The Jabberwocky

Excerpt: The Virginia Glee Club, conducted by Frank Albinder


Instrumentation: TTBB choir
Duration: 5:45
Commission: Virginia Glee Club at the University of Virginia
Premiere: 4/1/06
Virginia Glee Club, Frank Albinder, Conductor
Old Cabell Auditorium, University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

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Program Note:
When the University of Virginia Glee Club approached me about commissioning a piece, I chose Lewis Carroll’s delightful poem, “Jabberwocky.” In this time of trauma, I was drawn to the metaphorical slaying of the dragon. “Jabberwocky” is an optimistic poem, beautifully veiled, with a perfect marriage of form and sound. While many of us love this poem and know it by heart, fewer are aware that Carroll’s poem is the source of words, such as “chortle,” that have become part of our language. In the setting of the text, I have tried to capture something of the whimsy of the original. The chorus accompanies itself with interludes of percussive nonsense syllables, rolled tongue roars, and whistles. The Jabberwocky was commissioned by and is dedicated to the Virginia Glee Club and its conductor Frank Albinder. –JS

Press Quote:
“The Jabberwocky, by Judith Shatin, English text, ECS, 6977, TTBB a cappella. This fanciful, creative work is brilliantly conceived and constructed to the famous poem by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898). The piece opens with appropriate nonsense syllables on fast rhythms that must be sung with extreme accuracy. Humor is extremely important as you work to create an effective performance. Changing meters dominate and help with the proper text versification. The text painting is driven by well-conceived rhythms, melodies, and harmonies. Collectively they build a unified conception of tremendous poetic and musical expression. The harmonies are brilliant but approachable. A perfect choice for the ending of a concert, this is a great addition to the men’s choral repertory. Difficulty rating 4.” —Choral Newsletter~Winter 2008-09, by Mari Staltz

by Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
he frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Read the backstory of The Jabberwocky

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