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"fun" or "funny" pieces that work

I don't have much rep. or experience with programming that one "funny" piece on a given concert.  I get the serious, deep and meaningful pieces, I get the patriotic, the heartbreakers, the general audience pleasers.  I know in programming many advocate for the "laugh".  Any great resources, pieces or thoughts would be appreciated.
 
Thanks!
 
Lynne MacDonald, Springfield, MA
Replies (34): Threaded | Chronological
on June 9, 2011 6:29am
Consider Haugland's "Magazine Madrigals" (SATB) - three very short (each less than a minute) unaccompanied pieces that are easy to put together quickly. You can find a performance on YouTube. The last song, "Feeling Low," works especially well if done MUCH faster than the suggested tempo. 
on June 9, 2011 7:27am
Hi Lynne,
In general I'm with you. Although folks tell me I can be quite humorous in person, as a composer I probably even take myself and my pieces a little too seriously, and I do like a serious grownup program. HOWever, there is room for humor even there. Most will advise you that the safest place for it is in your encore, unless you have just done the Faure Requiem or something. But let us remember that even Shakespeare put comic relief scenes in the middle of his tragedies.
 
With that in mind, I offer a half-dozen options from my catalog, across the gamut of funny: mock-serious (parody), witty, happily funny, or hilarious:
 
The Garlic Blessing
SATB divisi / piano. 3'
Text by David Avshalomov
Witty, lively novelty on the wonders of garlic. Recurring sentimental chorale hook. One Obvious parody reference. Pungent ending.
 
The Chocolate Carol
SATB divisi / piano, opt. solo fl, 3'
Text by David/Randi Avshalomov
Humorous tonal Holiday novelty, slow intro, bouncy catchy chorus, mock operatic ending. Written for Pat Loeb’s Music Companie. (Also a Valentine’s Day version with more romantic lyrics, a solo quartet version with piano, and an a cappella quartet version.)
 
The Fly
SATB a cappella. 1'20
Poem by Wm. Blake
Witty, playful Madrigal, lively and rhythmic. Subject: Are you Fly or Man? Excellent for single voices also.
 
Laughing Song
SATB a cappella, 3'40
Poemby Wm. Blake
Hilarious playful Madrigal, lively, rhythmic and full. Subject: Laughter and youth. Stage business: actual laughter/hilarity breakdown and recovery before the end.
 
The U.S. Air Force Fugue
TTBB a cappella, 3'
USAF/David Avshalomov
Parody fugue based on “Off we Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder.”
 
U.S. 30 in Idaho
SSAATTB a cappella, 2'
Poem by Doris Avshalomov
Ironic nature/highway roadkill observation, over in a flash.
 
All have brought real laughter from listeners.
Please let me know if you would like to see free perusal .pdfs of these.
 
Best regards
on June 9, 2011 7:58am
Probably due to the character of our ensemble, blatantly humorous pieces tend to show up only at our Christmas concerts, and some of the humor probably comes from the mere fact that we are singing them.  Two particular audience favorites have been Mac Huff's "Jingle Bell Fantasy" and Craig Courtney's "A Musicological Journey through the Twelve Days of Christmas."
 
One exception to this was a recent concert program entitled "Hear My Prayer," during which we sang Ivor Davies' short cycle of six songs called "Prayers from the Ark," which includes the light-hearted "Prayer of the Cat" and provided some good comic relief.
 
This season's repertoire also included Paul Carey's whimsical "Morning Person."
 
The laughs at all our concerts mainly come from our director's (often unplanned) comments between songs and final goodbye/"be sure to stop by the CD table on your way out."
on June 9, 2011 10:13am
Lynne, you might want to consider my arrangement of "Let's Do It," which Chanticleer premiered, some years back, and also sang on Prairie Home Companion.  Phoenix Chamber Choir also put it on their Live in Denmark CD.  There are all sorts of fun spots where the singers imitate various creatures (chimp; hippo; rooster, owl; dragonfly, etc.) that always get chuckles.  The ending is a big jazz chord.  You can hear it live on my Web site.  Go to kenmalucelli.com, click on Secular Choral, then scroll down and click on the little blue play button next to the title.
Enjoy!
KM
on June 14, 2011 2:27pm
Just came home from the movies, where we saw Woody's Allen's "Midnight in Paris" where "Let's Do It" by Cole Porter is featured prominently.  THis might be a good omen for having that song performed often in the next concert season.  !!!  
on June 9, 2011 11:39am
I recently published a set of six Pie Carols which have been a big hit with singers and audiences. These are original texts about pie (apple, cherry, pumpkin, lemon meringue, rhubarb and pecan) to the tunes of familiar Christmas carols. Your choirs can learn these in a single read-through, since they already know the music!
 
Sample: (to the tune "Good King Wenceslas")
 
Apple pie is noble fare,
Worthy of your palate.
Smite the fool who disagrees
With a croquet mallet.
Have a piece with ev'ry meal
If it is your choosing.
Throw some croutons on the top,
That would be amusing.
 
You can serve me apple pie
With a slice of cheddar.
Those who know their apple pie
Like it that way better.
Deep dish or upon a plate
Apple pie is dandy.
Keep a fork in ev'ry room;It might come in handy.
 
Eat some apple pie right now;
Put it off no longer.
Lifting forkfuls to your face
Makes your biceps stronger.
It's been shown to cure disease
And make life less stressful.
There is just one side effect:
It makes you successful!
 
I'll happily send a free perusal to anyone who would like to see the whole set. Please send a request to:
office(a)DunstanHouse.com
on June 9, 2011 7:05pm
Lynne:
 
I wrote 4 e e cummings songs for the San Francisco Choral Artists, under
Magen Solomon.  The four span a range of moods; but the second (hist    whist)
and the fourth (Buffalo Bill's) are fun, drawing laughs at the premier performances.
(The full set has won a couple of composition contests and gained a 
handful of additional performances in the year since the premier.)
About two minutes each, moderate difficulty.)  Not in print.  Let me know if you
want a score and recording.
 
Another piece is Roger Bobo Plays the Tuba.  Roger Dean has published the
original treble version, which includes a lively tuba obligato.  Youtube has
several performances: try this one, the St Louis Children's Chorus at the
2005 ACDA convention: http://www.youtube.com/profcabbage
I have written a version for mixed chorus.  Let me know if you want
to see a copy.
 
Cheers,
Brian Holmes
horncabbage(a)aol.com
 
 
on June 10, 2011 2:51am
Please consider An Easy Decisionhumorous text by Kenneth Patchen, SATB & piano, ECS publishing #6747. Visit http://www.ecspub.com/New%20issue/winter07/6747WEB.pdf to see a PDF of the score and hear a performance. It's a very brief piece and very easy to learn. Thank you for your consideration.
Stanley M. Hoffman
on June 10, 2011 7:23am
Take a look at Animal Crackers by Eric Whitacre.  They're extremely clever.
 
Nancy Fleming
on June 10, 2011 8:02am
I can't believe nobody has mentioned PDQ Bach yet! His Liebeslieder waltzes are brilliant, as is The Art of the Ground Round and the 3 christmas carols.
 
Agree on the need for humour in music, not only lyrics but the music itself. Way too many of us composers take ourselves too seriously. I've got a couple of pieces but they're in Icelandic and the humour mostly in the lyrics (not all, though) so that probably won't be much help. Except for the Vocalise for 8 sopranos and one 'cello... (can be sung by women's choirs and you can definitely use your altos too).
 
Then, also for girls' or women's voices, the Bæ bæ lille lam, fugue in the style of Bach by Nils Henrik Asheim on a Norwegian children's song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Gg37LaAuGQ
on June 10, 2011 10:38am
Copland/Fine, I Bought Me a Cat is easy to make hilarious with or without appropriate props and animal sounds and I am especially fond of "staging" Richard Genee's,
Insalata Italiana. Let the text, of course, be your guide.
 
S
on June 10, 2011 10:39am
Hi Lynne,
I, too, concur with many of the replies affirming the need for more humor/fun in choral music....our audiences deserve it and we need to promote more than just the usual emotional contents.  I offer the following ideas/pieces:
 
"Eat Your Vegetables" (set of 3-4) - John Muelheisen,  Mixed voices, one with clarinet, etc..witty, funny, and unique (check out the performance of Central Washington University's excellent Chamber Choir performing a couple on YouTube/Choral Net links)
 
Any of the PDQ Bach/Peter Schickle catalogue.....he was kind of the first "Victoe Borge" of Contemporary composers to parody and pursue humor as his goal (he also is a fine "REAL" composer!)
 
"Finnan Haddie" (from CELTIC SONGS) - Vijay Singh, TTBB  humorous folk song...there are many performances offered on YouTube of this piece, mostly by HS men's choirs....it was also recorded by Male Ensemble Northwest, but is most humorous live (Alfred)
 
"Johnny Said No!" - Vijay Singh SSA a cappella  Humorous gossip piece for Women's Choir, rhythmical and fun "attitude piece"; many versions of this also on YouTube performed by HS groups (Heritage)
 
"Oh Dear, What Can the Meter Be?" - Vijay Singh  SATB a cappella  Humorous take in mixed meter of the traditional "Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be"; unique treatment and challenging (National Music Publishers/Fred Bock)
 
Good luck and have fun!  Vijay
on June 13, 2011 7:05am
Lynne,
 
I can add a bit more about the Muehleisen Veggie pieces - but first, I have programmed many PDQ Bach pieces - including The Knock knock cantata, the Liebeslieder Polkas, Good King Kong Looked out, and others - they are great! 
 
And in the interest of full disclosure, I am Vijay's colleague at CWU - so I am admittendly biased to the music of my talented colleague - but I've programmed his Finnan Haddie with a HS men's honor choir, and heard "Johnny" and "Meter" multiple times - they are wonderful suggestions.
 
John's Veggie songs video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nQrmVpI7Ig
 
He supports the moves and sillliness that you'll see on the video.  The choir and I came up with most of it - but as I said, John loved it!  All three of them are for Clarinet and choir - the first is the most "serious" - and concerns Zucchini.  In the second, I actually wore the carrot costume originally, but had my accompanist do it for the video.  It's called Aversion to Carrots.  The third is about Rutabagas. 
 
BTW - John just completed another set of Veggie songs (Veggie 2.0?).  At this point there are 2 of them - about Brussels Sprouts and eggplant.
 
Best,
Gary
on June 11, 2011 6:02am
Two for you to consider -
 
Darmon Meader has a piece out about the tortoise and the hare - very fun - can't remember the name but I'm guessing it's called The Tortoise and the Hare.
 
Brand New - just published - "She Goes Shopping For Gucci" by Larry Nickel.  Great positive message couched in hilarious lyrics with very, very good choral writing. 
 
Enjoy!
 
Randi Carp
on June 11, 2011 1:13pm
If you don't mind a subtle burp (your own!) at the end of a piece, I can suggest "Ladies long in the tooth", part of a suite, Sortilege, which may be found at donaldpatriquin.com (Catalog...SATB secular; the complete, short and sweet piece may be heard). The text, a clever and humorous palindrome by J.A. Linden, is set for male and female spoken voices. Available separately.
on June 12, 2011 9:49am
The mention of the burp reminded me of John Rutter's Banquet Fugue, a fairly easy and short piece which is especially appropriate for a dinner concert kind of setting.  (And yes, there's a burp at the end.)  
 
Chuck Livesay
on June 14, 2011 7:41am
Last time we did this (at a children's concert), we triggered a juicy burp from a computer over the sound system. Most successful.
 
Karen
on June 12, 2011 8:04pm
Do you have choristers good for snoring, yawning and with easy hiccup…? Take a look at this piece of mine in honor to Bacchus… O Potores Exquisitihttp://www.anniebank.nl/Scores/11900328.pdf  
Here you have two different interpretations (by Estudio Coral Meridies from Argentina and by the Nederlands Studenten Kamerkoor from the Netherlands):
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEDpL-u3rXo
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JKVMsW9NrI&feature=related
This is one of three pieces of mine that will be sung during the next World Symposium on Choral Music.
Have fun!
Eduardo Andrés Malachevsky
- http://www.malachevsky.com.ar
- http://www.youtube.com/user/vsky0
- http://www.myspace.com/eduardoandresmalachevsky
- http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000419824202
on June 13, 2011 7:16am
The Sondheim musical, "Do I Hear a Waltz",  has an hilarious ensemble number , "What do we do, we fly?" that could easily be adapted to any chorus or small group.
 
 
on June 14, 2011 8:36am
Hi Lynne,
 
If you would want to feature your ladies I would recommend Reg Unterseher's very creative SA/piano piece "62 Insults from Shakespeare", available at reginaldunterseher.com
 
You might want to also look at my a cappella SATB piece "Play with your Food", published hy Walton,which is widely performed by HS and college groups. It's in  three short movements !. Summer's Bounty !!. Mashed Potato Love Song !!!. Vending Machine. All are quality poetry, which leads me to the statement that part of what can fail with "fun" or "funny" pieces is that the texts might be funny but are oftenweak in the basic quality and craftmanship of text and many texts are arranged for choirs in a very simplistic, obvious way for cheapo yuks.
 
You can hear my piee at www.paulcarey.net
 
Paul
on June 14, 2011 3:51pm
Johnny Schmoker arranged by James Rodde is a hoot with the appropriate movement. You should be able to find several videos of it on YouTube. It is available from Santa Barbara Music.
 
Michael
on June 18, 2011 5:53am
The Argument is great! http://www.jwpepper.com/1782556.item
Also a community choir I am just did Anything you can do with all the married people in the group and each couple stood together and the guys sang the "Alto part" and all the ladies sang the top part. They really acted it out. We had one guy and one lady who had the high notes so they were the ones that battled out that section while their spouses were trying to keep them apart. The audience really enjoyed it.  Man of Constant sorry is also great if the guys can get into it and really act it out.
on June 19, 2011 10:04am
Lynne  -
 
Here's a classic American work that is funny, fun, and not about food: Irving Fine's "Songs from Alice in Wonderland".  The humor is on multiple levels (the piano interlude in "Father William" is a Bach toccata gone horribly wrong), the choral parts are fairly easy but require some subtlety and are worth spending time on, and audiences always enjoy them.  And the texts - unlike those of much contemporary choral music - are actually worth singing. 
on June 19, 2011 4:52pm
Carl Zytowski's "Latin Trilogy" (not the title) for choir & piano are 3 nursery rhymes half-translated into Latin which also parody three famous composer's famous pieces:
 
*Parvus Jacobus Horner* (Handel)
*Parvula Bo-Peep* (Schubert)
*Jack Cum Amico Jill* (Orff)
 
From Hinshaw...
 
Robert A.M. Ross
 
on June 19, 2011 9:37pm
May I suggest G. Rossini's "Duetto Buffo di due Gatti" (Comic Duet for Two Cats).  If you're working with SATB choir, you can adapt the duet by having the men sing the top voice and the women sing the bottom voice.  National Music Publishers in Tustin, CA has this in their catalog.  You can also find other versions of it at JW Pepper and Sons.  Search under the name "Comic Duet for Two Cats".  This piece is best performed with a broad comedic interpretation.
on June 20, 2011 8:29am
"Four Whatevers" by Scott Wilkinson are very clever settings of such aphorisms as "How Now Brown Cow" and "A Stitch in Time Saves Nine".  I don't recall the published, but Music Mart does have them listed on their site.
on June 20, 2011 9:43am
Lynne -- Perhaps you could use my setting of "Reuben and Rachel" for SATB a cappella from a set of Five 19th-Century Parlor Songs.  That set also includes "The Captain" for SSA, which is quaint and funny too.  good luck, chris
on June 20, 2011 3:10pm
hi Lynne,
 
I have four pieces on Lewis Carroll poems from Alice in Wonderland & Alice through the Looking Glass. They have been very successful in performances I've done of them with my choir, and they also won the Alice Parker Melodious Accord Competition a few years ago. I would be happy to send you perusal copies of:
Turtle Soup
Father William
Jabberwocky
Speak roughly
 
all for SATB a cappella
 
best wishes,
Karen

Karen P. Thomas 
Artistic Director & Conductor
Seattle Pro Musica
1770  NW 58th St., # 124
Seattle, WA  98107
206-291-5876 cell
www.seattlepromusica.org
karen(a)seattlepromusica.org
on June 23, 2011 2:12pm
This brings up a great question regarding "humorous" pieces and the different flavors, if you will. While all humorous, there's a big difference between pieces that draw a chortle (text with a punchline), that draw a chuckle (text that is playful and amuses), and that draw a smile (text that is witty). I'm sure there are others.
 
All of them require one common ingredient--clarity of text and simplicity of text and music. The text must be understood, and the text and music both must be simplistic enough (for whatever level of audience you're dealing with) for the audience member to process and comprehend the text quickly and uniformly to prompt the group laugh.
 
In the punchline-laugh category, a great example is Paul Carey's "Play with Your Food," movement 2, "Mashed Potato/Love Song," published for SATB by Walton. Another example of a piece that delivers multiple punch lines is "Manly Men" by Kurt Knect, published for TTBB by Walton.
 
In the chuckle-amusing category, already mentioned are pieces like Copland's "I Bought Me a Cat,"
 
In the smile-amusing category, a good example is David Dickau's "Laughing Song," published for SATB by Santa Barbara. Or pieces like Iriving Fine's "Father William."
 
A great witty text and piece, far under-appreciated I think, is Dominick Argento's "There Was a Naughty Boy" from his cycle "A Nation of Cowslips," published for SATB by Boosey and Hawkes.
 
And I second James' recommendation of Haugland's "Magazine Madrigals"--very amusing pallate-cleanser.
 
And that's just focusing really on text...not getting very deep into "fun" or "amusing" pieces because the actual music is ridiculous or somehow tickles the humor-bone.
on June 24, 2011 4:26am
You've obviously hit on a rich vein.  Add to it, of you will, some of the works of two Canadian composers, Stephen Hatfield and Stephen Chatman.  Bioth have websites - in the latter case, look in the list of works rather than, say, recordings - try Mosquitos for a start.
 
roly brown,
france
on June 29, 2011 5:55am
Hi, Lynne;
I have an SATB ca. 4 min song called "Love". It's not exactly comedy, but is light-hearted and always brings a smile. The basses have a walking ostinato on the word "Love". The piano part can be light comping if you have a pianist who's comfortable with that, otherwise there is a written-out piano part. If you'd like to see it, please contact me at kelvin7(a)q.com
Thanks.
Kelvin McNeal
on June 29, 2011 8:57pm
Hi Lynne,
 
have you considered one of Mateo Flecha's "ensaladas"? Especially interesiting is "La Bomba", the Pump, wich includes a shipwreck, the rescue, a party and a hilarius fight about the tuning of a guitar. They can be done either by ensemble or middle size choir. It's in latin and old spanish, but what happens is fairly clear.
 
Greetings!
Rogelio
on June 30, 2011 8:24am
Hi, Lynne -
 
I work with high school women's choirs on several different levels and have some Christmas suggestions: my SA "y'all come" group has scored big laughs with Chuck Bridwell's 
"Various Themes on Fa, la, la"  and Greg Gilpin's  'The Twelve Groovy Days of Christmas" (props include lava lamps, disco balls, leisure suits, mood rings, etc). I believe that both are also available in SAB and SATB format. My advanced group has staged a piece called "Nutcracker Jingles" as a war between sopranos and altos fighting for melody dominance.  A recent arrangement of an Andrews Sisters tune, "Jing-a-ling" isn't "funny" per se, but it's lively and fun to present.  Finally there's a difficult but great SSAA" Twelve Days of Christmas" from Treble Clef Press (NB the accompaniment is very challenging.)
 
And there's always "The Mouse Madrigal" by Stephen Porter, although it presupposes that the audience will know "Three Blind Mice," which is somewhat questionable given that we no longer terrify preschoolers with violent images...
on June 30, 2011 6:24pm
Here are two more for your list:

      The Fervid Hokey Poke, for unaccompanied SATB choir, 2010 (Duration: 2:45)
A setting of the hilarious prize-winning poem by Jeff Brechlin, written as if William Shakespeare had written the Hokey Pokey.

      Moon Man, for unaccompanied SATB choir or 2-part treble choir, 2004 (Duration: 3 min.)
A humorous romp for the holidays. An adaptation of the poem by Tom Clarke.

The titles should link you to my website where you may read complete texts and listen to demo recordings.  I would be happy to send you a perusal pdf score of either or both if you are interested.

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