This piece was
commissioned by Jim Yarbrough, director of the Naperville
North High School choral program, and one my earliest
supporters. Since Jim has a jazz background (and he also was
bass section leader under Margaret Hillis at the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra Chorus!) I decided to write him something
jazzy and bluesy. I found this wonderfully sly text by Dana
Gioia and set about having some fun with it.
Musically the piece goes
back and forth between a lyrical, “night music” quasi-
Debussy stereotypical impressionist feel (hopefully pianists
will smile a bit when they notice an actual Debussy quote in
the piano intro) and the jazz/blues sections. The ending
plays around with different ways of saying the boy cat’s
name, “Fred”, including purring/rolling the r sound. I even
had an excuse to include one of my favorite Ravel chords in
this piece (a pretty pungent V chord with a flat 9 and a
sharp 11). It’s a chord Ravel uses in pieces like the Piano
Concerto and his other jazz influenced music.
Come into the garden, Fred, For the neighborhood tabby is gone. Come into the garden, Fred. I have nothing but my flea collar on, And the scent of catnip has gone to my
head . I'll wait by the screen door till dawn.
The fireflies court in the
sweetgum tree. The nightjar calls from the pine, And she seems to say in her rhapsody, "Oh, mustard-brown Fred, be mine!" The full moon lights my whiskers afire, And the fur goes erect on my spine.
I hear the frogs in the
muddy lake Croaking from shore to shore. They've one swift season to soothe their
ache. In autumn they sing no more. So ignore me now, and you'll hear my meow As I scratch all night at the door.