Lockdown Songs of the Animals
for SATB and piano (2020)
by Ronald Hannah and Andrea Mellis

  1. Ducks on the Palace Lawn (Duration: 2'30")
  2. Song of the Bugs, (Duration: 2')
  3. March of the Mountain Goats, (Duration: 2')
  4. Sarabande of the Deer, (Duration: 4'15")
  5. Triumph Song of of the Monkeys, (Duration: 1'40")
  6. Home

        Covid 19 has struck. The world is shut down. It is hard for many people. Andrea and I are lucky enough to be in a financially stable position, and with all this time on our hands we can collaborate on musical projects. As theaters and restaurants close, as people are becoming more and more frustrated with the necessary steps being taken to halt the virus, there is one sector at least that is breathing a hefty sigh of relief: the animals.
    by Andrea Mellis
    (...my wife and inspiration)


    We like this.
    We like to potter along
    We green, gold, spotted, shiny,
    Carapaced, wingèd, fuzzy, sleek,
    In our hundreds
    In our thousands
    All unseen or just barely visible
    Beetles, ants, the occasional
    Lazy bee.
    And you don't step on us,
    Because you're not
    Ha ha.


    Ah, how delicious, ah, how tender,
    And one eats truly with the eyes;
    Red, white and pink and yellow,
    All folded up with green;
    Thus, stately, slowly, unafraid we wander
    Nibbling daintily, from grave to grave.

    Roses and hyacinths and lilies,
    Nudging aside the dead and waxy candles,
    Cold crispy leaves of asters,
    Interspersed with snacks on bitter marigolds.
    Every now and then some tasty evergreen and
    Pity there is such a lot of stringy ribbon.

    How many of our children,
    How many final resting places
    Have you, you humans desecrated,
    Hunting, as you call it while of course we call it
    Murder, we call it slaughter.
    Buried under daisies and forget-me-nots.

    Row after row of plates of dainty morsels
    All nicely hedged with marble, granite.
    When you venture forth at last to visit
    (If you're still alive to do so)
    You will find the stalks and shredded ribbons,
    We will be replete and gone.

    Clicking below will allow you to
     hear a portion of a MIDI file while 
    scrolling down to follow the score.



         They are taking over. There are videos online of goats invading village streets, of monkeys running amok in formerly crowded markets and public places. There are deer calmly feasting on the flowers in a cemetery, and in our own town we witnessed a trio of ducks who left the palace pond to take up residence in the garden out front. They even strolled up and down the main shopping street, undeterred by the few shoppers who looked on with amusement and made way for them.

         We take regular walks too, in our neighbourhood since travel further afield is not advised, and one day, observing some pretty bugs on the path, Andrea had an idea: do you suppose the animals are relieved that we are no longer about, creating our noise and pollution and driving them away? She set about to describe how the bugs might be happy that we no longer step on them because we are absent (see the box at right). She imagined those ducks being glad to be away from the cold murky water of the pond and away from handfuls of stale bread tossed by tourists ("eat it yourselves" they say in song #1). Arrogant goats mock us as we cower at home in fear, and deer gracefully munch on our graveyard flowers. They have little sympathy. And the monkeys are just monkeys, chattering, scolding and fighting over popcorn left behind by absent humans.

         Andrea's poems have a great deal of charm, and also a great deal that is dark about them. This pandemic is likely our own doing as we destroy natural habitats and become ever more concentrated in urban centers. Musically, I have tried to capture that dark spirit as well as the charm. The bugs potter along in quick patterns of 6 notes (one for each leg - get it?); the ducks rest languorously on the lawn as does the music; the goats march aggressively and accusingly into our towns, despising our cowardice; the deer chew to a lovely sarabande rhythm and the monkeys chatter to a boogie-woogie accompaniment. It's great fun, and it contains a stark lesson.

         Clicking on the buttons above left will enable you to hear samples of the music (MIDI generated) and follow portions of the score for #1 (ducks) and #5 (monkeys). The complete texts for #2 and #4 are in the box at right. If you wish to obtain the full score, please send me an email or visit the Canadian Music Centre.

         One more thing: should your group decide to perform this set, please let me know the name of the choir, the date and the location by clicking below so that I can keep my Performances page up-to-date. If you act quickly (and if it ever becomes possible to rehearse together once again), you could have the honour of the première performance!