Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



9.1 Web Sites
9.2 A Quiz
9.3 Pirated Beethoven Etc.?
9.3.1 Bizarre Sound
9.4 Television snips etc.
9.4.1 Which Barrymore?
9.4.2 Poor Wandering Secombe
9.4.3 The Smothers Brothers
9.4.4 Jeopardy
9.5 Duffey's Quips & Quibbles
9.5.1 First Set!
9.5.2 Oops!
9.5.3 Second Set!
9.5.4 Success has crowned

9.1 Web Sites

Steve Sullivan wrote: The Web Sites that I know of for The Pirates of Penzance are:

Does anybody know of any others?

9.2 A Quiz

Neil Ellenoff asked:

What is the connection between "The Pirates of Penzance "and Cole Porter's "Out of this World"?

Arthur Robinson replied: The one that occurs to me first is the song "Climb up the mountain" referring to Mount Olympus (which, of course, was the rocky mountain originally referred to in "Climbing over rocky mountain" in 1871). Another: is the opening song of Porter's Out of this World contains the phrase "Brek-ek-ek-ek coax," which is straight from "the croaking chorus of the Frogs of Aristophanes." Given time I can probably think of more examples (e.g., both have patter songs), but which is the "right" answer? Enquiring minds want to know. Neil Ellenoff replied: You don't need anymore, that's it !

Henry A. Stephens Jr. asked: Now the next question: I assume the speaker is stuttering, so what is a Brek coax? Arthur Robinson replied: "Brek-ek-ek-ek co-ax co-ax" (co-ax is two syllables) is what the frogs sing in Aristophanes' comedy FROGS, ca. 405 BC (I should have checked the Greek before writing this, but I think this is right).Apparently Greek frogs, instead of saying "Ribbet ribbet," croak this way. Greek frogs, of course, croak in the Greek alphabet, which I can't do on e-mail (I transliterated the above).

Other Fun Frog Facts: "Brek-ek-ek-ek co-ax" etc. apparently became the chant (or cheer?) for the Yale rowing (?) team (or so I was told by a Yale graduate; if I've got this wrong, I'm sure a Yale grad on Savoynet will correct me). Cole Porter was a Yale student (also Harvard, I believe), which is probably why he incorporated this into his song in Out of this World.

Also, when Burt Shevelove (also a Yale grad, I believe) and Stephen Sondheim adapted Aristophanes' Frogs for a performance in the Yale swimming pool in 1974, I assume part of the joke was that this chant was familiar to Yale students; the croaking chorus was sung while Charon was rowing Dionysus across the pool. (If anyone is interested in how Sondheim translated "Brek-ek-ek-ex co-ax co-ax," I believe it was "Brek-ek-ek-ek co-ax co-ax.")

The Shevelove-Sondheim Frogs adaptation has been published, but I believe only a couple of songs have been recorded. If anyone knows of a fuller version, I'd be interested in hearing of it!

9.3 Pirated Beethoven Etc.?

Neil Midkiff wrote: Whenever musical theatre is discussed, the topic of "Which came first, the words or music?" is an important subject of analysis. Research has proved that Gilbert's self-deprecating anecdotes about his musical knowledge give a wrong idea of his skills. Though he claimed "I only know two tunes: one is 'God Save the Queen' and the other isn't", Gilbert stayed up until 3 a.m. the night before the New York premiere of Pirates, working alongside Sullivan and Alfred Cellier, helping to copy out the orchestra parts for the overture--hardly a task for a musical illiterate. It is known that Gilbert occasionally gave useful suggestions to Sullivan as to the musical setting of his lyrics.

In this light, we embarked at Stanford on a major project of computer-assisted rhythmic and metrical analysis of Gilbert's lyrics to ascertain the extent to which Gilbert employed existing tunes as a model for his lyric writing. The details of the analytical methods we used and the data processing procedures employed will be addressed in another paper at a different forum. We present here our reconstruction of Gilbert's original models for the melodic setting of some of his lyrics for The Pirates of Penzance. I think that, after hearing these, you'll agree with us that the evidence is both academically and artistically compelling.

Pour, Oh Pour, to the tune of Beethoven's 9th Symphony/Ode to Joy (Key of D)(start F#)

Pour, O pour the pirate sherry;
Fill, O fill the pirate glass;
And, to make us more than merry
Let the pirate bumper pass.
For today our pirate 'prentice
Rises from indentures freed;
Strong his arm, and keen his scent is
He's a pirate now indeed!

Climbing over Rocky Mountain to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Bb, start low Bb) [DROPPING THE LAST SYLLABLE OF THE LAST WORD OF EACH LINE]

Climbing over rocky mount,
Skipping rivulet and fount,
(repeat tune of first line:) Passing where the willows quiv,
By the ever rolling riv
Threading long and leafy maze
Dotted with unnumbered dais'
Scaling rough and rugged pass,
Climb the hardy little lass.

Poor Wandering One to the tune of New, York, New York (Eb)

Poor wandering one! [Start spreading...]
Though-thou-hast surely strayed, [I'm leaving...]
Take heart of grace, [I want...]
Thy steps retrace, [ a part...]
Poor wand'ring one! [New York...]
If such poor "love" as mine [..."make"...]
Can help thee "find" true peace [..."anywhere]
of mind, why, "take" it, it is thine!

Hail Poetry to the tune of Yankee Doodle (Eb, start low Bb pickup on

Hail, Thou, and Hail; Eb pickup on You-may)

Hail, Poetry, thou heav'n-born maid!
Thou gildest e'en the pirate's trade.
Hail, flowing fount of sentiment!
All hail, divine emollient!
You-may go, for you're at liberty, our pirate rules protect you,
And honorary members of our band we do elect you!

When the Foeman to the tune of Do-Re-Mi (Do, a deer) (C)

When the foeman bares his steel,
We uncomfortable feel,
And we find the wisest thing,
Is to slap our chests and sing,
For when threatened with emeutes,
And your heart is in your boots,
There is nothing brings it round
Like the trumpet's martial sound--

Come, friends, who plough the sea, to the tune of The Anvil Chorus (C)

Come, friends, who plough the sea,
Truce to navigation,
Let's vary piracee
With some burglaration!

Tormented by the anguish dread to the tune of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (E minor)

Tormented with the anguish dread
Of falsehood unatoned,
I lay upon my sleepless bed,
And tossed and turned and groaned.
The man who finds his conscience ache
No peace at all enjoys;
And as "I" lay in bed awake,
I thought I heard a noise,
I thought I heard a noise.

Derrick McClure wrote: It would be a lot of fun singing the opening chorus of Pirates to the big tune from Beethoven's Ninth, but the fact that it's possible is not so surprising: after all, the metrical pattern on which both Gilbert and Schiller happened to hit is a very straightforward one.

9.3.1 Bizarre Sound

Andrew Crowther replied: Thanks for cheering up the day! Coincidentally, last Saturday's edition of the radio panel game "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" included the bizarre sound of Tim Brooke-Taylor singing "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls to the tune of the Major-General's song from "Pirates". Clear evidence of Gilbert's extraordinary sense of musicality....

9.4 Television snips etc.

9.4.1 Which Barrymore?

Clive Woods wrote: Did anyone else see last Saturday's "Barrymore" programme on UK ITV at 7.00 p.m.? [The programme appears to be a magazine of assorted variety acts and chat.] I am not a regular viewer but I happened to see a trailer for a sequence of excerpts from "The Mikado" performed by "The Savoy Singers". In the programme the excerpts consisted of, in order, the first part of Ko-Ko's entrance, the Little List (updated, with Barrymore himself playing Ko-Ko), and the "Gentlemen of Japan" leading into Finale Act 2. The staging I would describe as "typical TV variety show style", with the chorus in kimonos and a stylised Japanese setting. The music was heavily arranged, but was executed to a reasonable standard. I suppose we should be grateful for any efforts to bring G&S to a popular audience.

Chris Webster replied: About 3-4 years ago the Barrymore show featured the Major-General's song as the big musical item to end the show. Barrymore played MGS and there was also a full supporting chorus. I can't remember too much about this. Barrymore didn't play it totally straight he never does with anything, there is always a element of 'messing about' in whatever he does but he don't think he did anything too untoward. He just had a bit of fun with the piece. Probably the sort of thing that I wouldn't approve of if he was playing in a full production, but fine in the context in which it was performed. I also remember a recent repeat on a satellite TV of Bless This House in which Sid James was roped into a production of Pirates when the chap playing MGS had some sort of accident and Sid stepped in to mime the song while the original actor sang offstage. The only bit of Pirates that was seen in this was a few seconds of the patter song as the final scene, but I think there were some scenes earlier in the sitcom showing rehearsals.

Michael Walters wrote: I read this and thought, but Lionel Barrymore's been dead for years! Then the penny dropped. I presume you mean MICHAEL Barrymore?

9.4.2 Poor Wandering Secombe

Andrew Crowther wrote: I'm suddenly reminded, by talk of Michael Barrymore's variety antics, of an edition of "Highway" a British religious programme hosted by ex-Goon Harry Secombe. He likes to treat us to the not-so-occasional song, and that week he decided to give us "Poor Wandering One" straight between the eyes. As a solo. It amused me no end to hear him warbling, dead serious and obviously not thinking about the words:

"Take heart, no danger lowers,
Take any heart but ours,
Take heart, fair days will shine,
Take any heart, take mine."
All rather disturbingly split-personality, really.

9.4.3 The Smothers Brothers

Philip Sternenberg asked: Does anyone besides me remember a particular Smothers Brothers routine from the Seventies? They would start with a straightforward if listless rendition of "Poor Wand'ring One," transposed downward, of course. At the point where the cadenzas started, they would start going a bit overboard with them to the point where it would be a verbal/instrumental duel. Then a previously unseen banjo player would suddenly be spotlighted as he joined in with the duel, which by now was far removed from G&S. Tom and the banjo player would then begin a spirited rendition of "Duelling Banjos." At its conclusion, after wild and deserved applause from the audience, Dick would immediately reprise his languid "Poor Wand'ring One," now funny because of the juxtaposition. The last time I saw this was on HBO at least 20 years ago. I made a poor audiotape of it (it predated VCRs) for which I no longer have the working equipment to play it back. I'd be interested in knowing whether it was ever included on a Smothers Brothers album, although part of the routine makes no sense with audio only.

9.4.4 Jeopardy

Frances Yasprica wrote: As SavoyNet's resident JEOPARDY maven, I was tickled today to see the category "Operettas". Couldn't help wishing it had come up when I was on. Especially when the Daily Double turned up; I would have bet the wad. It was an audio, so I can't duplicate the music, but I think you'll all figure this one out. This 1879 operetta's title referred to this group of characters. Need any more hints? Jerry Bunge replied: No, and what an unfair advantage you gave to us in later time zones: I was able to amaze a friend by predicting the answer even before the question appeared!! (And that was before I realized that you listed the answer at the bottom of your message). Ahhh the joys of Savoynet. Steve Lichtenstein replied: Thanks Jerry for pointing that out. I hadn't noticed the end of letter, and didn't even realize it was our very own former Jeopardy champion, Frances Yasprica, who had posted it!

And Gordon Pascoe wrote: Tonight's Jeopardy had an operetta section. Contestants had to name, among others: Die Fledermaus, The Student Prince, Sousa, and (as a sound clue) know that "Poor Wnd'ring One" came from The Pirates of Penzance. (Linda Ronstadt's Papp version was played). The contestant aced it! (except Sousa!). [This gave rise to a lively thread - see section 3.5.11]

9.5 Duffey's Quips & Quibbles

9.5.1 First Set!

David Duffey offered the following Cryptic Clues based on Pirates:

  1. Their prayers about to be answered with a drink. (6 6)
  2. Initially make a big effort, lad, to find the heroine. (5)
  3. Pirates foiled by harpoon going astray. (5 3)
  4. Make reality hop about in unaccompanied chorus. (4 6).

Private replies please.

Philip Sternenberg replied with great alacrity:

1. Their prayers about to be answered with a drink. (6 6)


2. Initially make a big effort, lad, to find the heroine. (5)

MABEL (acronym of Make A Big Effort, Lad)

3. Pirates foiled by harpoon going astray. (5 3)

Ods bobs, David! You make these things hard enough without having to resort to incorrect letter counts! :-) If you really meant (6 3), then ORPHAN BOY (anagram of BY HARPOON).

4. Make reality hop about in unaccompanied chorus. (4 6)


David Duffey replied oblivious: Sorry Philip. All correct, well done, and the first one in.

9.5.2 Oops!

Philip Sternenberg later wrote: I meant to send my solutions to David privately, and I just realized my mistake a few minutes ago.

9.5.3 Second Set!

David Duffey replied: I did not notice that it was a public posting. THEREFORE (and I promise they are all from Pirates):

a) Indicate madly, madly, these stuffs. (4,3,6)
b) Using the heads, reach under the hat for an ayah. (4)
c) It's a mix-up to let comrades rent the seat. (9,6)
d) Tree by itself? (4,5)
e) Ten early angels go round the field officer. (7,7)
f) Heard there every day? Never in Pirates, although correctly named. (7,8,5)

9.5.4 Success has crowned

David Duffey wrote: Congratulations to Philip, Sara and Don who did exceptionally well at the Pirates cryptics. Herewith the answers:

a) Indicate madly, madly, these stuffs. (4,3,6) LACE AND DIMITY (anagram of "indicate madly": stuff = any woven material).
b) Using the heads, reach under the hat for an ayah. (4) RUTH (acrostic of "Reach Under The Hat: ayah = nursemaid).
c) It's a mix-up to let comrades rent the seat. (9,6) TREMORDEN CASTLE (anagram of "let comrades rent the": seat = family home).
d) Tree by itself? (4,5) PINE ALONE.
e) Ten early angels go round the field officer. (7,7) GENERAL STANLEY (anagram of "ten early angels": field officer = army rank above colonel).
f) Heard there every day? Never in Pirates, although correctly named. (7,8,5) CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.

In fact NOBODY got the answer to f), which shows a failure on the part of the setter rather than the solvers. The question was probably culturally biased, as a passing knowledge of the English criminal justice system is required. Every day a voice was heard at the "ancient Bailey" (TbyJ), i.e. The Old Bailey (of Rumpole fame). The Old Bailey is in fact the nickname of an establishement properly called the CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.


Page created 30 April 1998