Mother Goose’s Melody

Commissioned by the Vancouver Chamber Choir in 2013.

Duration approximately 6’00.

I’m enormously proud of this piece as it manages to capture so many things I love about music making and put it all in one place: the opening movement is a display of the grotesque, the middle movement has comedy flair (And even a little bit of theater), and the closing movement is full of energetic syncopation with just a touch of sensuality.

It is not for the faint of heart, the commissioning director expressed in despair, when I showed him the first few pages, “With the first three notes you’ve managed to make the piece only achievable by two choirs in the country!”


Mother Goose’s Melody is comprised of three short movements that are each a setting of a different nursery rhyme:

Ring Around The Rosie

What Are Boys and Girls Made Of?

Clap Your Hands.

Ring Around the Rosie is the opening movement and is a grotesque setting of the popular rhyme:

Ring around the rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down.

According to urban legend, ring around the rosie is said to be about the plague. Folklorists reject the idea, but a rosy rash was said to be a symptom of the disease and a “pocket full of posies” was a way to ward off the smell associated with it.

The second movement gives me a chance to flex my comedic muscles. I enlisted a friend of mine, Krista Rice, to help me write the text. It’s a robust paraphrase of the popular rhyme, “What Are Boys And Girls Made Of?”

Girls are made of shins and chins, of shins and chins up to their grins.
Boys are made of teeth and feet, with teeth and feet they walk and eat.
Girls are fleck with mildew, Boys with rotten cashew.

Girls are made of prickly brine and turpentine and rancid lime,
Odorous bile left out a while and plaguey parts with spazztic starts and boiled tarts of cankerous warts!

That’s not what Girls are made of!

Boys are made of snotty noses, smelly shorts, and toes-es,
Girls are fit with tooth and nail, on tooth and nail they wail!
Boys all smell like tree sap, Girls all reek of burlap.

Boys are made of scabby knees, they feel like slime and smell like cheese,
Flowering pus and gangrenous faces flayed with violent games they play to wound and maim!

That’s not what Boys are made of!

She is made of yellow snow,
He is made of moldy roe,

She is made of compost,
He is made of sweaty hippo (decomposed),

That’s what Boys and Girls are made of!

And the third movement is a barn burner setting of, “Clap Your Hands”.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you’re happy and you know it, And you really want to show it,
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.