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.

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