Monthly Archives: June 2013

Acappella Friday: The Jabberwocky

A cappella music (without instrumental accompaniment) is particularly enjoyable for me to listen to. As a poet (and an avocational musician), I am drawn to the similarities that poems and a cappella music have. Lyrical phrasing, meter, rhyming, and onomatopoeia mean so much to a cappella music, because it relies so heavily on the human vocal element.

OK, so first of all…this setting of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky is not done acappella. The composer is Sam Pottle (1934-1978). Interestingly, he also wrote many songs used on Sesame Street and cowrote The Muppet Show theme (with Jim Henson).

This song one of the most enjoyable songs I’ve ever performed in a choir…I *chortle* as I think about it. This poem has always held a special place in my brain. The nonsense vocabulary, the heroic details, the wry grin of people who recite it…Lewis Carroll had a tremendous ability to draw pictures with words, some that didn’t even exist prior to him using them. This poem is largely responsible for my foray into poetry. It has inspired some of recent poetry, The chnott and the sarborant and pub song.

So it is not acappella, but it is done with piano accompaniment and toy percussion accent instruments (I think I played the tamborine/rattle when we performed this in 1985-86), and much fun to listen to. The music fits the poem. An interesting point about performance is interpretation. This is true for poetry read as well as sung.

I present two versions from cyberspace. First, a very proper choral performance by the University of Utah Singers – well done (performed with great sarcasm) and a great recording to hear the different lines and harmonies and pay attention to the toy instruments.

Jabberwocky – Utah

And a second performance by the University of Maine Singers (a larger choral group), done with choreography, and some jocularity at the end. The performance revels in silliness….plus the video has the bonus of the Maine Stein Song (don’t know it, never been to Maine). Callooh!! Callay!!

Jabberwocky – Maine

I hope you enjoy it.


Opening a box to reveal the space inside,
just beneath the fitted lid, above the folded tissue paper
and before
it is unwrapped.

A moonless night, devoid of shadows,
where no projections cast on walls. Walls
that surround gardens of dioecious plants.
If one ceases, the other languishes.
The heart and soul of it knows.
Tree limbs clatter after the leaves disappear,
until the wind stops.

A paddling of ducks moved downwind
where the sound of me
vanished in the rippling.

It is the sound music makes
five seconds after it ends.


Several days ago, I discovered a fly in the bottom freezer drawer,
-dead from cold- beneath the packaged, leftover gumbo made with a roux, the kind that must be stirred slowly – simmering on low heat- so that it does not burn.
Claudia crossed her hands as she spoke of her upcoming schedule, the dangers of narcissism,
and the joy of creative moments -her blue eyes betrayed an infatuation with cleverness- and later she cast her burdens on a subscription magazine and a glass of pinot grigio.
Further on that day at the convenience store, after receiving change -76 cents- for the purchase of his lemon-flavored tea and Marlboros, an un-named driver whistled a Meredith Willson tune -to mark his time in the parade of customers- turned and walked out

clearing before the door shut.

pub song

is it already time in sparity
for tomorrow’s song, conspiring
just past a moment’s caesura beshinding
and a quaver in triplets sequiling?

staccato, legato, and elluish garnishes,
reveling beats and cantabile varnishes,
capriccio encores, as slathibirs and borespors,
such singing will leave you reciting
the extrons and motile warblings
of pub-songs, warm and inviting.

and when you are done with the chorusing
of colly-woos and the hollo-joy-cholla,
drink a toast to the wencesial spirit, of course,
and say a prayer from the wells of your golla.