Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the snarks!

The above drawing from Fit the Sixth, the Barrister’s Dream, is suffused with the gentle melody of protracted litigation, the dream of every musically-inclined barrister. Traditionally, this Fit of The Hunting of the Snark is read aloud to defendants and their small children by a suitably avuncular semi-sodden bailiff, accompanied by the jolly airs of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial By Jury as performed by the Minnesota Underwater Orchestra.

But we have a special treat for our readers today, all this talk of musical barristers is but a segue to a far more important and useful fact: the just-announced Chicago performances of Boojum!: nonsense, truth and Lewis Carroll, a musical by Martin Wesley-Smith and Peter Wesley-Smith. The Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard will be doing it Nov 18, 2010 to Dec 19, 2010, further details are available here.

We’ve reviewed Peter’s other Snarkian work earlier (and he still has copies available if you write him nicely) and I can assure all North American Snarkologists that this delightful piece is of the same high caliber and well worth the trip to Chicago. The musical’s post-colonic epithet of Nonsense, Truth and Lewis Carroll is a pretty fair summation of things, an intermingling of Snarkian and Alician themes with semi-comic relief provided by those two indefatigable fixtures of High Nonsense, Messers Dodgson and Carroll. Unlike Mike Batt’s Snark (a rather turgid affair redolent of Lewis Carroll in his brief arena-rock phase), the Wesley-Smith Bros. possess the good sense to keep things light, yet never mawkish. Both lyrics and scoring are subtle enough to let Carroll’s theatrical mojo work on its own, for both the Snark and the Alice books are deeply imbued with the ritual and structure of the theater and the musical builds upon that very well. And frankly, the lyrics are quite funny and the music is genuinely fun to listen to, all of it done without insulting your intelligence or even arousing the wrath of the genuinely devoted Carrollian.

CDs of the musical are available here and we have a sample track, Will We Return?, a rather melancholy setting of Carroll's explanation of the Snark's genesis. This should whet your appetite for more, so you can hear the creature quite plain, as our legal advisor has so judiciously put it.


  1. Talking about Snark music: My favourite is Arne Nordheim's "The Return of the Snark" (1987) for trombone and tape recorder. And there is a variation of that by NYNDK (2009): "The Hunting of the Snark".

  2. I have not heard the Nordheim piece, but the combination of trombone & tape recorder sounds very Snarkish … it makes one think, what other composers would be good to do a Snark?

    Obviously, Gilbert & Sullivan but also … perhaps Trevor Wishart? Maybe even Michael Nyman but only if he is under the mind control of The Residents!

    The Wesley-Smith version is very good, I think you would like it, Goetz, it has many layers of meaning and at the same time does not weight too heavy, in other words, hollow AND crisp!