"If I sing a word for every note that J.S. Bach wrote in his Cello Prelude in G Major almost 300 years ago..."
. . . and sing the Prelude is exactly what I do within Angels In The Engine Room. It's not an entirely unrelated act for a cellist to sing what he's expected to play. Every note Bach wrote is represented by bow, by pluck, or by voice. But here's where seemingly unrelated acts become inextricably linked . . .
Scroll down to read every word sung to Bach's
Cello Suite in G Major.
~ ~ ~
Angels In The Engine Room is the musical theater piece I've been developing since 2015. The most recent performances were at the Bach Cello Suites Festival at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and at PAPER, STRING, REVOLT in Northampton, Mass.
Why the juggling ball?
The answer is WHIRLED.
Angels in the Engine Room
Sung to the tune of some of the Suite in G Major by JS Bach
(All Suite notes are sung, bowed, or plucked.)
If I sing a word for every note that J.S. Bach wrote
in his Cello Prelude in G Major almost 300 years ago,
that would be a lot of syllables to sing, especially for me,
not because I’m not a singer but because I am a cellist.
As a cellist I should know because I play the repertoire
that lives within the Universe of “Thank you Jesus I’m a cellist”.
Not that everyone’s so jealous, take for instance, bluebirds, who can
fly over the rainbow. Don’t you wonder how they do so?
Maybe bluebirds transcend rainbows
when they take themselves so lightly
that they levitate,
like Angels in the Engine Room,
speak of the Devil…
There! I swear I see an Angel…
There! She’s wearing overalls,
her wings tucked in discreetly,
this is something else, completely
from the thrust of our discussion.
Have I suffered a concussion?
Or perhaps this is your brain on cello music
sung by a percussionist.
It’s true, when I was young,
my hands made everything a drum,
they still seek out the resonance
of everything that sound comes from,
and that’s exactly how it feels
to draw a bow across a string,
it’s totally amazing how the hands
can set a string to ringing.
Come to think of it, I don’t believe that Angels
use their hands at all.
That’s kind of creepy.
Why am I feeling so sleepy?
Maybe we should change the subject now
before I get too weepy.
Oh God… what the Hell are You doing here?
Oh no, I can’t do that right now.
I’m in the middle of a show.
Besides I’m up here with the cello
and I really should be playing
something Classical, or not,
I’m overwrought, I’m in too deep,
I took the leap
and I know what you want from me,
it’s all that complicated, cogitative,
precognitive pablum you’ve been
nagging me to share with these good people,
when they don’t deserve to suffer my relationship with you.
Please forgive me for my sin - ging.
It’s my only way of guaranteeing
that I’ll bridge the great divide
between the parts of me who seek control,
or maybe I should say,
"command" of my performances.
You’d think that, as the cellist,
I’m the one who calls the shots up here.
Of course I play my part, I play the notes.
I move my fingers and the bow.
I went to college and conservatory,
studied with some master teachers,
steeped myself in chamber music,
toiled in the symphonies,
and came out with a fist full of degrees
of comprehension of the challenge now before me
which is: How shall I explain to you
exactly why the ocean’s near the shore!
Pay no attention to that Angel behind the engine room door.
I know it’s Bach you want to hear,
so Bach I’ll play, and nothing more,
except perhaps some rearrangements of my own,
but then, who’s keeping score?
Okay, so we've had 300 odd years to celebrate,
though it is said the Suites were not considered
Art Music till recently.
Hark, who made that sound?
No candy wrappers in the hall if you please!
Put that away, or the Security Police
will escort you from the building, out into the street.
Such measures sound extreme but under contract
we’re obliged to follow gobs of protocols.
You have no frigging idea.
Now where were we?
Oh yes, The ALLEMANDE in progress.
Troubles melt like lemon drops,
away above the chimney tops,
to where Bach plops us into
yet another babblabling Baruch
that flops us on our backs,
beholding scenic overlooks
that top out as if we could hear
the forest for the trees
high-fiving bluebirds in the breeze.
Let’s give it all away while there’s still time to save the day
because I love you and I don’t want this to end!
There’s nothing in the contract that says
Cellists may not challenge blind adherence to a trend.
Because the pandemic blew all our notes away
and changed the climate of the characters we play,
the Great Unknown on the horizon opens up
to nearly swallow whole our barely half-filled cup
with so many sips left to sup.
Oh Mama, our Mama, and Papa too!
How your families escaped the war and violence thrust upon them.
You two fell in love while making chamber music hand in glove,
and as we came along you raised us upward
to this very point of view that transcends rainbows.
HOME… there’s no place like home.
Minuet, how accomplished are your dancers,
turned ‘round right within this gilded cage?
Could it be that the challenge now before us
is to bow and bend when Angels RAGE?
This fine sphere we’re all dancing on the skin of
has as much skin in the game as mortals do.
Since each step we take has global consequences,
here’s what I propose we do:
Roll up our dungarees, lets get our feet wet, mind the gaps,
while letting friends untie the wings behind our backs!
This ball game I’ve discovered,
puzzle piece recovered
300 odd years from now!
Lyrics © 2020 Stephen Katz