Each season, Sir Andrew throws a mid-winter party for the orchestra and music staff to celebrate our collaboration. It’s a chance to mingle over delicious food, drink toasts of appreciation, and this year to mark the 30th anniversary of Sir Andrew’s association with the Lyric. A tradition has developed that the orchestra provide the entertainment.
This year violinist Heather Wittels wrote a brilliant reduction of the plot of “Die Walkure” set to the music of George Gershwin, entitled “I’ve got Plenty of Nothung”, sung by violist Frank Babbitt with bassoonist Preman Tilson at the keyboard.
As you may remember, the plot of Die Walkure revolves around two lovers, Seigmund and Seiglinde, who find each other in spite of the fact that she is married to Hundig, and that they are in fact twins…and the sword Nothung is at the center of it all.
Heather’s version began:
Oh, I got plenty of Nothungand
Nothung’s plenty for me
My name is Siegmund, but I go by Wehwalt
Cause I got such misery.
Oh, Hunding’s got plenty o plenty,
He’s got a sword in a tree,
'Fraid some guy’s going steal his wife
She’s been making eyes at me …
Wait and see!
Brunnhilde tells Seigmund that he will die in battle, but then changes her mind…
Oh, Brunnhilde tells me that Nothung
Can’t win in a fair fight
She sells me on Vahalla
But I tell that gal-that-I
gotta stay with my wife …
See, we’d already made Siegfried
Brunnhilde’s future lover,
she heard our need
and rode her steed
to defend his father and mother … who are sister and brother.
“I wrote the last stanza for Lyric’s Siegmund, Brandon Jovanovitch, who got to go home after Act Two” said Wittels.
Oh, I had plenty of Nothung, and Nothung was plenty for me.
I had my sis, had my sword, don’t have to sing Act Three!
No use complaining, ha!
Had my sis! Had my sword!
Made my fee!
Next came Richard Strauss’ tone poem Till Eulenspeigel’s Merry Pranks, arranged for 12 instruments by bassoonist Preman Tilson. The excellent arrangement included an original narration featuring Sir Andrew as the hero of the tale complete with a biographical story line, music critics as his nemeses, and a final punishment to eternally conduct The Merry Widow.
This arrangement has had a gestation period of about 15 years, said Tilson. “When I was a member of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra I was involved in many children’s concerts and began to think of cost effective ways for smaller groups that represented all the sections of the orchestra to perform. I worked on this arrangement off and on for many years, scribbling my ideas in a score of the piece and eventually creating individual parts. It was a huge job! Sir Andrew’s party was the inspiration to finally get it performed.”
Tilson was joined by colleagues John Macfarlane and Heather Wittels, violins, Terri Van Valkinburgh, viola, Walter Preucil, cello, Andrew Anderson, bass, Judith Kulb, oboe, Alyce Johnson, flute and piccolo, Susan Warner, clarinet, Neil Kimel, horn, William Denton, trumpet, Jeremy Moeller, trombone, Andrew Smith, tuba and Lewis Kirk, narrator.