Simpkin

simpkin.jpg

It’s been cold. A surprise early cold snap. SNOW level cold!

Admittedly not much snow. The lightest dusting. But legit SNOW. And for an Aussie girl, that’s pretty exciting indeed.

Except we weren’t prepared and hadn’t bought winter clothes, so I spent a few days inside, next to the heater.

One of my composing projects for Nashville is to rework the setting of Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor Of Glousester I wrote a few years back. It’s part story with a spoken narrator, and part musical, with a choir, soloists and string accompaniment. I am happy with the vocal and choral parts. The musical themes come from folk tunes from that part of England. After our first public performance, an audience member was in tears because as she said, “you used the songs from the West Country. These are my songs!”
I used Beatrix Potter’s text, abridged and in some cases slightly re-arranged to suit lyrics. But I wanted to keep the charming poetry and bucolic-whimsy of her authentic text. This means Simpkin is not verbal. But he is very important - I suspect Simpkin is the main character. He certainly undergoes a hero’s journey of behaving badly, then feeling terrible remorse, leading to renounciation and renewal/reward.
So it’s important he has his I AM/I WANT song. All Potter says to introduce Simpkin is “The tailor lived alone with his cat Simpkin; and he also was fond of mice, though he gave them no satin for coats!” In the original version of my show, Simpkin chased a mouse and hid it in a teapot, to be clear to the young people in the audience what Simpkin’s fondness for mice entailed. This was done in silence. During the cold snap, I wrote a narration for the strings to accompany this action. Because Simpkin starts his journey as somewhat of a villian, I wanted an uneasy, dissonant sound which is quite different from how I normally write for singers! This first video is the original folk song, the hilarious drinking song The Barley Mow, which I’ve used for Simpkin’s theme in the work.

 

Isn’t that marvelous?
Here’s what I’ve done with it for this scene. Can you hear the original theme in there still?