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.