Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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Nursery Rhymes and Children's Prayers - (2005)    

Mother Goose, A Child's Garden of Verses, R. L. Stevenson and a traditional 18th century prayer

Eight songs for mezzo soprano and piano


in memory of Richard Loring, composer and conductor

i. Cobbler! Mend my shoe (after Mother Goose)       [ 4 pages, circa 1' 45" ]

Cobbler! Cobbler! Mend my shoe.
Give it a stitch and that will do.
Here's a nail, and there's a prod,
And now my shoe is well shod.

Cobbler! Cobbler! Mend my shoe.
Get it done by half past two.
Stitch it up and stitch it down.
And then I'll give you half a crown.

Please mend my shoe.
Be done by two.
A stitch and that will do.
Look, here's a nail,
And there's a prod,
And now my shoe's well shod.

Cobbler! Cobbler! Mend my shoe.
Give it a stitch and that will do.
Here's a nail, and there's a prod,
And now my shoe is well shod.
Cobbler, now my shoe's well shod.

ii. Mary Had a Little Lamb (after Mother Goose [ 3 pages, circa 2' 55" ]

Mary had a little lamb.
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day;
That was against the rule.
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out,
But still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
Till Mary did appear.

"Why does the lamb love Mary so?"
The eager children cry.
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,"
The teacher did reply.

Mary had a little lamb.
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

iii. The Child and the Star (after Mother Goose [ 2 pages, circa 1' 50" ]

CHILD
"Little star that shines so bright,
Come and peep at me tonight,
For I often watch for you
In the pretty sky so blue.

"Little Star! O tell me, pray,
Where you hide yourself all day?
Have you got a home like me?
and a father kind to see?"

STAR
"O little Child, at you I peep,
while you lie asleep;
But when days break,
I my homeward journey take.

"For I've many friends on high,
living with me in the sky,
And a loving Father, too,
Who commands what I'm to do."

iv. Pat-a-cake, Baker's Man (after Mother Goose)  [ 3 pages, circa 1' 35" ]

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake,
Baker's man,
Bake me a cake
As fast as you can.
Roll it and pat it,
And mark it with a "B",
And put it in the oven
For baby and me.

Sugar and spice,
that's all nice.
Little girls are worth the price.
Frogs and snails,
Puppies' tails,
Little boys make manly males.

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake,
Baker's man,
Bake me a cake
As fast as you can.
Roll it and pat it,
And mark it with a "B",
And put it in the oven
For baby and me.
Yes, bake me a cake for baby and me.

v. Little Drops of Water (adapted from Julia Carney, 1845) [ 2 pages, circa 1' 50" ]

Little drops of water,
little grains of sand,
make the mighty ocean
and the beauteous land.

Little seeds of mercy
sown by little hands,
grow to bless the nations
Even in far -off lands.

Little deeds of kindness,
little words of love,
make our earth an Eden,
like the heaven above.

And the little moments,
humble though they may be,
make the mighty ages
of eternity.

vi. The Rain Is Failing (adapted from A Child's Garden of Verses, R. L. Stevenson)  [ 2 pages, circa 2' 10" ]

The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

The rain is falling all around,
On each and every hill,
It rains on all the houses here,
On every Jack and Jill.

Rain falls around us,
On all thirsty lands.
Rain drops on mountains,
And on sea-side sands.

The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.
It rains on you and me.

vii. Rich Man, Poor Man (after Mother Goose [ 3 pages, circa 1' 20' ]

Rich man, poor man,
Beggar-man, thief.
Gentleman, Apothecary,
Indian Chief.

Soldier brave and
Sailor true.
Skilled physician,
Oxford blue.

Gouty nobleman,
Squire so hale,
Dashing airman,
Curate pale.

Tailor, drummer and
Stealer of beef,
One knows joy
And one knows grief.

Lady, Lady, on the seashore
You have children,
One to four.
O Lady, dear Lady,
You've kids by the score.
The eldest is --
Why, he's twenty-four!

You ought to marry a...

Rich man, poor man,
Beggar-man, thief.
Gentleman, Apothecary,
Indian Chief.

Soldier brave and
Sailor true.
Skilled physician,
Oxford blue.

Gouty nobleman,
Squire so hale,
Dashing airman,
Curate pale.

Tailor, drummer and
Stealer of beef,
One knows joy
And one knows grief.

viii. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (Child's bedtime prayer - 18th century)  [ 2 pages, 2' 10" ]

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Guard me while I sleep tonight;
And wake me safe at dawn's first light,
For now I lay me down to sleep.
Dear Lord, it's you my soul doth keep.

God, bless out Mum,
Bless Dad too.
God help me to be true to you.

 

Total cycle  [ 21 pages, circa 15' 50" ]


From a 1901 Mother Goose front cover

 

As to nursery rhymes and other forms of poetical nonsense, it is always a joy to discover the charms of the genre. G. K. Chesterton writes, "For there are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes or other normal amusements of mankind." (Illustrated London News on October 15, 1921) Opposed to the normal amusements of mankind, these nursery rhymes are meant as a splash of joy amidst the flood of those "normal amusements."

 

 

The first of the songs is wholly a matter of a demanding enthusiasm to get one with life, after a moment of "repair."

 

 

 

 

The darker side of nursery rhymes is that they instruct in the negative as well as the positive, to tell us early on of loss alongside triumph, pain alongside joy. The little pain of temporary separation, this rhyme informs, is rewarded by the knowledge that such a pain of separation is explained by love.

 

 

Among the many children's tales which we gathered together as "Mother Goose," and those whose authors and roots are obscure, Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses is unusual. I had this book as a child, and from it enjoyed many wonderful yet supposedly childish things which I then "put away," only to rediscover.

 

 

The up tempo "Rich man, poor man" rushes ahead with an itemization of potential husbands for the lady in question, as this rhyme teaches what choices life will bring in the future -- for each little girl.

 

 

 

With Julia Carney's 1845 "Little Drops of Water" and the well-known 18th century bedtime prayer, "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," which ends this cheerful cycle, these texts and the songs which capture them are a reminder of the sweetness of life. May we retain some child-like vision of the good, which is too often drown out in the roar of negativity which clutters up the adult world with far too much folly.

 

Richard Loring

 

Richard Loring, songwriter, and one of his several collaborators, Alan Hood, lyricist, created a cycle of songs based on nursery rhymes. The manuscripts were sketched in incomplete lead sheet form -- melodies and some chord symbols. Richard had given me copies of them. After Alan's death and as a gift for my friend Richard, I had some years ago composed complete piano accompaniments adding harmonic richness and some metrical changes for these nursery rhyme melodies, which had the first sentences of the various children's rhymes and then additional personal lyrics by Hood as the texts. They were essentially "love" rhymes in gentle and appreciative parody of the Ur-texts.

 

With Richard's failing health in later years, he was unable to give me permission to publish his melodies and Alan's lyrics with my settings, and with his death of last year from cancer that permission is no longer possible. Therefore, I have adapted the piano settings which I created, stripping away Richard's and Alan' work and adding new melody lines and gestures, freely using the Ur-texts from Mother Goose, A Child's Garden of Verses and a traditional 18th century nighttime prayer, now without the original melodies and lyrics by Loring and Hood. As these settings were inspired by Richard, I respectfully dedicate the cycle to his memory.

 

The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.

 

Nursery Rhymes and Children's Prayers