.

I am still no expert on RP English pronunciation, but I offer here a couple of basic pointers, to which I intend to add as I learn more:

1) Be aware of the Trap-Bath split. A fellow Savoyard in my tenor section made me aware of this chart, which is very helpful: trap-bath

2) ‘R’s that begin a word are tripped or rolled. ‘R’s that come before a vowel are tripped. ‘R’s that come after a vowel are generally dropped. At no point is the ‘r’ pronounced as we Amerrricans pronounce it. (although you may encounter different kinds of Rs if characters have regional British accents)

3) Mary, Merry, and Marry employ three different vowel sounds. Where I come from, they are pronounced identically. In Philadelphia, they are pronounced as three different vowels, but they aren’t the same vowels. Interesting chart on this matter:http://www4.uwm.edu/FLL/linguistics/dialect/staticmaps/q_15.html In G&S, you’ll want to say Mary with an eh as in air, Merry with eh as in get, and Marry with an ah as in cat. (someone will certainly correct me on this)

4) Many u vowels will need a y sound before them: duty becomes dyewtee, tuning becomes tyooning, new becomes nyoo, and institution becomes instityooshun.

5) Been becomes bean.

6) For words which in American English replace ‘t’s with a d sound, a true ‘t’ sound should be used. “Water” is not pronounced “wadder”, and certainly not wooder, my Philadelphia friends. But be careful not to overcompensate. I have noticed that some Americans are so anxious to Britishify their speech that they change to ‘t’ sounds that are truly ‘d’s. Lady should not be Laty, as I’ve heard people say when attempting to posh up their language. Not every ‘d’ needs to become a ‘t’, only the ones that are truly ts to begin with!

7) As I continue to conduct these pieces, and after continuing encouragement from the English members of our American company, I am beginning to become fixated on words like “all”, and the second syllable of “Doctor”, “Major” and “Sailor”. The British “all” has a darker vowel than the Americans use, almost to the point of sounding like ‘ole’, and the second syllable of the ‘or’ words is pronounced like ‘or’, not ‘er’, as Americans would say it. I am still conflicted about that particular one, because the D’Oyly Carte recordings are by no means consistent on that point, and especially at speed, it is very difficult to articulate a tall ‘o’ vowel in such a word. It is something to keep one’s ears open for.

This video may be of use to you.

That is by no means exhaustive, and I’ve probably gotten some of it wrong, but that’ll get you started. There are some places in this show where pronunciation will be governed by a rhyme. I will try and hit each of those points as we go.

Going through the show number by number:


This overture is by far the best of those written up to this point in the operas. The Sorcerer’s overture had been assembled by Hamilton Clarke. Sullivan Sketched the overtures to HMS Pinafore and Pirates and Alfred Cellier completed them. Eugen D’Albert wrote the overture to Patience, which is, I think, the second best of the batch so far. In the case of the overtures with Cellier, it appears they worked together to assemble the medley of tunes, and the job was considered so last-minute and perfunctory that it was something of a waste of time for Sullivan to do it, the understanding being that Cellier would simply pull the orchestrations from their positions in the opera, connecting them as competently as Sullivan knew he would. When we think of it in terms of composers like Rossini, Mozart, or even Carl Maria Von Weber, this practice seems like cheating. Can we imagine Mozart pawning off the overture to Figaro to Süssmayer? The recits, yes. The overtures, no.

But it’s helpful to remember that Mozart is not particularly the model for these affairs. Offenbach is. Offenbach also handed over most of the overture duties to his assistants, and seemed to have preferred just jumping right into the action. Particularly when his operettas hit Vienna, Offenbach was required to add an overture, because the Viennese expected one, rather in the same way Verdi had to add dances whenever his operas made it to Paris. The reason D’Albert’s Patience overture is so good is that Sullivan gave him a little room to develop the material, which is exactly what an arranger under pressure can’t do. Cellier was working too fast on the one hand to really say anything interesting in the overtures beyond what Sullivan had already done elsewhere in the opera, and on the other hand, creatively altering the material of your boss is the kind of license that could lose you your job.

Sullivan seems to have worked hard on the Iolanthe overture. There were two productions opening simultaneously, one in England, and the other in America. On October 29th, 17 days before the opera opened, Sullivan sent instructions about the overture to Cellier who was conducting the American premiere: “Write one yourself.” If we allow a week for the boat carrying the mail to get to America and for the mail to arrive to him, that leaves about 3 weeks for Cellier to write the overture and assemble the parts, and that’s while conducting rehearsals. In this case, the length of the transatlantic journey of an overture made the composition of a second one infinitely easier. (as far as i know, Cellier’s version is lost) Sullivan himself was a bit rushed, rewriting the overture several times and finishing 2 days before Iolanthe opened. Incidentally, people frequently marvel at composers finishing overtures at the very last second, forgetting that there is very little reason to finish one any earlier.

I often think about Sullivan’s mindset as he wrote, frustrated by his inability to make headway as a serious composer, yet having this amazing platform with Gilbert to have his music before the public. I can’t help but think he must have realized he was leaving to his assistant one of the only places where his musical imagination could run unhindered by Gilbert’s Topsy Turvy constrictions. And as many people have remarked, this overture develops the thematic material beautifully! Sullivan’s treatment of the Iolanthe theme is exquisitely treated in the opening 48 measures, and I think this is probably where listeners begin to think Sullivan is going to give us a leitmotiv score. As I explain above, Sullivan doesn’t really fulfil that expectation. At Letter Q, Sullivan gives us a magnificent riff on Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony that manages to sound like very good Tchaikovsky as well. We discover after this texture is established that Sullivan is going to elevate the most trivial moment in the entire opera (the queen’s stepping out of the plot and breaking the fourth wall to address a famous audience member) to what can only be described as sublimity.

Sullivan also begins to play rhythmic games here that he will explore throughout the opera, as the piece keeps threatening to slip from 6/8 back into 2/4. It’s a little silly to say that he begins doing that here, since this is quite literally the last thing he wrote, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Sullivan is making the audience aware of rhythm here. I’ll try and make that case more strongly later.

The Schirmer score is missing a trill on the last note before E and a fermata on the downbeat of the 28th measure of rehearsal Z. The tempo indications beginning at rehearsal Y in the Schirmer score were not in any of the parts I saw. (and I saw 4 sets of parts) I rather like them!

The Broude Trust critical edition has what I believe are errors in measure 234, 2nd violin must surely be a G sharp mid-measure, and 236 2nd violin downbeat must be E.


1.Chorus: Tripping Hither, Tripping Thither

Choose your tempo at the beginning from your ideal tempo when the quarter notes enter. It’s faster than you might expect.

See if you can really draw a distinction between the chorus music with eighth rests and the passages with true legato. Many people don’t know that the conventions of music notation demand that the text be separated by syllable as the words would appear in the dictionary. Thus Trip-ping and Hith-er, rather than Tri-pping and Hi-ther as we might prefer when singing. Americans, be sure you have a very tall vowel on ‘dance’ and ‘entrancing’, that you flip the ‘r’s that appear internally in words like ‘fairy’ (rather like very short ‘d’s) and that you eliminate the many ‘r’s that appear at the ends of words like ‘hither’, ‘thither’ and ‘our’.

The line ‘yes we live on lover’ is odd. I agree with those who say it’s meant to be  a kind of shadow vowel after ‘love’, which trick rhymes with ‘discover’, but of course, you have to leave the ‘r’ off the end of the word discover to make that rhyme work. You were, to be sure, doing that anyway.

Note at rehearsal G that the chorus is singing, “We are dainty little fairies” fortissimo, Sullivan’s loudest dynamic marking. I think this is meant to be a joke. Do observe the rests, though, even as you portray these stomping dainty fairies.

The last page has two similar phrases that are maddeningly not identical. ‘Most’ is only one note the first phrase, and two notes in the echoing phrase. This will not happen automatically, I assure you.


2. Invocation: Iolanthe! From Thy Dark Exile…

The orchestral accompaniment in this number is simply exquisite, and one of several places where orchestral reductions of the wind section are most inadequate.

At the entrance of the fairies, I really don’t see much use in saving the altos for the second phrase; I had mine sing right along from the first ‘come to our call’. Your director will have thought of some way to get Iolanthe on stage, perhaps covered in seaweed. You will have to balance your inclination to indulge the oboist in a languid tempo against the time it takes for Iolanthe to enter, otherwise, she will perhaps be left on stage looking bewildered for quite some time before opening her mouth to sing.

I can’t imagine why the Animato marking in the Schirmer vocal score at the top of page 26 appears in the middle of the measure. Surely it belongs at the beginning of the 2nd measure before rehearsal F. Watch for a clean cutoff at the end. You may want to adjust the location of the end of that note to make for a more uniform conclusion of the choral part.

From Thy Dark Exile

3. Solo and Chorus: Good Morrow, Good Mother

The introductory open 5th in the bass with a lilting 6/8 melody in reeds above shows us that even at this late date, English audiences knew the markers of pastoral music, and associated them with shepherds, as they do in Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, and innumerable other pieces referencing shepherds.

The left hand in the closing figure is oddly clumsy to play, but surprisingly effective in its orchestral context!

4: Solo and Chorus: Fare Thee Well

Note that near the end, the word “We” in the last phrase comes on beat 3, not beat 2 where it had appeared earlier.

4a. Duet: Good Morrow, Good Lover

The number is almost exactly the same as 3. To those who suggest this as one us Sullivan’s Wagnerian leitmotiven, I say that this is really nothing more than a reprise. The idea is never developed further than a key change the next go around. Again, that’s not a knock on Sullivan. Not every thread needs to be woven into a tapestry to make a compelling piece of music theatre.

5. Duet: None Shall Part Us From Each Other

There are some odd errors in the Schirmer score. The easiest one to clarify is that the accompaniment in the first ending on page 39 should read exactly as the accompaniment in the first measure of the second ending. I keep finding sources that say the repeat should go back to the 3rd measure and not to the beginning. The major recordings follow this practice. But the new critical edition does not list that correction, and includes no notes clarifying the discrepancy. Your guess is as good as mine, but my preference is to go back to the beginning as notated. Going back to measure 3 feels very odd to me, and the number doesn’t overstay its welcome. The critical edition has an error in the 2nd clarinet in measure 10. It should read F#. Also of note is the fact that your violins may wonder in the second and fourth measures of rehearsal B whether the third note should be marked C# again. I don’t think so, and a courtesy natural is probably in order. The critical edition lists these measures with a C# (I think erroneously)

Sullivan wrote to Cellier that the number should be “sprightly and lightly”, which I think is a fine mood to strike.

Our Phyllis put her last 2 notes up an octave, which is a lovely touch, but rankled the adjudicator when we did it at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival. (I’ll write a post on my thoughts on altered pitches another time)

None Shall Part Us6. Entrance and March of the Peers: Loudly Let The Trumpet Bray

This is surely the high point for men’s chorus writing in G&S, or at the very least among the top 2 or three such moments. In addition to its anthemic memorability, there are several other unusual features I will call your attention to.

Traditionally there is a drum roll at the top of this number. Have a look at your parts: some editions include the roll, others don’t. It’s worth a look before you begin working with your orchestra to be certain you’re all on the same page.

I found 2 errors in the Broude Trust critical edition in this number: The third note in measure 23 in the piccolo must be an A natural, and the 2nd note in measure 29 in the double bass is surely a C natural, as in the cellos. In measure 155 and 173, the critical edition also has the double basses on a low E flat, which strikes me as unlikely for Sullivan.

A few things to notice in the choral parts:

You will likely find that the low E flat at a bar before Rehearsal E, and in the fourth measure of F is simply too low for your basses. They can jump up to the Tenor E flat easily there. Before G, and throughout that stanza, you do not have that option, because the basses are on their own. They’ll have to open their mouths and emote the note they’re not actually singing.

In the 11th and 12th bars of rehearsal F, be sure your tenors are singing very small half steps. That passage has a tendency to go flat.

Be very careful to play the passage beginning at letter G slowly and deliberately as you learn it, for accuracy of pitch. You may also find that your tenors will tend to slow down and your basses speed up. Tell the basses not to breathe in every single rest, because that will lead to hyperventilation and rushing. And be sure the tenors and your orchestra observe the dotted eighth-sixteenths properly, without letting it devolve into triplets. Both groups should work hard to remain exactly in the center of every beat.

At letter H, you may discover some of your choristers wanting to sing a B flat harmony note that doesn’t appear in the score. This note sounds fine at first, but will subsequently be harmonically confusing to resolve on the fly. To facilitate discovery of the G the baritones are meant to sing, I suggest having the baritones sing the tenor A flat one note before H, then going down the half step to secure that G.

The composer half of my brain puzzles at the tenor line in the 9th measure of rehearsal J and the similar passage 4 measures later. The tenors drop down to the low B flat while the baritones jump up to the high B flat. When I suggested to my group that we simply leave the tenors on the high B flat, they strenuously objected. And then as we rehearsed it, I began to hear the effect Sir Arthur must have been going for. I can’t say that I understand it; on paper, it just seems very ineffective. But in practice, it brings out a new color for the end of the phrase, and he certainly knows better than I do what he wanted.

Before I leave rehearsal J, I just have to tip my hat to Sullivan and say that the passage is harmonically absolutely extraordinary.

At rehearsal K, in the name of all that’s holy, carefully go over the words the tenors are singing. They are not uniform.

At the eighth measure of rehearsal K, we meet one of Sullivan’s unusual experiments with phrase length, in which he upends the binary phrasing he’s established, and combs everyone’s hair backward for about two pages. Let me try to explain what I mean:

We’ve had 2 measure phrases very consistently through the whole number, as befits a march. But here Sullivan introduces a rocketing E flat major scale which drops us off mid-measure in the beginning of a new phrase a measure and a half later. The new perceived downbeat occurs on a structural upbeat, and that sets the chorus off by half a measure from the metric stress of the bar. This is why your chorus will initially miss that entrance until you drill it. If you are conducting from the piano in rehearsal, you will discover that it is very difficult to cue a phrase beginning on an upbeat with your head while simultaneously playing an E flat major scale in octaves and then continuing to play offbeats against the new tune. When I had to cover the accompaniment in a rehearsal or two, I proved myself wholly inadequate to this challenge.

Sullivan could easily have simply inserted a measure of 2/4, allowing us to reorient ourselves toward the new perceived downbeat. But instead, he rather perversely leaves us beating the bar the opposite way with upbeats for downbeats and downbeats for upbeats until the 7th measure of rehearsal L. This is where your chorus will also sing it wrong for the first 2 weeks, because Sullivan has to extend the phrase by half a measure to make up the difference and land the downbeat on the correct part of the measure. You will have to experiment with ways for the chorus to remember how many times they say tan-tan-ta-ra. I found that different people needed different memory aids, and that a strong choreographer can be of great assistance in tying the words to the movement where possible. Of course, they can always just watch you. (ahem.)

Because of the prominence of the brass, this is a number which feels most empty in orchestral reduction. After all, we have a complete onstage banda part for an early production, so we know that Sullivan himself was not even satisfied with the sound of the full orchestration!


7. Song and Chorus: The Law Is The True Embodiment

The fugato entries here are really ingenious, but present some trouble for pick-up orchestras, since the first entrance is by the cellos and basses, who are perhaps not accustomed to playing this fast in this context. They are followed by the violas, who are also not famed for playing quickly or decisively. (I say these things with fondest affection) By the time you reach the group of strings capable of driving the tempo forward, (the violins) you will probably have settled on a tempo that is slower than you or your Lord Chancellor may have preferred. (I did not have this problem in Harrogate, where the festival orchestra knew perfectly well how to execute the passage) After struggling with this for a while initially with an American orchestra, my concertmaster spoke to me confidentially:

“I think I see your problem. I have noticed that you are giving the cellos and basses the tempo you expect them to play.”

“Yes, good.” I replied.

She said, “No. Give them a tempo a third again faster than what you want and you stand a chance of getting the tempo you want.”

I did so, and the results were indeed better. Obviously the effectiveness and advisability of this method is contingent upon your performing ensemble, but I offer it here for your potential use.

The number itself is fairly straightforward, but here are a few thoughts anyway:

In the third verse, as Gilbert instructed Cellier in a letter for the American Company that premiered Iolanthe on the same day as the English company, it is customary to to slow down around letter C, and to in fact come to a full, brief pause after “one for Ye”, “One for Thou,” “One for Thee”, “Never, oh Never”. In measures 84, 85, and 86, the first violin should only play beats one and 4. Some engravings of the orchestral parts will include this as a separate third verse; others incorporate the alteration in a notation included over the music read for all three verses. You might have a look at the parts there, so you know how to talk to your players if confusion arises.

Finally, the last 4 measures are in C major. Sullivan indicates ‘Major!’ in the full score, because he knows the copyists and the players are likely to want the C minor they’ve been playing up until this point. Just be prepared to politely say, “Major, please” in the first orchestra read when you hear an A flat four measures from the end.

The Law Is The True

8. Trio and Chorus: My Well Loved Lord and Guardian Dear

The number begins with the shepherd theme moved up to F# as an introduction to a brief arioso for Phyllis, punctuated by one of Sullivan’s signature unison male chorus phrases celebrating the heroine.

Tolloller’s subsequent melody over a gentle barcarolle is one of Sullivan’s most exquisite and exotic, the B sharp adding a piquant and dissonant touch to the F# minor tonality. (Is he singing one of the Lord Chancellor’s F# minor 6/8 Andante judgments Mountararat mentions in Act II?)

Note that when the men sing “of birth and position he’s plenty”, their line is full of rests, but that Tolloller’s remains legato. Don’t let them throw one another off. Conducting the rallentando in 6 may out to be somewhat tricky. The thing is in 2, naturally, but it will slip into 6 at letter C, then back out again in the third measure of C. Also observe the delightful details in the violas, as the descending two note sighs set off the rhymes.

Mountararat’s verse is lyrically more prosaic, and his legalese text culminates in a clever pun. Accordingly his music has modulated into D, and Sullivan has given him a much more pedestrian vocal line to sing.

Phyllis’s verse returns to F#minor, with all the flavor of Tolloller’s verse, and yet she manages to one up him with a spectacular flute obbligato as she mentions ‘pipes and tabors’. When this passage is well played, it is just breathtaking. The tune is so distracting that one is likely to miss the point of the words; Tolloller has offered grammar and spelling for two and blood and behaviour for twenty, with plenty of birth and position. Using his melody, she strikes him down on each point: She spells all the words she uses, (presumably all she needs) her grammar is as good as her neighbors, and she’s born the same way everyone else was. To Mountararat’s rather too fine point about the party preferences of the house of Peers, she turns his pun back on him, saying that she knows where to look when she wants to find somebody, implying that it isn’t them. It’s a really lovely lyric.

Coming around the tail end of the number, the chorus parts require some attention. Get that ‘look’ 2 before letter H to be quite short, help your tenors and basses count the ‘ah’s they have to get to, and practice conducting the six pattern to get you through the acappella section.

One of my favorite Sullivan touches appears at H; a melody built around hopping thirds that seem to trace out two planes, one higher, and one lower. Other examples include the opening of “My Name Is John Wellington Wells” from The Sorcerer and the transition between verses in “If Saphir I Choose To Marry” from Patience.

If I may commit a minor heresy, I must say that I find the transition back into the closing ritornello awkward, and I wish Sullivan had overlapped the instrumental melody with the last chord. But we must do as he says, mustn’t we?

9. Recitative and Chorus: Nay, Tempt Me Not

The Schirmer score has an extra measure up top, which was cut early in the performance history of the piece. Begin in measure 2. When the orchestra is there, be sure you have the attention of your cellos and bass as you begin, or you’re dead in the water. The indication ‘recit’ in the second measure makes no sense. Ignore it.

Americans, the words are pronounced ‘des-ti-tyoot’. and ‘ver-tyoo’.

You may wonder why these 10 measures are a single number. Evidently this was once a much longer set of couplets.

10: Song and Chorus: Spurn Not the Nobly Born

Tolloller’s solo is a typical lovely lyric tenor solo, but the Tenors and Basses of the echoing chorus can prove somewhat difficult to manage, having different rhythms than one another, and plosive closing consonants, which are unforgiving. Be sure the first time through we do not slow down much. Save that for the second time. I also suggest everyone cut the word ‘Flood’ short, and have the basses and baritones cut their second to last ‘blood’ short, giving the tenors a catch breath before their last ‘ah, Blue Blood’. This way the ‘d’ sounds all arrive in a coordinated fashion, and it should be fairly clear exactly where they go. The last time the men echo, the rallentando makes the problem of coordinating them more acute, especially when you add in the tenor, who will naturally want to sing the A flat for some time. This will take some practice to get right.

There appears to be some controversy about the rhythm of “Hearts just as pure and fair”. The downbeat rest we find in the Schirmer score appears to be an authentic correction; Singing it as a quarter matches Sullivan’s original take on that measure. I think that means both versions are basically legitimate.

Sullivan’s modulation to G major is gorgeous.

11. Recitative and Chorus: My Lords, It May Not Be

We can see by the rehearsal letters and by the lack of closing cadences that 9, 10, and 11 are meant to be one continuous unit.

Be sure your men make the last syllable of ‘horror’ in the 4th measure of D very short. This is a good general rule for G&S, and the word appears frequently enough to require the rule. The two chords before the Lord Chancellor’s recit are usually played before he begins singing, not as written. He should wait. Note also that your chorus echoes “A shepherd He…” and so forth are meant to be pianissimo. (they’re hiding!) The written C for Strephon 3 measures before rehearsal F is sometimes sung as an E a sixth lower (in the 1960 D’oyly Carte recording, for example)

3 before rehearsal G for the chorus should read “betrothed are they, and mean to be”.

My chorus baritones and basses had a tendency to sing the second measure of H as the 4th measure, beginning on E flat. Keep your ear out for that.

The problems at the end of the number are identical to the ones at the end of The March of the Peers, with different words. Whatever strategy got you through that will work as well here.  

Once again the Broude Critical Edition has a low E flat for the Contrabasses in measure 89. I doubt Sullivan’s basses had the note. Probably this was a spot where Sullivan had indicated the basses to double the cellos and simply wasn’t taking the range into account.

12. Song: When I Went To The Bar as a Very Young Man

If there’s one spot in Iolanthe where we most feel our writers treading familiar waters, it is here. The Judge’s Song from Trial by Jury, and When I Was A Lad from Pinafore are virtually indistinguishable musically or in content from the Lord Chancellor’s “How I got this way” number. We can overlook it, though, because in Act II, the Lord Chancellor will sing the most original patter song in the canon.

The Broude Critical edition has inverted the lyrics of verses 2 and 3. I’m a little surprised nobody caught that.

In measures 32 and 33, when the Lord Chancellor sings, “The Army, the Navy, the Church, and the Stage”, the strings traditionally only play beats 1 and 2, omitting the upbeats. It’s all much slower there.

13. Finale: When Darkly Looms The Day

This is the longest single number in Gilbert and Sullivan. It won’t feel like it for the audience, but it will feel like it during rehearsal. You’ll be blocking the first act Finale for most of the rehearsal process.

In an interesting article called Tonal and Structural Designs in the Finales of the Savoy Operas, with Some Suggestions as to Derivation by John C. Nelson, (one which is surprisingly difficult to get your hands on), the author tracks Sullivan’s finales section by section. After carefully comparing the finales, he observes that Sullivan’s Finales are constructed more like Offenbach or Rossini than Mozart. Mozart’s finales are a marvel of construction, partly because they seem to be oriented around a careful tonal plan, actually showing adhering in a broad sense to Sonata Form. This tonal planning shows the strong evidence of enlightenment thought. In Sullivan’s music, and in other romantic era music, the need to ground large scale movements in opera is secondary to the moment-by-moment drama of each dramatic transition. In other words, it is Gilbert’s job to make certain there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and Sullivan’s job is to make each plot twist land harmonically and melodically, and no one is watching the store when it comes to getting back to the starting key. At several points in this Finale, Sullivan makes hilarious detours at critical moments, and he also plays disorienting games with phrase length that I’ll examine below. These moments break any sense of classical unity in the finale, not only pulling the work further away from the high classical models, but pulling even away from the Comique composers Sullivan clearly admired. More on that later. I think when we examine Iolanthe, Gilbert and Sullivan have left far behind the concerns I plotted out in my Pinafore Guide. Gilbert is exceptionally free with his lyric material, trusting that Sullivan’s depth of invention is sufficient to create as much material as will be necessary to get through it all, and indeed, Sullivan rises to the occasion.

I’m going to combine my rehearsal suggestions with my thoughts on the writing, and then leave the Broude errata for the end.

The fermatas in the first few pages of the finale were tough to get out of until I realized that I didn’t need any fermatas at all. Just beat time straight through those measures and there’s well more than enough time for Phyllis’s asides.

Saint James’s park is pronounced something like ‘sint’ James’s pok. Cut off ‘remark’ and ‘dark’ on beat 4 for the men with a strong ‘k’ consonant and no ‘r’ sound. The same goes for the extremely brief madrigal.

Sullivan indicates a long cadenza ad lib after the Allegro Agitato, but he didn’t write one, and there aren’t a lot of recorded options either. The problem is this: The chord implied at the fermata is a G dominant 7 chord, which might be simple enough, except that in the previous measure an A flat places the mode squarely in C harmonic (not melodic) minor. So any cadenza you place here will have to battle the augmented second between A flat and B natural, an exoticism not normally encountered in cadenzas like this. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Put the A flat and the B on opposite sides of a run, like so:

Iolanthe 5

Or some sopranos will prefer an even bouncier one, like this:

Iolanthe 7

Others may want something just as flashy but more legato. This one just converts the scale to a melodic minor and lands the a flat at the end to get us thinking minor again. 

Iolanthe 6

Or write your own. Remember she’s angry.

I hope your tenors can all hit the high A. “This lady’s his what?” It is often shouted, which I suppose is preferable to hearing the entire tenor section crack at once. I also prefer the ‘ha ha ha’s throughout the finale to be sung, not shouted, and in time, not out.

I hope you don’t mind a digression here into a very odd rhythmic game Sullivan begins right after rehearsal E. By inserting two half notes into an otherwise square phrase of quarters and eighths, Sullivan creates a 9 measure phrase, which throws the symmetry off in a disorienting way. If you are thinking in terms of balanced phrases as you conduct, you will feel strange at the tail end of each of these phrases, as though you have somehow lost a beat somewhere.

It’s easy to dismiss this passage as just a funny anomaly, but if you take into account that Sullivan has already played this exact game twice in the Peers music, it begins to feel intentional. My knowledge of 19th century operetta is not exactly encyclopedic, but when I noticed these odd phrasings, I got curious and threw on a bunch of Offenbach and Johann Strauss operetta recordings, and I kept an ear out for odd numbered phrasings. I didn’t hear any at all. I suppose Offenbach was just too busy cranking out the tunes to bother being creative with phrase length, and Strauss was too connected to the dance to play games like this.

2 further points and then I’ll get back to the play by play:

  1. We know that Sullivan was very careful not to allow the meter of a text to circumscribe his rhythmic creativity. He often plotted out several possibilities for a given text before choosing one, and at his most inspired, Sullivan found ways of reordering the rhythm of a text to stunning effect. This is almost exclusively found in the solo material, though, not in ensemble work. He might just be branching out here.
  2. It’s just possible that Sullivan was trying to be disorienting in these very specific spots to make a subtle dramatic point; never so jarring as to stop the proceedings, but just odd enough to cause a minor sense of, “what just happened?”. A glance at where these moments appear in the opera almost justifies this hypothesis.

The one scenario that doesn’t hold water is that Sullivan wasn’t paying attention.

The passage beginning “My Lord, of evidence I have no dearth” is bel canto lite for Strephon, containing declamatory phrases, and a legato melody over a Donizetti or Early Verdi accompaniment. A few pages later he’ll get a more dramatic moment when he calls the fairies in. Note that even though Sullivan is very clearly referencing Bel Canto style vocal writing here, Strephon’s range is extremely limited, even for a Baritone.

Make sure your Strephon sings e-vi-dense, not e-vi-dunce.

On page 100 of the vocal score, change the didn’ts to ‘did not’s.

The passage leading up to the Allegretto after J (not a word, you did deceive, you did deceive her) is the first of Sullivan’s brilliant left turns.  The chorus part is rather thrilling, and Sullivan must have liked it very much. He uses it here and then drops it for the remainder of the Finale, but it appears as a transitional passage before Q in the Overture, and in that guise it sounds like a rather fine chunk of the development passage of an early Romantic Era symphony. But having stoked that fire up here in the finale, Sullivan drops us without ceremony (without even a full introduction) into a simple, pretty tune for Phyllis that snidely quotes the prelude to Tristan and Isolde. It makes the head spin a little. In an even more bewildering touch, the vamp is twice as long on the repeat of the tune as it was in the initial hearing, which goes against normal rules of musical construction. Generally one uses longer preliminaries on the first time through, and trims them on the second pass. For all the talk of Gilbert’s topsy-turviness, Sullivan here employs more than a smattering of his own.  

Conducting the end of this passage gave me a little grief. The tune begs to slow down and luxuriate right at “I turn to you”, speeding up after breaking. (at least that’s how I hear it) But having slipped into 6/8. It proves very difficult to bump back into 2 mid-measure for the upbeat to the measure after ‘breaking’. My orchestras were very forgiving there, and somehow things came out alright, but it wasn’t due to my beat pattern, I can assure you.

The Allegro Con Brio is so Offenbachian, we seem transported to La Belle Helene. As originally written, the chorus actually took a turn at her melody, and as I look at it in the Broude edition, I can imagine the sounds the chorus made as they sang it; I feel pretty sure they were not up to the task.

At L, Phyllis can sing a third higher on ‘if you but choose’: F,E,F A,G#A, That is in fact the original intention for the line, I believe. Following the phrases that appear around it, the printed version looks very much like a compromise. Is this evidence of a soprano not quite up to the task in that original production? Maybe so.

In the passage at N, Strephon actually gets some excitement, and an E flat to sing. Be sure he sings D flat and not D natural in the measure before O.

Your fairies have been offstage for a while. Be sure they observe the rests as well this time as they did at the top of the show.

Strephon’s “The Lady of my love…” tune is a great one. The Schirmer score has an error at the top of page 112. The first measure should read “Fairies”, not Chorus. At the first measure of 113, that should read ‘only’ five and twenty.

Sullivan plays 2 more rhythm games here:

  1. In his normal vein, he moves up the second iteration of “Tho’ she is seventeen and he is only five and twenty” by 2 beats. Your chorus will want to learn this detail earlier rather than later in the process.
  2. In his newly absurdist vein, he arrives by ascending scale at the new tonic a full beat early on a sforzando, turning a pickup into an ersatz downbeat on the entrances of Tolloller and Mountararat. Once you clue into it, it’s wild fun.

If you’re looking for a chorus diction warmup, you can do no better than the text for the full chorus that begins on page 114: “To say she is his mother is an utter bit of folly”. Learn the tune very slowly, and insist on a quiet dynamic until Sullivan indicates at the third measure of rehearsal W. It’s a nice effect. You’ll like it.

At the Allegro vivace, come to a full stop after beat 3, and then cue the Lord Chancellor to inaugurate the new section.

This melody is in a minor mode, which is uncharacteristic for Sullivan’s finales, and it’s surely one of his most inspired passages. If you find the right speed and execute it well, it should get an applause break before the Fairy Queen leads us into the ending. The theme has been compared to Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Tempest Sonata, and the main motive of Verdi’s La Forza Del Destino.

Iolanthe 8

Go Away Madam

Iolanthe 11.jpg

Beethoven Egmont Overture Op. 84 passage, reduced to piano and transposed for comparison

Iolanthe 9

Beethoven Tempest Sonata Op.31 no. 2, (transposed, meter altered for comparison)

iolanthe 10

Verdi, Forza Del Destino primary motive (transposed, meter altered for comparison)

What they all have in common, aside from genius, is a minor mode, a triple meter, and 4 measures of tonic, followed by 4 measures of dominant.

The Fairy part at rehearsal X is tricky, particularly where the altos split off into their own part. Note also that Sullivan has simplified the line slightly at ‘Brazen Faced’ from the Lord Chancellor’s version of the tune. It becomes more complicated again when the quodlibet comes together after AA (second rehearsal A in the Schirmer score)

My only quibble with this glorious passage is that Sullivan wound up in a key that prevents Phyllis and the Queen from properly contributing to the proceedings. When they enter at AA, they are not in a strong part of their ranges, and only a true piano dynamic lets them be heard in this texture. When Phyllis sings “Should repent…”, Sullivan seems to know that it isn’t flashy enough, since he marks it Fortissimo and adds 3 other Sopranos to the line. This passage is the classic Sullivan exotic harmony moment we often encounter in his First Act Finales. As far as they go, this one is mild, an F natural pointing us in an Aeolian descent, but my gosh is it hair raising when it happens! The Fairy Queen joins the line when it comes in range. The piano reduction at CC is not an accurate version of what is happening in the orchestra, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much. This is more like what’s really going on:

Iolanthe 12

At letter DD, we know from Sullivan’s letter to Cellier that he wanted the 2 beats of the new tempo to equal one bar of the previous section.

Note that ‘respectful speech’ for the Queen and ‘with dames unknown’ are not identical to the previous phrases. Note also that before rehearsal HH, the men come in a full measure later than they do at rehearsal FF. Also, be sure that the last syllable of ‘proprietor’ rhymes with ‘for’.

You may find the brass entrance before JJ is hard to cue. Beat quickly through the recit measures, then pause and address the brass for each entrance in preparation for the answering phrase. When you get to the final one, give a strong ONE downbeat as a pickup. Pros will be fine. Amateur orchestras will probably mess that entrance up the first couple times you run it.

I found it effective to put a crescendo in the word “Oh…” leading to “spare us”, with “us” being quite short.

This is the second moment in the finale where Sullivan leads us to a climax, only to make a quick left turn into a goofy non sequitur. There is a very traditional change to the second time through the chorus part, right after “He’ll command a large majority”:

Iolanthe 13

Here as elsewhere, the word is pronounced Pah-lee-uh-ment.

During the curse section, conduct beats 1 and 2 quickly, then use beat 3 to cue BOTH the last beat of the measure and the men. When you get to the 3 measures before the key change, conduct beats 1,2,and 3 quickly and then use beat 4 as an upbeat to land the next measure.

The Allegro Molto may take you a couple times to get right. Be sure the last syllable of Horror is super short. (as always) I would also alter the Fairy ‘they’ to a quarter note, which is what nearly all recordings do. The eighth note is awkward, hard to cue, and makes the word unintelligible. For ease of singing, allow your altos to drop the octave on “nor hide the” rather than dropping a minor 7th mid-phrase. And no sliding from ‘trem’ to ‘ble’, for goodness sake.

Then follows the third and funniest non sequitur. The crazy tremolando curses, and the diminished and dominant harmony of the 10 measures of response from the chorus is as dramatic and legitimately scary as anything since the shades in the Sorcerer, and after all that buildup, Sullivan drops us right into the bounciest, frothiest closer imaginable, an earworm that won’t quit.

As you start teaching this passage, clear up the difference between the soprano line at “who shall say what evils may result in consequence” and the one at “oppose his views or boldly choose to offer him offence”

Since there are so many mid-word rests, this is also a good place to clear up which side of the rests the consonants go. Ex: hi-deous, ven-geance. Etc.

Before rehearsal NN is a landmine for your chorus: the women sing a B natural on “The” at the beginning of the line ‘the word prestige is French’, then an A natural on the repeated phrase. Your chorus will want to sing an A again on the pickup to rehearsal NN, not a low D. That octave is important.

Note that the sopranos sing the first lyric “who shall say what evils may…” to the second melodic variant formerly applied to “oppose his views”.

The word ‘cannaille’ is here pronounced Kun-eye.

The little “That word is French” and “A Latin word” echo phrases are somewhat hard to hear, especially in the lower parts.

How great is this little detail in the Broude critical edition?

A greek remark

Make sure the countermelody in the basses and tenors at rehearsal SS has rests in the first phrase, and is legato the second.

After the Second World War, all the recordings have ”Away We Go” for sopranos and altos just as the Basses and Tenors at rehearsal UU.

If you’re not competing in the International Festival, let one of your sopranos pop the high B flat 2 before VV. Only one, though.

Cut off the last note on the downbeat, not a half a beat later.

The Broude edition has a couple fishy moments, including an earlier lyric variant around measures 199-202 that isn’t generally done in performance, and which I advise against. At measure 200, the second note in the first and second violins is E flat, not F, I believe. I believe that the traditional pickup to R in the first violins and in other similar places is probably right, even if it isn’t in manuscript. (although the commentary is silent on this point) Whatever rationale Sullivan may have had for leaving the upbeats out would surely have applied to the flute and oboe around 257 as well, and they have the pickup.  In measure 269, I believe the Second Violin should read E flat in the third beat. F is certainly wrong. At the fourth measure of letter D, the Broude critical edition has a D for the Queen in the fourth beat, contradicting the Schirmer score, which has a G there. I suspect the Schirmer is correct.

In the last 3 measures , a rallentando is in order, but my brass players taught me something important here: don’t take the rall. before the last 2 measures, or the sixteenth note pickups will be sloppy.


14. Song: When All Night Long a Chap Remains

Private Willis opens Act 2, and stays onstage for a great deal of the action. His opening ritornello is almost long enough to be considered an Entr’acte. Because Willis’s melody at B is almost l’istesso tempo from the earlier passage, it can be a little odd to switch into 4, but Sullivan knows what he’s doing. It also gives a little bump to the new tempo at rehearsal C.  Singers generally slow WAY down at ‘Fa La La’. It’s almost worth telling the orchestra to put a fermata on the rest.

An interesting side note about this number: When he was in England, Stravinsky often stayed at the Savoy hotel which was built by Richard D’Oyly Carte next door to the Savoy theatre at which Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas premiered and ran in repertory. In fact, in 1921, He thought of the idea of writing his opera Mavra there.

This photograph was taken at the Savoy hotel in 1921


Stravinsky actually attended some G&S there, which he seems to have enjoyed. We know that like a lot of Russians, Stravinsky delighted in puns and word games, so his thoughts on Private Willis’s aria should come as no surprise:

“What immediately fascinated me was the way the music adjusted to the rhyme. (no foreigner can be in England more than five minutes without immediately learning two words- ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’), recognizable even when they are pronounced ‘liberAL’ and ‘conservaTIVE.”

I have to wonder what Stravinsky thought about Sullivan’s phrasing games in Iolanthe, especially since he was then in his neo-classical phase, where he combines smaller orchestral forces and classical tropes with his trademark mind-game-phrase-length-jujitsu.

When All Night Long

15. Chorus: Strephon’s a Member of Parliament

In our production we had a talented dancer fairy dance the opening, and we repeated the first 10 measures to leave more room for her to dance.

The third measure of E, second note, sopranos is wrong in the Schirmer score. It should definitely be a D, as elsewhere.

Note again that ‘parliament’ is pronounced ‘pah-lee-a-meant’, that ‘all’ is pronounced rather like ‘ole’, and that ‘shake in their shoes’ and ‘kettle of fish’ are not identical in pitch.

It became something of an obsession for me to get the women to cut off the word ‘shoes’ and the men to cut off ‘fish’ at the downbeat of the following measure. In fact, I would occasionally shout out “FISH, TWO, OFF!” three or four times in a row during lulls in rehearsal. I don’t know whether the cast found this endearing or not, but in our brushup rehearsal, the men held ‘fish’ as a joke for the remainder of the number. They tell me the look on my face was indescribable. It was, in point of fact, a ‘pretty kettle of fish.’

The little meter change near the end is easy, but choruses have a tendency to rush near the end.

The Broude Edition has an interesting variant at the end of measure 42, in which the last 3 notes of the measure in the violins and violas arpeggiate the opposite direction from the way they do in the vocal score and other editions of the full score. No mention is made in the critical apparatus. I rather like it, but I don’t know if it’s legitimate, since I can’t find it anywhere else.

16. Song and Chorus: When Britain Really Ruled The Waves

When he was asked permission to use the third verse for political purposes, Gilbert apparently said, “I cannot permit the verse from Iolanthe to be used for electioneering purposes. They do not at all express my own view. They are the views of the wrong-headed Donkey who sings them.”

It takes a surprising amount of breath to get through the verses, so you might want to take that più lento marking literally at the chorus entrance, and move the verses at a good fast clip, slowing down for the choral responses.

In the last verse, Mountararat often sings a high E on the final ‘glorious’ with the Chorus. If your Mountararat doesn’t have that E, Tolloller can perhaps oblige.

Horace Lippincott

Horace Mather Lippincott

This number holds a particular significance for the company I conduct. In 1904, the Savoy Company of Philadelphia, then in its 4th year, produced their first production of Iolanthe. This was also the year Gilbert himself wrote an encouraging letter to Savoy president Horace Mather Lippincott, still a treasured relic of the organization. Lippincott wrote the following lyric to be sung to the choral response music at the end of When Britain Really Ruled The Waves: “Let every heart be filled with joy and sing the praise of old Savoy.” Since 1904, we remove our hats and sing it at the close of every rehearsal, and before and after every performance.

17. Soli and Chorus: In Vain To Us You Plead

Note that the indication of who is singing in the Schirmer score has omitted the Peers. They only sing two notes, but they do in fact sing!

In most of the historical recordings, the “Don’t go!”s are spoken. Pay attention to the dynamics though, it’s funnier as an aside! Be sure Celia sings ‘laws’ with a dark vowel, and that the word ‘because’ actually rhymes with it; don’t say ‘becuz’. This goes for the chorus too. All the responses should have short final notes. Maybe even put a staccato on them to be sure.

This piece is beautifully orchestrated on a knife edge. The likety-split obligatto is in the pizzicato violins, (both first and second) which can prove a little tiring, particularly if you mistakenly read Sullivan’s Allegretto indication as Allegro. Pizzicato strings are generally quieter than we imagine they’ll be, because we’re spoiled by souped up studio pizz. we hear on recordings. At the end of the pizz section there’s a quick switch to arco and back again, and your section may decide they want to plan out some staggered rest stops to facilitate this and to avoid fatigue. The festival orchestra in Harrogate did it like it was child’s play. (It’s not like it’s Tchaik 4 after all…) The rest of the orchestra is trying to stay under the pizz sound, the cellos and violas divided up and playing harmonies, and the flutes, clarinets and bassoons working as hard as they can to play sotto voce. Flutes are nearly inaudible anyway in that register, but the clarinets and bassoon may need a reminder. The reduction I rented and abandoned made this problem worse by eliminating one of the violas and one of the cellos, which meant that the Double Bass was commandeered to play 2nd cello, and the second desk of the second violins was pushed into service as first viola. The bass is far too thick in that register, and there were fewer violins on the melody, which made the balance issues worse. Reduction is a tricky business, folks.

At rehearsal L, the Broude Critical Edition leaves out a low A traditionally played on the downbeat (in addition to the printed F#) in the second violin. I’m not sure which is right.

18. Song and Chorus: Oh Foolish Fay

I first want to put something out there that has confused me; perhaps you can all enlighten me: Gilbert clearly intended the verses to be a triple double rhyme throughout:







And so forth.

So should we not sing ‘tendensigh?’ Is this one of those words that was in the midst of a pronunciation shift when Gilbert set them? Is it intended to be humorous? (in which case maybe we should sing it ‘sigh’?) I found no recording of anyone pronouncing it so that it actually rhymed.

Interestingly, the beginning of this tune comes back as the beginning of “If You Go In”.

iolanthe 14

iolanthe 15.jpg

The song is straightforward. Slowing down a little on your way from the verse into the chorus is perfectly acceptable, as is the addition of an E natural the second time through on your way up to the F, but please don’t be too indulgent on either count.

19. Quartet: Though P’rhaps I May Incur Your Blame

After what is surely one of the funniest passages of dialogue in Gilbert and Sullivan, there follows this short, beautiful quartet. Sullivan shrewdly plans the first phrase in a key that shows off the most beautiful part of the tenor’s midrange, modulating en route into the dominant, where the baritone can sing very nearly the same melody down a fourth. The end of Mountararat’s phrase allows Phyllis a third, altered iteration in B flat minor that somehow cadences just as Tolloller’s did, dropping us off in a mini-madrigal. The composer part of me marvels at how well Sullivan writes a cappella passages for mismatched vocal ensembles. Tolloller and Phyllis have melodic material in thirds and sixths, which are so charming that we don’t miss an alto part, Mountararat is playing the pedal point, performing the function of a french horn, as it were, and Willis provides a bassline which would not be out of place in an Anglican hymnal. Willis’s cadenza (which in our production he addressed lovingly to his rifle) is a loony non-sequitur, reminding us that this quartet about friendship is sung by two men who are too much rivals to be friends, a woman who has no feeling whatever for the others, and a man who is not involved at all in the proceedings. Getting OUT of the cadenza is trickier than you might think. A strong downbeat will get Tolloller going, then Willis comes in beat 3, then the other two add their two cents in beat four. Note that Sullivan has asked for a tempo there. I think the key to staying in tune during the a cappella section lies with that insistent A flat Mountararat keeps articulating, and everyone else orienting themselves to him. He needs to stay right in the center of that pitch, and everyone else needs to truly be listening.

The Broude Critical edition has the last 2 notes for of measure 31 a step low for Sergeant Willis!

20. Recitative and Song: Love Unrequited Robs Me Of My Rest

This is the greatest patter song in the English language. If you require further of my potentially inane thoughts about the development of Gilbert and Sullivan’s patter writing, see my commentary on My Name is John Wellington Welles in my guide to The Sorcerer. As in all other aspects of their writing, Gilbert and Sullivan begin by essentially writing parodies of French, Italian and German models, quickly mastering the basic technical necessities, then finding fluency, and finally leaving the models behind. In the case of these patter roles, the initial models are Italian. (Rossini, Donizetti, and the other Buffa composers they in turn inherited their forms from) Gilbert quickly develops a way of building lyrics for these kinds of numbers that is a marked improvement on the content of the historical models, and Sullivan figures out a way to avoid monotony by embedding motivic ideas in the long string of syllables. Here in the second act of Iolanthe, the Lord Chancellor uses the tiniest sliver of a connection to the plot (I had a bad dream because she doesn’t love me) to tell a wild shaggy dog story. This freedom gives Gilbert free rein to indulge in ideas that would not at all be out of place in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. For his part, Sullivan is freed from the kind of square formal construction he customarily uses; we hear repeated passages, but each repeated passage is full of new detail, there are few closed cadences, no feeling of, ‘here we go again’, and the singer gets almost no time to breathe; it is a true tour de force. It’s also critically important to note that unlike the Italian models of the bel canto era, Sullivan’s baritones are almost never given anything vocally impressive to do. Figaro et al. must sing fast and rather high for baritones, but Gilbert and Sullivan’s patter baritones are allowed to focus on the articulation and on the comedy. In addition to the formal freedom the authors have allowed themselves, there are in Gilbert’s lyrics some moments of his most inspired lunacy, and at least one moment where Sullivan gives us music of totally unnecessary beauty and surprise, words we frankly do not associate with patter arias.

The recit is inaugurated with the Lord Chancellor’s fugato. Sullivan uses fugue ideas in his concert works in various contexts, but in the operettas, he prefers to use fugue ideas to express the workings of the legal system or a lawyer’s mind. The chorus in Trial By Jury sings a fugato at “He’ll tell us how he came to be a judge” In All Hail, Great Judge! In that context, we’re clearly meant to hear Handel. It’s really interesting to look at Sullivan’s method here in Iolanthe though. In The Law Is The True Embodiment, he was working up the Lord Chancellor’s entrance, so he has time to get most of a fugal exposition out. When he appears in the first act Finale, Sullivan has no plans to be in 6/8, so he cleverly adds an eighth note here and there to the figure to shoehorn it into 4/4. A more self-indulgently learned composer would have taken this third iteration in act 2 to finally pay off the fugue and give it a development. But Sullivan is ever a dramatist, so he gives us the same exposition we began with in Act I, cutting 7 measures from the opening and leaving us on a wonderfully pregnant half cadence. The measures of orchestral commentary in the recitative are mini-developments of the possibilities of this little fugato idea, but they really exist to get us into d minor and to emphasize the descending chromatic interior line over a dominant pedal which is the unifying feature of the end of the work.

iolanthe 16

The opening of the aria proper is simplicity itself, tracing chords as a simple accompaniment elegantly modulates from D minor to F, then pointing itself back toward D minor just before rehearsal F. We then get the first vocal example of the descending chromatic scale Sullivan will make so much of later.

iolanthe 17

At rehearsal G, Sullivan returns to the tune and harmonization of the aria’s opening, but the flutes have given the proceedings a decidedly queasy pall, the descending chromatic line is harmonized rather daringly, and at rehearsal L, Sullivan is in two meters at once, a trick we haven’t heard since How Beautifully Blue The Sky in Pirates. This device in Pirates is depicting the disparity between chorus and principals. Here it seems to be depicting a disordered mind at cross purposes with itself.

At Q, we hear some of the more daring harmonic writing Sullivan ever attempted. The vocal line now ascends chromatically while the bassline descends in 4 note chromatic phrases, each beginning a whole step above the last. At the apex of this ascent, the balloon deflates, the vocal line turns around, and over a pedal G, diminished chords slip half step by half step into 4 measures of G#diminished 7. This unexpectedly drops us into D major, but with the tonic chord in a 6/4 position. With the ever-so-delicate scoring of violins and flutes, it is a moment of totally unnecessary beauty. Over this orchestral dawn is a vocal line suddenly stripped of chromaticism, and now becomes all Ds and As.

And just as he did at the end of Strephon’s a Member of Parliament, Sullivan switches abruptly to 2/4 just to be more emphatic, the Chancellor sings a very un-spooky D major descending scale, and the orchestra rounds the proceedings off with a lickety split codetta.

Note that the new idea at the end of the aria is in a way a kind of extension of the Fugato theme. I don’t call this a development really, Sullivan’s mind doesn’t seem to work that way. The ideas do not fundamentally change, they simply reappear in different contexts.

iolanthe 18.jpg

iolanthe 19

The Broude Critical edition is missing F sharps in the 2nd A clarinet in the second measure of J.

I have to share with you a terrific parody poem I found in a book called “How to be Tremendously Tuned in to Opera” from the late 1980s. It’s Mark Holtby’s summary of the plot of Iolanthe to the meter of the Nightmare song:

When your mother’s a fay,

someone’s certain to say,

on observing her looks and agility:

‘Your assertion that this

is your Ma we dismiss;

such a statement has no credibility.’;

When your filial embrace

is pronounced a disgrace

by the girl you’re expecting to marry you,

And she flirts with the peers,

and together their jeers

are combining to mock you and harry you;

You may feel some relief

from your fury and grief

when the Queen of the Fairies enlightens them,

And, a Member ‘elected’,

at last you’re respected-

nay more, your omnipotence frightens them-

You’ve regained your lost bride,

and the fairies decide

they will after those nobly-born gentry go,

While the Queen of them all

is in amorous thrall

to the private she’s spotted on sentry go.

But you haven’t won through

For though Phyllis loves you,

The Lord Chancellor’s scored,

He will marry his Ward,

And is deaf if not dumb

To the pleas of your mum,

Till she’s forced to unveil

The astonishing tale

That the husband she had

Is this Lord, he’s your Dad!

So he can’t marry Phyl,

But your mother is still

As a mere mortal’s wife,

Under threat to her life,

Till the queen mends the flaw

In this Fairyland Law

And makes weddings that were

Disallowed, de rigeur,

So the peers will explore terra nova.

And with wings on their backs

Make immediate tracks

For the Chamber above-

And this triumph of love

Is the sign that the opera’s over.

The book is chock full of hilarious things like that. Go buy a used copy.

21. Trio: If You Go In, You’re Sure To Win

First things first: I don’t know what happened with the Schirmer vocal score, but maybe it went something like this: Bryceson Treharne: Tolloller’s line should go on top, since he’s the higher voice type. But Mountararat gets the first verse. Hmm. Well, what if we very clearly mark that Mountararat is verse 1, and Tolloller is verse 2? Great! *enter editor* Aha! The top line is He Who Shies. That must be the title!

…or something like that. My point: the title is, If You Go In, You’re Sure to Win.

There is a tendency to relax the tempo at B, which is fine, but pick it back up again when the melody comes back in, or you’re sunk.

What a wonderful tune.

21a. Song: Fold Your Flapping Wings

This number does not appear in the Schirmer Score, but you can download it here. One of the reductions I looked at was not based on the original orchestration, which is available in the Broude edition appendix. It seems to be meant for Strephon’s initial entrance in this scene, but we placed it  after “…fool that I am” and it worked well there. The number didn’t land in the original production, and it was cut. It’s the most politically incendiary, borderline revolutionary text I can think of in G&S, but I don’t think that’s actually what caused it to fall flat. Sullivan doesn’t seem to have a take on the idea musically. The recitative lacks forward momentum, and when the aria proper begins, it’s strangely discursive. The orchestral interjections seem to promise an excitement the aria itself isn’t providing.

All that by way of saying, if you do reinsert it, Strephon has to sell it, with some bite. He can’t wallow in self pity, you have to point the number out at the world’s injustice.

22. Duet: If We’re Weak Enough To Tarry

After an adorable dialogue comes this extremely brief and to-the-point duet, once intended for Act I. It’s actually has more measures in its form in the overture than it does in the actual opera, where it goes by so fast, it almost seems perfunctory. It is traditional for Phyllis to slow down at Rehearsal B, then pick things up again in the 5th measure.

Watch that ‘tire’ is a single syllable, not Ti-yrrr.

23. Recitative and Ballad: My Lord, A Suppliant at Your Feet

This is the heart and soul of the operetta. It’s deadly serious; Sullivan wrote Iolanthe’s aria pretty soon after losing his mother, and people often speculate (I think rightly) that this beautiful and simple melody is infused with his deep loss. Gilbert gave him an oddly metered text, which Sullivan made short work of.

Behold the placement of the word ‘tears’ in the meter. The Master at work.

It is customary to separate the orchestral interjections from the vocals; begin them after the vocal ends on the first page until the bottom line “Hear me tonight”, when you play them as written.

In Sullivan’s letter to Cellier, he instructed that the first verse should be sung with ‘simple pathos’, and the second ‘more passionate’ The exquisitely simple accompaniment in strings only works at several speeds, and I think you choose the speed based on the tone of the singer. To put it delicately, we want to hear a beautiful tone and legato all day, a less exquisite tone we will want to keep moving…

24. Recitative: It May Not Be

You should get applause after Iolanthe’s aria. If your audience is composed of unfeeling rubes, just plow ahead. Sullivan’s instructions about the tempo are very clear and easy to follow.

In my score I wrote ‘ugh’ in my score above the fairies first ‘forbear’, because cueing offstage choruses is usually a mess. Hopefully you can find a way to get a sight line for them somehow.

There’s an extremely odd rhythmic wrinkle in the Aiaiah! parts: The first time through at rehearsal D, we’re in 2. At F, and at H, we’re in 6. The figure is extremely similar, but not rhythmically or lyrically the same. The first time it’s ‘willaloo!’. The other times it’s ‘whillahalla, willaloo” Do have a careful look at the rhythms. They’re not the same. Spend some time teaching the two versions. Oddly, it all works out in the wash as soon as the fairies block the thing.

Keep the Queen’s Andante moving, and don’t let things get indulgent at G.  The Ds in the final right hand chord are D sharps. The chorus only sings an octave though. (I had some sopranos trying to add other notes there)

You Are a Brave Fellow

25. Finale: Soon as we May, Off and Away

This reprise of If You Go In, You’re Sure To Win is supposed to be a touch faster than the original. ‘Peris’ rhymes with ‘series’ The pronunciation that confused me was ‘beaux’. The French pronunciation is correct; ‘bow’, even though one historical recording sings what sounds like ‘bows’, and there are English pronunciation guides I found that list beaux in English with a z sound at the end, because English sometimes needs the Z sound to indicate plural. I think the non-z way is the best way.

You can add a high B at the fermata for one soprano, unless you’re at the International Festival…

Your Orchestra:

With modern musicals I sometimes counsel music directors not to hire all the players, but with G&S, you’re dealing with a true orchestral color, so I think it best to hire as much of the orchestra as you can afford with good players. The original orchestrations are available from Tams, but I can’t imagine why you’d use that when there are available here at a reasonable price or here for free. Reductions can be found here, or here or here for example. (incidentally I think we can now stop reducing this one, fellas)

A reduction of this particular score is not ideal for two reasons: The exquisite Tchaikovsky style flute writing in the overture is already commandeering a clarinet to play third flute. Reducing it further means you either have two clarinets joining your flute or a flute, oboe, and clarinet, which is simply not quite as magical. Further, the March of the Peers is weak sauce when you only have single brass and some woodwinds trying to sound like a full brass band.

I had a rather unfortunate experience renting a reduction that was riddled with hundreds of errors. Instrumental lines were missing completely, measures were inexplicably omitted, melodic lines were missing their final pitches, and in the full score, vocal lines were sometimes gone or in the wrong staff. Fold Your Flapping Wings was included, but the orchestration bore no resemblance to Sullivan’s original, and was presented without comment. I spent a great deal of time locating and correcting the errors in the parts, but we ultimately decided the better solution was to find another edition rather at the last moment. The Richard Balcombe reduction suited our purposes very well. The other edition had tried to solve the reduction problem by moving the missing brass into the clarinets and bassoon and using the trombone as second horn and occasional second trumpet. Balcombe’s edition was far more artful in the use of the the horn to augment some of the missing woodwind passages, and using the oboe as a second trumpet occasionally. While preserving the character of the original instrumentation where possible, Balcombe is also very shrewd in subtly revoicing chords where necessary to preserve the balance among the sections.

I want to also add that it is possible in most G&S to get away with 2 or 3 first violins, 2 seconds, 2 violas, a single cello and a double bass. But in Iolanthe, there are a few places where two cellos is really quite essential, the most prominent being at the Allegro non Troppo of No. 11 My Lords It May Not Be, where full chords below the violins low G are necessary, and there are not enough other instruments capable of playing down there to fill out the critically important introductory passage.

Better that you do G&S than that you ignore it, but do try and do it properly if at all possible, with Sullivan’s magnificent orchestration in full color! Have fun with your production of Iolanthe! I will be including more G&S as I music direct them! Yeomen appears to be next.



Godspell (original version): A Rough Guide for the M.D.

June 1, 2018
Villanova Godspell

The lobby card from the production I music directed at Villanova, beautifully directed by Matt Pfeiffer

Before You Start:

  1. Listen to the 1993 Godspell Recording. The recording has its drawbacks, including a pretty underpowered Jesus, but unlike the OBC it is a complete recording. Listen to the Original Broadway Cast recording, which will give you some sense of the original cast, whose performances clearly shaped the formation of the piece. (and are perhaps not to be emulated)
  2. Read the Gospel of Matthew. Read the Chapter Religious Experience as Musical in Joseph Swain’s book The Broadway Musical. Read Harvey Cox’s The Feast of Fools
  3. There is a pretty comprehensive blog called The Godspell Experience that has a lot of info about the show, and this Schwartz themed page is full of information. Schwartz’s own website has a good FAQ and this pdf for directors and music directors is also very exhaustive. You can watch some interesting interviews from the time of the filming of the movie in 1973. Start around 2:53 for John Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz. Scott Miller has an excellent essay here.
  4. Your production team will need to decide which version of Godspell you want to do. This is a question that relates back to your production’s basic concept of the show. The 2012 version attempts to update many of the cultural references in the piece, with varying levels of success. But in 2018, (and later, as you may be reading this) some things that were current in 2012 are now themselves almost 2 decades old. The insertion of Trump for example, into the prologue reads wildly differently today. Furthermore, the revival arrangements are pretty slick, and have traded the folky simplicity of the original version for a much more showbiz flavor. Do read both scripts and make the decision together as a production team. And then I would encourage you not to mix and match, that is; once you’ve made your decision, don’t listen to any of the other versions until your show closes. [Note: In an earlier version of this post, I incorrectly conflated two revised versions. Thanks to my readers for putting me on the right track!]

Some Background:

The story of the inception of Godspell has been told many other places, so I don’t feel a need to relay yet another version of those events. The Wikipedia article will give you the bare essentials well.

Because this blog is aimed at Music Directors, I will focus my attention on Schwartz’s portion of the work. He finished his score in 5 weeks, which is astonishingly fast, and when a piece is written that quickly, we are by necessity hearing the composer at his least guarded or filtered. There are many qualities about Godspell that will follow Schwartz through his long career, and we can see interesting things that set him apart from his contemporaries and from his followers. Schwartz is not shy in speaking about his process and his influences, so there is a deep well to pull from in looking at this curious work. In fact, since his death in 1985 John Michael Tebelak’s original conception has been relegated to something of a foot-note, because Schwartz has so fully curated the public memory of the creation of the piece. One wonders whether Tebelak would have fully agreed with Schwartz’s framing of the work as a piece about community in the notes which accompany the script today. Tebelak seems to have been after a more explicitly spiritual aim in his original concept than Schwartz gives the piece credit for.

But that is perhaps one of the things Godspell has going for it. The biblical material is odd and compelling in its original form. Tebelak felt a sense of joy at engaging with the material, and wondered why it felt sterile in Church. His attempts to pull that joy into a theatrical work rooted in clowning brought the show a good deal of the way toward ‘clearing the cobwebs’ from the liturgical text. Schwartz brought a totally different perspective to the work, since he came to the piece never having engaged with this biblical material before. Somewhere in the cross-purposes of the Gospel story, Tebelak’s clowning with it, and Schwartz’s attempts to wrestle it into a form that employed some traditional musical theatre tools, a wonderful hybrid form emerges that cannot be satisfactorily described entirely in the language of any one of its collaborators alone.  In some way it is a religious experience put on the stage, a prospect which bears great potential for disaster as anyone who has attended religious drama can attest. Serious religious plays are often humorless and lacking in irony, speaking meaningfully to the converted, but falling flat on the ears of those who aren’t already believers. The heroes aren’t often well drawn, the villains lack depth, and the conclusions can be seen a mile away. But Godspell is also an improvisatory clowning experience. Such affairs are potentially amusing but often formless and lacking direction. The beats in clowning are small and circumscribed. Is it even possible to tell a dark and serious story? To quote Ethan Mordden’s typically dismissive take:

Godspell was the opposite of Jesus Christ Superstar in all respects. Small. Reverent. Idiotic. Jesus wears a Superman T-shirt, the girls look like Raggedy Ann and the boys look like Stephen Schwartz. It’s the joyous world of ‘Hey, we’re gentle clowns doing our comic yet so very touching little show!’ Once, American girls dreamed of growing up to be Ziegfeld stars, or later, Julie Andrews. Now they dream of growing up to be Godspell’s Day by Day clown.”

Or to let Joseph Swain say it more gently:

Alas for You is rhythmically and harmonically imaginative, and appropriate for its rather harsh text, but can such passion come from a clown?”

It’s difficult to draw anything with a clowning form that keeps interest and tells a serious story over a long period of time.

Finally, Godspell is in some ways a traditional musical, and traditional musicals run the risk of being predictable and empty. Each of these 3 qualities (religious drama, clowning, and traditional musical theatre) avoids common pitfalls because the other 2 qualities work to balance them. As we examine Schwartz’s contribution to the project, we will see that he counterbalances the religious tone of the work by essentially avoiding traditional religious musical gestures, substituting ideas from the more sophisticated singer/songwriters who were working at that time. The older and more creaky the religious text he’s given, the more smart-folky Schwartz runs with it, so audiences leave Godspell in the curious position of singing catchy 70s hippy pop to archaic English texts, without even being aware of it.

“…to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly Day by Day…”

Does it occur to anyone how high flown that lyric is? Not to most people; Schwartz has completely disarmed them with his compelling and contemporary pop musical language.

Schwartz also gives direction to the clowning by engaging in some strong characterization, using the tools of traditional musical theatre. The Prologue tells a compelling narrative and paints a world of philosophical chaos into which the figure of Christ comes to bring order and Joy. He accomplishes this with careful musical portrayal of characters, and deftly portrays chaos in a way that only a shrewd musical craftsman could manage. All For The Best gives characterization and an opposing viewpoint to the principal characters, and Alas For You gives Jesus his strongest musical statement, bringing a much needed point of gravity to the proceedings exactly where the show needs it. In these places, Schwartz uses traditional musical storytelling devices to ground the clowning in a narrative structure. These areas are where I think I can bring the most insight, and I’ll leave it to others to explore some of the other important elements that ground the work.

One further area of potential interest for Musical Theatre mavens revolves around the way Musical Theatre comes to terms with and assimilates popular styles. The most recent style Broadway has successfully assimilated is Hip Hop, so I’ll lay out my concept in that more recent trajectory, then superimpose it into the 1950s-1970s for comparison. (neither is meant to be comprehensive)

1970s Roots of Hip Hop are formulated, hip hop culture develops

1980s Hip Hop becomes diversified, develops wide vocabulary and public awareness

1987 Established Musical Theatre Composer Stephen Sondheim uses a passage of rap (awkwardly) in Into The Woods

1990s Hip Hop is a mainstream popular art form

1995 Bring In Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk is an attempt to approach musical theatre from the other angle, the Revue form allowing it to bring more convincing elements of Hip Hop into the theatre, but not attempting a broad synthesis.

1996 Jonathan Larson uses rap in Rent.

2008 Rap is used in a non-embarrassing way throughout In the Heights

2015 Lin Manuel Miranda is a native to both Hip Hop form (in many varieties) and Musical Theatre Form and finds a way to effortlessly synthesize both genres convincingly in Hamilton, because he understands the requirements of both forms and has learned from the earlier missteps of others


Now compare a very limited trajectory of Rock into Musical Theatre

1940s Roots of Rock and Roll are laid in Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Jump Jazz, Race Records, etc.

1950s Rise of Rockabilly, Popularity of Elvis

1957 The final edition of the Ziegfeld follies in 1957 contains a spoof of a rock number

1960 Traditional Musical Theatre team Strouse and Adams write Bye Bye Birdie, which uses a Rock persona in a musical. (but the show doesn’t really rock convincingly)

1960s Rock becomes diversified, develops wide vocabulary and public awareness, becomes a mainstream art form.

1967 Hair is a groundbreaking show that approaches musical theatre from the other angle, the Revue form allowing it to bring convincing elements of Rock into a Musical Theatre framework, but not attempting a broad synthesis.

1970 Jesus Christ Superstar basically begins as a rock album, becoming a musical only later.

1971, Stephen Schwartz is a native to both Folk-Rock (in many varieties) and Musical Theatre Form and manages to combine functional versions of both convincingly in Godspell because he understands the requirements of both forms and has learned from the earlier missteps of others.


Similar things happen with the fusion of Jazz and Rock, and the Americanization of the Musical Theatre by including ideas from Black Music in the first place.

Viewed from this framework, Schwartz can be seen as one of the trailblazing writers who finally manages to fulfill the storytelling requirements of Musical Theatre using a musical language derived from Rock.

Joseph Swain says that “Godspell is not really a ‘rock musical’… for its diversity of popular styles is far too broad for that label to do it justice.”

But I think that’s precisely the point. Schwartz understands such a diverse variety of popular styles that the term Rock Musical is not simply a musical with a lot of snare on two and four in it, but a musical that does its job using the tools of many different kinds of rock music. When Leonard Bernstein was asked if shows like Godspell were an indication that rock and roll would be taking over more and more of the theatre, he answered,

“If you can explain what rock and roll music is, I can answer your question”
In describing his process, Schwartz clearly values both the old Musical Theatre tropes and the newest sounds from Folk Rockers. I’ll try and draw some of those influences clearly below. Joseph Swain notes that Godspell is an unusual success, in that the authors did not have years of experience writing shows. But in the case of Schwartz, you had someone with a pretty deep knowledge of how show music works, even very early in his career.

My Biases:

I feel like I need to tell my readers here that I am a practicing Christian, and that I am a huge fan of the person and teachings of Jesus. That probably colors my thoughts on this musical, and if you want a kind of dispassionate take, there might be another blog somewhere that will do that better. I am a casual Stephen Schwartz admirer, but not a fanatical one, and I am not by nature delighted by rock musicals. If you feel as I do about these matters, we will find many things to agree upon here! If you are of a different mind than I am, I do hope you’ll still find my observations interesting even after correcting for my point of view.

As You’re Casting:

In Joseph Swain’s chapter on Godspell, he remarks of the characters: “…it is important to Godspell that the characters other than Jesus are drawn with much more anonymity than is usual in a musical play. They do not have stage names; rather, they carry their own real names, but only first names, so as not to specify their characters too much. They could be anybody. But each gets his own solo music, his own response to conversion. Listeners recalling the play remember the individuals not by who they are, but by what they have sung.”

In that spirit, I would suggest you choose the actors primarily by the songs they sing, and be open to moving speaking lines around among the non-Jesus/Judas troupe as needed. They do not have much in the way of individual throughlines or character superobjectives. They do need to be able to sell their individual songs, though.

Prologue Players:

I go over these parts individually. If you’re in a production that is trying to expand the cast, this would be a good place to do it.

John The Baptist/Judas:

Again, if you were looking to expand your casting to include more people, you could easily split this to 2 actors. Both characters need to be strong, attention grabbing people; John The Baptist starts the whole series of events with Prepare Ye, and the show doesn’t make very explicit the relationship between Jesus and Judas, who is as close as the show comes to an antagonist. So think of your John the Baptist as needing to sing the top of Prepare Ye, to be able to sell the vaudeville of All For the Best as Judas, and being able to have the gravity as an actor to convincingly play the ending.


Garber Godspell

Your Jesus grounds the show. Jesus doesn’t sing all that much, and you can transpose some numbers to find the right range for a few different types of people to play the part. Whoever you choose, the Jesus must be able to hold the stage for the entire show, to be charismatic, warm, charming, funny, and wise, the ear and timing to sing Alas for You, and it helps if there’s a little traditional showbiz skill for All For The Best. If you have this actor, you have a show! If not, no amount of casting elsewhere can save you.

After auditions, our creative staff determined that casting a female Jesus was the very best use of the actors we had. We also felt casting a female John the Baptist/Judas made the most sense. I imagine there will be some out there whose feathers will be ruffled by such a casting choice, but I found it incredibly revelatory, even though I myself think there are viable theological arguments to be made for the necessity of Jesus being gendered as male in the Biblical narrative. As our faculty New Testament Scholar noted on Speaker’s Night, the Bible presents Jesus in ways that challenged 1st century ideas about gender, and the presentation of Jesus using a female actor gives the audience a chance to reflect on the qualities of God that transcend gendered expression. The director and I agreed that the presentation of a female Jesus and Judas would have been much more problematic in a piece like Jesus Christ Superstar, which presents a more traditional narrative structure. But in Godspell, parable after parable are presented using gendered names and pronouns, and female actors often play men in those parables without any explanation or even acknowledgement. We simply see all actors as actors, and all characters as universal or non-gender specific. This is part of the way the play works, a kind of dramatic manifestation of Galatians 3:28: In Christ there is no longer Jew or Gentile, Slave or Free, Male or Female.  For my part, one of the beautiful things about the process was the removal of the part of my thought process where I asked myself whether this Jesus matched my mental picture of Him. A female Jesus allowed me to relax about that, to get over my hangups about the physicality or portrayal of the historical Jesus, and to simply allow the parables and the message to reach me on their own terms. This made the process a profoundly spiritual one for me, and I think I would not have been able to access that with a traditional Jesus casting. You will have to determine for yourself what suits your production, but I can vouch for the fact that it worked very well in ours, and that it is possible to present a respectful and beautiful representation of a female Jesus that honors the Biblical text as presented in the book of the musical.


Robin is the first in the tribe to express her belief, and that makes her a kind of unnamed Peter in the group. Cast the person who can best and most sincerely sing Day by Day


Gilmer’s vocal part is probably the least taxing vocal track of the show. Cast the person who can sing Learn Your Lessons Well. You can rewrite this moment, but you might want to check to see that your actress can get into measure 67 of By My Side and hold that minor second.


Joanne’s O Bless The Lord, My Soul has the most rocking female singing of the evening.  


Lamar’s simple All Good Gifts requires a folk singer with a high baritone or tenor range. The original Lamar has a unique voice which your actor should probably not try to emulate.


Peggy sings By My Side, which is not terribly difficult, but you should, of course, have an actress who can match pitch. As I mentioned earlier for Gilmer, you might want to check to see that your actress can get into measure 67 of By My Side and hold that minor second. Peggy and Jeffrey sing Light Of The World, but in a pinch you could split that song up among the rest of the cast.


Jeffrey sings Light of the World, but again, you could give that song to the rest of the cast easily. We Beseech Thee is another matter. As the show is written, the role is best cast with a strong Gospel/R&B singer. You could divvy the number up among the other actors effectively as well, if you find yourself running low on strong male singers.


Traditionally this role is given to the ‘sexy’ actress, because of Turn Back O Man. As written, her number is very low, but it can be transposed effectively.


An enterprising creative team can easily expand or contract the show to fit the abilities of your pool of actors.

A Few Things to Note About the Music Director’s Materials:

There are a number of places in the re-engraved parts that I feel confident are errors. I don’t have access to the original books, but I’ll try and catch the errors I think I’ve found, and perhaps an astute reader will correct me if I’m wrong here and there.

It seems as though some of the things in the score are transcriptions of things arrived at by ear in rehearsal. For me, the aesthetic of the show musically shouldn’t be too studio-crisp, but should have a little looseness around it. As bewildering as the original cast recording is in terms of pitch and ensemble, it does have a kind of campfire kumbaya truth about it that would be sorely missing if you cleaned and polished every inch of it. Additionally, the original cast brought very personal vocal styles to the table, and as an MD, I think it’s part of the job to try and find places for your actors to embody these songs in personal ways that draw on what makes them unique.

Trouble Spots and Advice:

No. 1 Prologue

When Stephen Schwartz was brought on to the project, the opening was a long scene with dialogue pulled from the work of famous philosophers. This was one of the places where Schwartz suggested a brand new musical number. He has spoken about it numerous times, saying of the scene it replaced: “It was reeeally long! That thing went on forever.” Many people come to the show having no familiarity with the number, since it doesn’t appear on the original cast recording or in the filmed version. (although it does appear on the 1997 recording supervised by Schwartz) If you poke around the internet, you’ll find exasperating threads where people talk about whether the number was in the original production or not, (it was) and whether it needs to be there. (it does)

The Prologue is a complicated number, and by design it doesn’t have the same flavor as the rest of the show, but it’s very important, and even if Schwartz hadn’t very explicitly stated that he doesn’t want the number cut, it would be a mistake to remove it from the show. As Schwartz says,

“within the context of the show, the Prologue is vital. Because Godspell is essentially about the formation of a community, it is necessary to see what the individuals are like when there is no community — how lost they are and how easily they descend into violence and chaos.”

Elsewhere, Schwartz says, “…we deliberately did a number that was different from the rest of the show. We thought of it as the black-and-white section of The Wizard of Oz. We wanted to set up a world and a sound that we could break out of, so when the drums came in and the colored lights and the colored costumes came out, there was a freshness and a relief without going to another place”

So the Prologue is really the world before the transformational event happens. We encounter a group of people who present wildly disparate views of the universe, and although the ideas seem intriguing, we are not meant to find them compelling. Schwartz takes great pains to make the philosophers’ musical material match their content, and the bedlam resulting from the combined versions of their melodies is meant to be impressive and annoying simultaneously.

At each place where Schwartz introduced a brand new idea to the original conception of the work, we find him working ambitiously in complicated forms. (more on that later) This one is a quodlibet; a musical form in which many melodies are presented separately and later combined. The form is almost 500 years old, and is common in Gilbert and Sullivan, but we know it in Musical Theatre principally because of Irving Berlin. Schwartz makes it clear that the Quodlibet in All For The Best is inspired by Berlin’s work. The melodies in the Prologue sit on top of a very contemporary and somewhat unusual progression:

E     F#/E   D#m7 G#

C#     Eb/Db Cm7     F

G     Gmaj7 Cmaj7     F

E   F#E Am7 B7/E      E

The first phrase starts in E, then the F#/E chord seems to be pointing us toward B. But then D#m7 and G# act as a ii/V heading toward C#. That whole unusual idea then repeats a minor third lower, and we hear those as a pair, two A sections in two keys. The third phrase acts as a B section, G seems like a tonal center, headed toward the IV chord of Cmaj7, then, abruptly, an F, which either feels like bVII in the key of G or a continuation of a circle of 4ths progression. But when we drop back to E for the last phrase, we come to hear that F chord as some kind of Phrygian idea, dropping us from bii back to I, only to encounter that same raised 4th scale degree, then in quick succession, minor iv chord, followed by a conventional V-I cadence. (if you can follow all that, you get a gold star)

The progression feels ‘normal’ very quickly as you work on it, but I think it’s worth noting that it’s quirky and odd. Schwartz comes back to this Phrygian #4 a number of times in the piece, and the minor iv chord is also a standby in the score. There are strong directionally oriented harmonies, like ii-V-I cadences, but they contradict what came just before them, and the three tonal centers, E, C#, and G are worlds away from each other. We are meant to be disoriented here, and this repeated oddball progression gives the listener the sense that yes, these philosophers make sense, but this is not a narrative we care for very much, because it is essentially ungrounded harmonically. Prepare Ye will thus be a very nice change, and that’s the effect the authors were going for! You can’t cut it.

I’ll combine my practical advice with my overview here:

Introduction: (measures a-d)

Work for even sixteenths in the left hand, try to capture the crescendo-decrescendo idea. The number isn’t all that difficult, but you have no help from the pit: they don’t come in until song No. 3. (and when they do come in, the audience is meant to feel that something important has changed) The #4 scale degree (A#) will come back so many times, it’s clearly a motif. I have a suspicion in the back of my mind that the falling third idea is literally a motive. When I run across it, I’ll label it doorbell motive, so we can spot it.


socratesThe text is adapted from Plato’s Apology of Socrates, at which Socrates defends himself against charges of corrupting youth.  The melody here opens with the doorbell motive, and for the most part it traces the root to third of each chord, sometimes playing in the area from the 3rd to the 5th. The entire passage works within the range of an augmented 5th, and so Socrates can be sung by anyone in your cast who can match pitch. In the 1997 Godspell recording, which was supervised by Schwartz, it sure sounds like he plays a D natural in the right hand on beat three of measure 15, making that Bm7/E. But maybe I’m hearing things.


Thomas Aquinas:

acquinasI believe this text is pulled from Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae. Aquinas is a fitting post-Socratic thinker, since he values the Greek philosophical tradition, but he’s also a provocative person to place at the top of the show as an example of the pre-Christian world, since he is one of the greatest Christian philosophers. The relative simplicity of Socrates’s melody is gone, and in its place are a patter section (which proves rather difficult), and an expansive passage tracing up and down the chords of the progression. Use the singer in your cast who can manage the patter; that’s the hardest part. Spend extra time teaching the last phrase as well, the descending passage is tricky.


Martin Luther:

lutherLuther’s text comes from his Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed. Again, by placing Luther in the pre-Christ portion of the piece, the show is signalling to the audience that both Catholic and Protestant dogma will not be a part of the show’s discussion. Luther’s music is accompanied by a kind of a polka, and his melody is bombastic, as befitting the firebrand of the German Reformation. The ending should get you your first laugh of the night. (pronouncing it ‘ze cherman vay’ is an obvious joke) If you don’t get a laugh here, you’re in for a long night. It’s the rangiest melody of the lot, so you should give it to a singer with a strong voice and an engaging stage presence.

Da Vinci/Gibbon:

da vinci.jpgThe DaVinci portion appears to come from his notebooks,although very loosely, and the Gibbon nagibbonturally comes from his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon’s argument is pretty coherent, DaVinci’s part of the text seems to be a kind of basic humanist perspective. The ranges are moderate, so you can choose an ordinary singer for the part, but levitable can be something of a tongue twister. The C# in the left hand in measure 57 is clearly meant to be an E.


nietszcheWhat Is Noble is title of the 9th chapter of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. I don’t think the words really say much about Nietzsche’s philosophy, but the line will get a laugh, especially if the singer needs to take a breath in the middle of the line somewhere.



Jean Paul Sartre:

sartre.jpgSartre is, among other things, the brain behind Atheistic Existentialism. His words here are taken from his 1947 L’existentialisme est un humanisme, variously translated as Existentialism and Human Emotions, or Existentialism is a Humanism. The published version has nearly this exact wording; the online free version is translated differently.



Buckminster Fuller

buckminster fullerHe was, at the time of the piece’s writing, the contemporary thinker of this batch. In fact, the book from which his lyric comes, I Seem To Be A Verb was written in 1970, although there is a slight misquote. The score reads, “patterns, of processes”, the 1997 cast recording sings “patterns and processes”, but Fuller’s original phrase is “patterns or processes” The fourth eighth note in measure 87 is clearly wrong. The F should be a G. In the recording Schwartz supervised, the eighth note in beat 3 is played as an Eb and a Bb, I think, not a G. Note that “patterns, of processes” has slightly different pitches in each iteration. The ’97 recording has a variant low E for the last 2 notes of 97. He repeats this in the Babble section as well.

No. 2 Tower of Babble

This is demarcated as show number 2, but it’s really part 2 of the Prologue, as the measure numbering makes clear. In the 1997 recording, Schwartz takes 109 really fast, which is great, but makes the figure in 120 impossible. The pianist leaves it out. The ragtime right hand pattern against the left hand waltz is somehow very Bernsteinian. After you’ve gotten it into your hands, do your best to get out of your head and let it play.

Each of the singers is singing the same thing they sang before, although Nietzsche’s melody is twice as long, and Schwartz seems to think the ‘t’ in ‘what’ is audible if you really punch it. You might want to time the whole business to the fastest speed Thomas Aquinas can manage. At measure 145, there will be a danger of going out of sync, a danger you can avoid by having the cast walking on the beat, or assigning a cast member to pound on a drum (or the set) in time. Certainly, the piano punctuations are places to realign.

You’ll have to decide what the ending means. The last 2 measures, F# and D# are a return to the opening piano phrase. (the doorbell motive) As written, those two notes blunt the effect of the shofar cutting through the exasperated last note of the Tower of Babble section. Consider getting rid of those last two notes and interrupting measure 166 with the shofar.

No. 3 Prepare Ye

The shofar is harder to play than you might imagine. If you’ve been to services on the High Holy Days, you can attest to the fact that there are people who do it well, and people who can’t seem to play it at all. In an ideal world, John the Baptist physically plays the note, but in reality, a sound cue will be far more reliable and easier to cue musically. This is normally staged with John the Baptist entering from somewhere in the theatre. If you pre-record the sound, you should make sure the sound is coming from the direction your John The Baptist is coming from, or the effect will be lost.

If you have not made the mistake of cutting the Prologue, the musical materials of this ‘true’ opening number will be a welcome relief, with their simplicity and sense of direction. The melody is 2 measure repeated phrase, and the phrases are identical except for the final 2 notes. The bass line is even simpler, tracing only the ascending first five notes of the scale, ending once on the dominant and once on the tonic. The score isn’t marked, but at measure 9, the keyboard is clearly supposed to be on a gospel organ patch, with a good fake Leslie style vibrato.

Measure 16 is marked Faster, but I’d make it Much Faster. I can picture in my head a version in which this new section is exactly twice as fast as the opening. If your singers are good at riffing, you can give them free reign after the first time through to go places with it. Perhaps you can select the actors you want to dress things up, or another idea would be to let people embellish the parts after each of them are baptized, one at a time.The second ending is a little tricky to coordinate with the band; measure 36 is twice as slow, the sixteenth note rhythm in the guitar culminates in a fermata, and when you get out of that, your riffiest female cast member has one last riff. Have a look at the individual band parts, and then make a plan of attack so that you as the MD know how you’d like that to go, and how to convey that to your band.

No. 4 Save The People

It is tricky to establish a great tempo up top in this number. You might want to have a conversation with your director before you get too far in, just to see what kind of vibe you’re going for. The piano figure at the beginning is just a placeholder for fingerpicked guitar, which may or may not play what you’re playing. Keep that in mind. If you strum this pattern with hammer-ons, it has a very different feel than the kind of picked groove laid out in the Piano Vocal. Schwartz connects this guitar groove with a song he wrote for the play Butterflies Are Free. (his Broadway debut as a composer,later made into a film with Goldie Hawn) I can’t imagine Save The People this slow, but I do see the family resemblance.

Measure 53 should be significantly faster. For our production, we landed on a tempo which was basically as-fast-as-I-could play-it, which was easy to remember when I got it into my head. Measure 87 needs a tempo marking. It’s significantly slower than the previous passage, but it isn’t one long ritard. We are in a new, more dramatic tempo. Measure 95 needs an a tempo mark. We’re right back at the old speed.

The drums drop out in the orchestration in measures 113 and 114, which has to be an error. It just doesn’t make sense. In the 1997 version, there’s a 2 measure fill. Also in the ’97 version, the guitarist replaces 135-136 with a mellower flourish.

We transposed this number for our female Jesus into Bb. It required the choral parts at the end to be revoiced, but not drastically, just a basic inversion. It was actually a very interesting discussion. In a female head voice, the song has a touching vulnerability. In chest voice, it seems more assertive. We went with more assertive.

No. 5 Day By Day

FUN FACT: This is apparently the last showtune to chart as performed by the original cast.

Paul Laird’s book The Musical Theater of Steven Schwartz: From Godspell to Wicked and Beyond  lists What The World Needs Now (1968) and Society’s Child (1967) as songs that inspired Schwartz. They lyric is attributed to St. Richard of Chichester in the 1200s. What the World Needs Now also has a shuffly midtempo waltz feel, Society’s Child is a harder influence to hear until you get to the last third of Day By Day. where the harmonic world is somewhat similar, hypnotically back and forth from ii to V.  But as Laird points out, that progression is pretty common in pop music of the late ’60s. I hear a lot of Carole King in this song, and her greatest hits come right in this time period. I like Joseph Swain’s observation that the repeated seventh chords make each tonal center “just credible without the harmonic commitment of a cadence” He compares this quality to impressionism, and notes that it contributes to the feeling that the song is a centering prayer or mantra.

The rhythm of Robin’s melody in measure 1 is not how the melody is normally sung, and I think the singer should keep the feel pretty free, although the melodic contour should have some integrity, since this is the first time we’re hearing it.

When you get to measure 25, a second set of Ahs comes in, which looks like it’s marked for 6 other girls. You have some flexibility here, it sounds good that way. But I’m pretty sure it should be marked with the 8vb treble clef, or marked for the tenors and basses. In fact, all the vocals near the end are flexible, so you can give singers whichever parts suit their ranges. The trick will be to remember how many times you repeat before the thing stops. You want a nice crisp downbeat on 105, so Robin’s last line comes out clearly.

The last note in the chorus has a tritone leap, which I eliminated. The major 7 in the chord is covered in the band very clearly, there’s no need to introduce it in the chorus and run the risk of being out of tune. (unless you have some people with excellent ears, in which case, have at it)

In measure 109, the Chord is supposed to be Cmaj7, obviously. Correct it in the guitar book as well. Then in measure 110, the left hand should have an F, not a C. I also think that awkward eighth note C against the vocal D in both hands at the end of 110 is ill advised. Just leave it out. The band doesn’t have the button at the end, I added the Bass and a kick, just to make it sound like we actually intended the button.

No. 6 Learn Your Lessons Well

This number was added because Schwartz felt too much time had gone by without a song. It has a half-a-number sort of feel to it, which actually serves it well. The inspiration comes out of the previous scene.

Coming after such strong folk-rock material, this music sounds like a throwback to more traditional musical theatre, and of course it does deliberately play in old-timey musical clichés, but it must also be noted that this kind of number is also very common both in Musical Theatre in the time, but also in singer-songwriter style rock albums. King Herod’s Song has a similar vibe. And if you picture Randy Newman singing this song, you’ll hear that this is not a pastiche as much as an idealized showbiz style that is also a part of 70s culture. This soft-shoe kind of writing particularly appealed to Bob Fosse, who uses this facet of Schwartz’s toolbox to great effect in Pippin.

No. 7 O Bless The Lord, My Soul

Bless The Lord

Kara Krichman and company in Villanova’s production of Godspell (photo by Paola Nogueras)

Schwartz’s website and tempo markings in some editions makes the Laura Nyro connection clear for this song, particularly “Save The Country”

The text is adapted from Scottish Hymnodist James Montgomery’s 1819 versification of Psalm 103.

I want to pick up and develop a theme Joseph Swain points out in the clever way Schwartz has dealt with modality here. The verses are in A minor and the choruses in A major, but at measure 81, as the tempo quickens, he alternates between the major and minor modes every 2 measures, finally truncating it to A major in one measure, A minor in the next at 101 before the coda. The audience feels this harmonic quickening viscerally, and when Joanne sings her C natural over the accompaniment’s C# in 114 and 115, it acts not only as a blue note, but as a reconciliation of the two modalities.

The word ‘abate‘ is very unusual, and most singers don’t really land the final ‘t’, which leaves the audience thinking ‘ready to obey‘, since that’s the sentence that makes most sense grammatically. (although not particularly in the context) I recommend putting that ‘t’ very strongly on beat 3 of measure 40.

If you’re leading from the piano, I would suggest having the drummer drop out from 81-84 so you can establish the new tempo, which really comes out of nowhere. At 85, most people miss the G#, and at 87, they leave out the A. Try and get that there and where the same figure recurs. At 89, the second staff is a women’s part, and the Group 2 on the following page is a male part. There is riffing to be done near the end if your singer is equipped in that way.

No. 8 All For The Best

All For The Best

Mina Kawahara as Jesus in Villanova’s production (photo by Paola Nogueras)

Schwartz says in this video “There were a couple of things, most specifically All For The Best, that I said, ‘You know, if we’re telling this story, and the major relationship is between these two characters of Jesus and Judas, if you were doing a traditional musical where nobody knew the story when they walked in and nobody had any investment in these characters, they’d have to do a number together, so you establish their friendship so when the friendship changes or dissolves or evolves at the end and Judas betrays Jesus, there’s some investment you’ve made in that relationship’  So we found a spot and I wrote All for the Best as a sort of Irving Berlin number. I basically took the idea from something I’ve always admired, like the Irving Berlin song, You’re Just in Love, in Call Me Madam, where someone sings ‘I hear music and there’s no one there’ and then Ethel Merman sings, ‘You don’t need analyzing’ and then magically they go together and they sing them at the same time, which I just always thought was the coolest thing ever, so I basically just stole that idea and did it for Jesus and Judas.”

If this lyric is supposed to be a paraphrase of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, I think Schwartz has missed the point somewhat. And as much as this moment uses the tools of traditional Musical Theatre to build a relationship between Jesus and Judas which has more distinct substance than the one established between Jesus and the other unnamed disciples, one wishes Schwartz did a little more foreshadowing in the text for what will come in Act II. Again, the director is critical in forcing the song to do dramatic work, instead of functioning merely as a vaudeville number.

As a Music Director, be careful to pace your tempos so the last iteration is the fastest you and your cast can do with clarity.

The last measure is awkward and ineffective on the piano. I wasn’t good at landing the figure to begin with; if you play the E flat with your pinky, you can’t land the whole C chord, and if you try and grab the chord with your left, that’s a lot to track while trying to cut off the band. When I could manage it, I found it very difficult to get it loud enough to cut through the cast and the band; it’s in a weak part of the piano. No suggestions here, only confessions. 

No. 9 All Good Gifts

Schwartz’s website lists “Fire and Rain” and Elton John’s “Your Song” as inspirations for the chord progressions and accompaniment of All Good Gifts. Both All Good Gifts and Fire and Rain go from the tonic chord to the minor dominant right off the bat, which is very distinctive. Schwartz uses almost the same set of chords, but uses a V/V chord and a minor iv chord to inflect the progression not just toward G, as Taylor’s progression did, but also toward A and toward D minor:

Fire and Rain Comparison

From the very beginning, Schwartz shows a propensity for piano accompaniments that sound like finger-picked guitar, and they come straight out of the 70s singer-songwriter toolbox. This particular pattern comes from Elton John’s Your Song. 

All Good Gifts Your Song Comparison

Notice how Schwartz has retained the rhythm in the right hand exactly, but has expanded the left hand to fill out 2 and a half octaves to John’s single octave, and how his harmony is much more adventurous; Elton John, especially in this period, tended to use simple primary chords. Schwartz has some bigger fish to fry.

The recorder solo was written to take advantage of the original Jeffrey’s playing abilities. Unfortunately, the recorder solo is in real danger of drowning out the monologue that it accompanies. If the player tries to play very quietly, he/she is liable to go pretty flat. Be aware of that from the outset. Perhaps you have an actor who plays another, quieter instrument capable of playing that passage.

The drop in measure 7 (and elsewhere) from the F natural to the G is often out of tune. You might want to assign the riff at 80 to Lamar and not everyone together; it can be messy. I also think the cutoffs tied to eighth notes are fussy. Cut off 71, 75, and 87 and so forth on the downbeat.

I like this song a lot, but there’s one chord I can’t get behind. One of the sophisticated things about the song is how the melody hits some non-chord tones or 9th or 11th of the chords, such as the D in “breezes and the”, over the F#m chord, and in the following measure, “sunshine” is tracing the 11th and the 9th of the G chord. But on “soft, refreshing” in the next measure, I feel like the melody is actually insinuating a totally different chord: E major. That’s not quite different enough from the G# minor chord to play as a higher chord tone color. It just feels like you’re playing the wrong chord. I suppose it’s really the same move as in measure 13, but when I got there, it always felt like I’d mixed up the salt and the sugar somehow. Play it the way it’s written; nobody will complain.

No. 10 Light of the World

I gotta say, this one comes very close to being great, but somehow just isn’t funky enough, particularly compared to the re-orchestrated revival versions. A wah pedal helps in the guitar, and you should tell your players that if they hear something better in their heads they ought to try it out. This is one of the numbers where the other production staff may look to you to make the thing pop a little more.

At the top of the number is really a rap, although it’s tough to get from the script. Listen to a recording to see how it should go; we went with something like this:

Light of the World Opening

The Keys part should really be marked Organ. Choose a dirty, funky one with a lot of bite. But probably you’ll want to play it on the piano until the pit comes in, because it’s really hard to assert the groove all by yourself with the organ sound.

Measures 5 and 6 are tough to coordinate.  Someone will correct me perhaps, but I think the last 2 notes in measures 17, 21, 33 and 37 are probably in the wrong order. (should be swapped, Eb, E) I’ve been using the 1993 studio recording as a reference because Schwartz supervised it, but the recording doesn’t clarify there, because the bass player is playing a much funkier James Jamerson riff there.

If your singers are good enough, encourage them to improvise the solo passages. If you’re going to have the cast use the vibraslap, get it into the process early. It’s a little odd. 

The playout for this number wasn’t interesting enough for me to solo over on a single chord, so I took us back to measure 25, and we took turns soloing through 48. Hopefully you’ve got players with some imagination and they can raise the roof a little here.

No. 11 Learn Your Lessons Well Reprise

If you have instrumentally talented cast members, it is customary to have them play and sing this at the end of the intermission to inaugurate the second half.

No. 12 Turn Back O Man

The text here was written by Clifford Bax, the brother of the very underrated English composer Sir Arnold Bax as a response to World War I. It was set to music by Holst, who requested the text to replace another for a motet he had written. It is not difficult to find fusty Hymnologists complaining about Schwartz’s setting, which deliberately plays against the stern tone and is modeled musically on a style associated with performers like Mae West. Again, though, this is a place where Schwartz’s theatrical instincts perform a course correction that keeps the piece from slipping into sanctimony at a critical juncture. Incidentally, Schwartz rejects the idea that the singer is Mary Magdalene, who has often been associated with promiscuity, even though the bible does not make that connection. The vampy music creates some odd double entendres like ‘their tragic empires rise’ Indeed, the most interesting thing about the number is the way the lyric plays against the grain of the tune.

Mae West typically came on to people in her songs, so she may not actually be the best model for your actress, should she be unaware of this kind of song. You might turn instead to Peggy Lee as seen here in Why Dont You Do Right? This sort of song is also sexy, but the point of the song is to teach the guy a lesson, not to ‘come up to my place’. That sentiment is more consistent with the message of the text. Jessica Rabbit would be taking things too far, I think.

I have this sense that the right and left hand were played in independently of each other without regard to how they work together. There are places where the left leaps higher than it needs to in the stride, and actually collides with what the right is playing.

There is an error in measure 96 in the bass part. Have a look. Be careful to emphasize the correct pitches in the last phrase of the chorus right near the end. D, E flat, E natural, dip down to C, then F sharp. There are many incorrect ways to sing that, it turns out.

Because we had a female Jesus and a Sonia with a higher belt, I changed the key for both singers, which required a slightly different modulation. It sits very low for Sonia. Your singer may have also heard the revival version, which is in a different key and has a lot of vocal pyrotechnics. It is stylistically totally okay to dress this number up, but those particular riffs function much better in the other key. (you can find the other version easily by googling)

No. 13 Alas for You

Schwartz musicalized a section of dialogue. he says in this video “..The scene where Jesus drives the money-changers from the temple, it was this big long speech, a big harangue, and so I basically just took the what the words were and kind of made them rhyme and gave them a little bit of song structure and that became Alas For You.” Elsewhere Schwartz has called this ‘very Leonard Bernstein’.

My personal preference is that the singer work for great clarity and intention and allow the meter changes and percussive nature of the accompaniment do the work without adding a lot of ‘rock’ mannerisms to the mix. There are a few recordings available that make this number sound as though it belongs in Rocky Horror, which is fun, but distracts from one of the only moments of real gravity in this musical; this is where we begin to sense that the show is taking a darker turn.

One point worth clarifying with your Jesus early on is the fact that measure b and measure 37 are in 7/4, but measures 5, 18, and 42 feature a very similar rhythm in 6/4. To make matters ever so slightly more confusing, measures 61 and 62 function as essentially an 8/4 measure of the same idea.

There is an error in the score in measure 24 and 48, which should read the same as measure 11 in the left hand. The Bass book and the chord symbols in the piano score have it correct, I think.

We cast a female Jesus, so I had to move this number. We played around with various options for keys and settled on G major, a third higher, with our Jesus singing it basically a sixth lower. It was important for the gravity and intensity of the song for her to be able to access her chest register.

One final thought: Tenors seem to struggle with the last note, and I have a workaround if the high G is impossible. The simplest solution if to just sing an E flat instead. In the original cast, Stephen Nathan just stops on ‘Alas’ and leaves out “for you” entirely. Victor Garber in the film gets through it well, having gone pretty sharp on the F at the end of the previous phrase. A slightly more interesting solution is to begin the arpeggio one note lower in the chord. So instead of Eb,G,Eb,Bb,G,Eb,Bb,G, you would sing Bb,Eb,Bb,G,Eb,Bb,G, Eb. That preserves the shape of the phrase.

No. 14 By My Side

This is the only song in the show not written by Schwartz, and indeed, it seems not to have been written for Godspell, but a totally different play at Carnegie Mellon.

Schwartz says: “I could try to write a new song for this spot, and maybe I would write a song as good as this, but why bother if we have this wonderful song?”

I think what we have in the score here is an attempt to transcribe what was originally figured out organically. That’s why the rhythm of the lead doesn’t quite match the recorded vocal. The big choral sections also don’t quite work as written (in my opinion), and you can’t make out what was actually happening on the original recording because they wash over it with cymbal rolls. I wonder whether this was a decision in the studio to mask something else. I recommend you prune some of  that harmony based on the singers you have. I eliminated the top note throughout, and added one particularly tricky note myself into the mic they gave me for On The Willows.

The line that descends from C to A through B natural in the piano as in measures 7-8, 11-12 and elsewhere is not reflected in the guitar book (which doesn’t have the descending line) or the bass book, which actually has Bb near the end. I think you want to go through and make the instrumental parts match the vocal score.

No. 15 We Beseech Thee

Schwartz says the opening rhythm of this number is influenced by Where Did Our Love Go? by the Supremes. It’s the last moment of pure joy in the show before we reach a pretty dark and/or subdued section, so really go full bore here.

If you want to open the number up to the cast, it’s very easy to divide up the calls in the call and response sections to various cast members. It’s also possible to give an instrumental part to anyone who plays in the cast, if you have the skills to write one. The ‘instrumental’ section only has 2 chords over and over again.

We Beseech Thee

Villanova production, Photo by Paola Nogueras

For the passage beginning at measure 41, a 4 note chord is not necessary, you should voice it according to what you have available to you. At 49, I gave the top line to the altos, the second line to the sopranos, and the lowest line to the tenors and basses. at 53, I gave the top line to the sopranos, the second line to the altos, and kept the Tenors and Basses on the bottom. At 57 I switched the Altos back to the top line, the sopranos to the middle, and again, left the tenors and basses where they were, and finally, I switched them one last time at 61: Sopranos on Top, Altos in the Middle, Tenors and Basses on the bottom. If you choose to sing it as written, I think your Jeffrey can feel free to riff a little, if he/she is gifted in that area.

No. 16 Day By Day Reprise

This reprise combines the earlier version with an ending that will be used later in the bows. I’m not so sure this is the best way to work this moment in the piece, and I think Beautiful City helps the rest of the show land better. (see below)

Potential Addition: Beautiful City

Beautiful City

Mina Kawahara as Jesus, me on piano in Villanova’s production. (photo by Paola Nogueras)

Schwartz says in this video: “I did write a new song for the film, called Beautiful City, which replaced We Beseech Thee because the director of the film David Greene felt that We Beseech Thee was too theatrical a number, he wasn’t quite sure how to translate that to film. I’m not sure he was correct, but nevertheless, so I wrote this new song called Beautiful City, and I had some reservations about the way the song is in the film, and then several years later, maybe 10, 15 years later whenever the L.A. riots were, there was a production of Godspell, like a benefit concert that was being done to raise money to benefit the victims of the L.A. riots, and I rewrote Beautiful City, I just completely rewrote the lyrics from this sort of like cheerful, happy, flower-strewing song into much more of a reflective song and that’s the version that now gets done, and now it gets interpolated into the show a lot, and of one of the fun things for me is that people put Beautiful City in the show,  but they put it in different places so it’s always interesting to me to see if they’ve put it in and where they’re using it and how they’re using it and who’s singing it, so that’s been kind of fun.”

The original lyric, which Schwartz disavows somewhat above read:

Come sing me sweet rejoicing/Come sing me love

We’re not afraid of voicing/All the things we’re dreaming of

Oh, high and low/and everywhere we go

The newer lyric (Out of the ruins and rubble…) really lands at the moment formerly occupied by the Day By Day Reprise. But that’s a decision to be made with your director based on the vision they have of the piece.

If your production staff is concerned about copyright, the FAQ page from Schwartz’s own website makes his approval clear for performances of Godspell.

If you buy the version from musicnotes.com, you can choose the key that works the best for your Jesus. I wrote a simple orchestration for my production, but it’s the kind of number your band can improvise an orchestration for on the spot if you give them sheet music, or better yet, a lead sheet.

No. 17 On The Willows

The lyric here comes from verses 2-4 of the 137th Psalm, a lament about the Babylonian captivity in the late 7th century BCE. In High Church Christian traditions, it is recited on the fourth Sunday of Lent, so it’s a liturgically appropriate text for this moment. Schwartz claims the text was chosen “because it was about ‘believers’ isolated and persecuted by a hostile society”The word ‘lives’ was originally ‘lyres’ (harps), which proved confusing and was switched.

The song is traditionally sung by the band, and that’s indicated in the piano score, but the melody is not in the parts. You will need to figure out a way to teach it to them if that’s what you’re doing. We chose to have a few actors who played well come in and out of playing with the band, so that at this moment they would simply step back toward the onstage band and join us. As before, the top staff seems to be for a woman’s voice, the bottom for men (and an octave lower) It does split into 4 parts, although you can trim that back if you find it too difficult. Alternately, you can give the melody to the tribe to sing together. It’s important that it strike the right mood, because it helps get our audience to a place where we can accept the last beat of the show.

Allison Hilliard

I have a soft spot for this song. My wife Allison sang it in the 2006 production at the Walnut Street Theatre. I saw it as many times as I could.

No. 18 Finale

This is the place in the show where a director’s taste and vision make all the difference. The more traditional storytelling in Jesus Christ Superstar helps that musical earn this moment, but Godspell has had so much clowning up to now that it’s difficult to work up to the pathos necessary to get across an execution, especially one that’s sort of figurative. The heavy rock guitar approach also reads campy now in a way that it didn’t in the early 70s. Swain puts it this way:

“Unfortunately, when the crucifixion music in the Finale tries to be explicit, it falls far short of expressing anything of the complexity of what should be the central event in the narrative. The use of rapid harmonic rhythm seems no different than in other, happier songs, and the jamming of electric instruments is but a superficial substitute for dramatic expressions drawn from more essential musical elements. The lyrics here are too absurdly simplistic.”’

Evidently the earlier version, before Schwartz came in was worse. The lyric originally read; “Oh, God, I’m busted.” According to Schwartz:

“I just said to John-Michael, ‘You can’t. That’s a really bad idea.’, and he got it right away.”

We went back and forth about whether to change the key for our female Jesus, and ultimately decided not to; she just sang it at pitch. It’s an awkward line for a male voice; I think intentionally. We’re supposed to be seeing Jesus at his most vulnerable.

It’s unclear how the MD is supposed to execute the top of the number. Technically the three staves are playable by one person, (kinda) but not on two instruments as indicated. Perhaps a cast member plays the organ staff. The transition from the first section into the Long Live God passage needs to be finessed, because it’s the payoff of the entire piece; where the tribe takes the message out into the world; Some productions will put a kind of resurrection in here somewhere, others just imply that the excitement of the clowns radiating out to today is how we know about this story. Both approaches are very much workable. Again, this is one of those places where the director decides what this show means.

Measures 38-41 should have the chord symbols of 42-45 and vice versa. Note that the last 4 measures differ slightly from the earlier version of Prepare Ye.

No. 19 Bows

Pretty straightforward reprise with a slightly different, but very easy ending.

Pit Orchestra Considerations:

The original pit orchestra in 1971 was Schwartz on piano, Rick Shutter on Drums, and Jesse Cutler, both 19 years old at the time, and Richard LaBonte. Shutter played by ear, not a lead sheet. This may be why the guitar book lays out on Alas For You. If you expect the band to sing On The Willows, you might indicate that as you’re hiring. Some players might balk at that. (others might be excited!)

This is not a terrible difficult show for the pit to play, and pretty much every pit budget can handle 3 players. As always, it helps a great deal to have players who are well versed in several styles of playing and who are sensitive to playing under singers.

Godspell is a tried and true crowd pleaser, with lots of options to tailor it to the specific needs of your space. Have a great time with it!