Hi, there. Prof. Schickele here, and I just want to tell you how perturbed I was when P.D.Q. Bach’s masterpiece Blaues Gras (the “Bluegrass Cantata”) was reissued on CD without the English translation of the text being included in the booklet: Very. The whole point of the text, scholarly speaking, that is, is showing that many things we think of as modern American idioms were actually in use in southwestern Germany at the beginning of the 19th Century. Sorry about that. It was on the back of the LP jacket, but, like atheists, never made it into the next world. When I myself am involved in a performance of this piece, I always read the text in English to the audience before the piece starts, and I recommend that procedure to anyone presenting the work live. If you’re listening to the recording, you might want to follow along while experiencing the work aurally.
Interesting necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention story: My then booking agent, Harold Shaw, was planning on offering a tour package to Germans and Japanese, who, he said, tend to like both jazz and classical music. So the tour was going to include tickets to a Vladimir Horowitz concert in New York and a trip to New Orleans for some club-crawling; he asked me if I liked the idea of making one of the annual December P.D.Q. Bach concerts another port of call. He warned me that it might mean that a sizable percentage of the audience would not be English-speaking (at least not English-speaking enough to understand all the nuances of American slang), so they might not be able to keep up with my professorial introductions. The Japanese language was prohibitively daunting, but I decided that this would be a good opportunity to try and discover a P.D.Q. Bach vocal work in the original German. The tour ended up falling through, but one of the minimeister’s most beloved works thereby came to light. Sic transit gloria mundi, or something like that.
Cantata: “Blaues Gras” (“Bluegrass” Cantata)
Recitative and Aria: Blaues Gras
Bass: Blue grass, shining on me;
Nothing but blue grass do I see.
Blue grass—I say blue grass and green sky—that’s right;
Tell me, where the hell am I?
Tell me please, please tell me.
Shave and a haircut, two please.
Tenor: 0 confuséd boy, have no fear;
I bring you glad tidings.
Have courage! I am your fairy Kentucky Colonel.
Aria: Du bist im Land
Tenor:You are in the land of beautiful horses;
0 you lucky child, you are in heaven,
That’s for damn sure.
My friend, I’ve seen the world,
Every city and every harbor; .
God practiced on the rest of the world,
And then he made Kentucky.
Tenor:0 confuséd boy, you poor little mouse!
Why do you look so sad?
Bass: Have pity on me:
I have the blues, the homesick blues;
I have the blues, the homesick blues;
I want to see Savannah once again.
And now back home I’m a-goin’.
Duet: Ich Sehe
Tenor: I see that you’re a real Georgia cracker.
Bass: You see that I’m a real Georgia cracker.
Tenor & Bass: We see, see we.
Tenor: I see that to go back home you hanker.
Bass: That’s right, I hanker.
Tenor & Bass: Hanker, hanker, hanker, hanker, hanker, hanker,
Bass: Hanker something terrible.
Tenor: So get lost; who needs you?
Take a trip!
Too many like you here already.Tenor & Bass: Too many like you here already.
Chorale: Ich gehe am Krüppel Bach hinauf
Chorus: I go, I go up Cripple Creek.
Bass: Go I now up Cripple Creek.
Tenor & Bass: Go I now up Cripple Creek.
Duet: Sag’ mir
Tenor: Tell me, is this creek very deep?
Bass: Can’t be; one of my ducks forded it this morning.
Mister, do you want us to build your house
from the bottom up or from the top down?Tenor: Well, from the bottom up, naturally!
Bass: Consarn it! We have to tear it down
and start all over again.Soldier: Very interesting, but stupid!
Bass: ’Til we meet again.
Tenor: May we never meet again.
Tenor & Bass: I’ll say Amen to that.
That’s a big ten-four, good buddy.
Lyrics copyright © 1978 Theodore Presser Company and are used with the permission of Theodore Presser Company. Any other copying by other parties for other uses is not authorized.