THIS MONTH’S PARODY (June) Men of Harlech

MEN OF HARLECH Music c.1794, Words: various versions.   Some say the words refer to the siege of Harlech Castle which lasted from 1461 to 1486 – the longest in British history; others say it refers to an earlier shorter siege of the Castle in 1408. Anyway, lyrics were added some four decades after the…

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THIS MONTH’S PARODY (May) How to get on in society by Sir John Betjeman

How To Get On In Society by Sir John Betjeman (1958) This delicious mockery of the nouveau-riche British middle-class is spot on. Betjeman has, it seems, made a note of all the pretentious vocabulary he has ever heard used by the likes of Mrs Bouquet and put them into the mouth of a (presumably) female…

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THIS MONTH’S PARODY (April) Mary had a little lamb

MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB Surprisingly, perhaps, this nursery rhyme is of American origin and based on a true story. Mary Sawyer was a schoolgirl in Sterling, Massachusetts, and took her pet lamb with her to school. The event caused some consternation and the story was picked up by a Sarah Hale, put into verse and…

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THIS MONTH’S PARODY (March) The Pigtail of Li-Fang-Fu

THE PIGTAIL OF LI-FANG-FU Sax Rohmer (1919) Sax Rohmer was the pen-name of Birmingham-born writer Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward (1883-1959), a prolific novelist most remembered for his series of novels featuring the master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu. Rohmer wrote both text and music for this ‘Musical Monologue’ in 1919 with the piano part transcribed by the composer T.W.…

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THIS MONTH’S PARODY (February) Eton Boating Song

 The words of the Eton Boating Song were written by a master, William Johnson, at Torquay over Christmas 1862 for the school’s famous Fourth of June celebrations in 1863, an annual holiday with a Parade of Boats marking the birthday of King George 111, Eton’s greatest patron. The music was composed by Old Etonian Captain Algernon Drummond…

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THIS MONTH’S PARODY (January) Oh dear, what can the matter be?

OH DEAR! WHAT CAN THE MATTER BE? Trad. Nursery Rhyme (1780s) O dear, what can the matter be? O dear, what can the matter be? O dear, what can the matter be? Johnny’s so long at the fair. He promised he’d bring me a bunch of blue ribbons. He promised he’d bring me a bunch…

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THIS MONTH’S PARODY (December) Christina’s Lament

CHRISTINA’S LAMENT is a hilariously bad song by Mrs Walter Creyke, the pen name of one Diane Chasseresse who seems to be best known for her 1890 publication Sporting Sketches. The lyrics were penned in 1909 to be sung to the tune of Dvořák’s Humoresque, Op.101 No.7. But we must be grateful to her, for it…

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THIS MONTH’S PARODY (November) You’re the Top

YOU’RE THE TOP Cole Porter The best known song from the 1934 musical Anything Goes, ‘You’re the Top’ comes from Act 1 and is about a man and a woman (Billy and Reno) taking turns at complimenting each other. It inspired hundreds of parodies, most of them ribald. Here are just two following the Porter original (which,…

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THIS MONTH’S PARODY (October) The Church’s One Foundation

HYMNS provide an endless source of parodies, either by imitating the verse structure or by singing alternative words to the hymn’s familiar music. Here are examples of both. Samuel Stone (1839-1900) wrote the original hymn in 1866 as a counterblast to a certain Bishop Colenso and the way he had explained the Old Testament to…

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THIS MONTH’S PARODY (September) I’ve Got a Little List

The Mikado, most popular of all The Savoy Operas, opened for business at the Savoy Theatre, London, on 14 March 1885. In Act 1, Ko-Ko, The Lord High Executioner of Titipu, declares that ‘there will be no difficulty in finding plenty of people whose loss will be a distinct gain to society at large’. He then sings his famous…

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