“Twelve Days” Song

December 6, 2016


The story goes that when being a Catholic was illegal in Protestant England, children would sing this song to profess their faith: the partridge and the pear tree symbolized Jesus Christ. Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2016. NOTECARD

The twelve days in the song are the twelve days starting with Christmas Day, or on Boxing (December 26th) and ending on the Twelfth Night (January 6). The most common English-language version this song was published in a children’s book called Mirth without Mischief (1780) as a “memories-and-forfeits” game called “Twelfth Night.” The leader in this game recited a verse, each of the players repeated the verse, the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players makes a mistake, with the player who erred having to pay a penalty, such as offering up a kiss or a treat. The lyrics to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” may have served as a catechism song for young Catholics when the practice of Catholicism was criminalized in England between 1558 and 1829.





I have wanted to see Mascagni’s Calalleria Rusticana for a while and since San Francisco Opera has not done it, I thought I would try the Metropolitan Opera in a theater. It was a wonderful experience that I would recommend. You feel like you are in the Met with a back stage pass. I will definitely go again. The production was fabulous and intelligent. I won’t do a critique other than to say they made it real.

Verismo (realism) refers to the late-nineteenth-century Italian movement of the giovane scuola (young school) in literature, art, and music towards naturalism by spotlighting the passions of working class men and women. Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) ushered in the Italian verismo movement with his masterful one-act melodrama Cavalleria rusticana, which introduced audiences to the passions of Sicily. Mascagni’s success spawned other artists to produce similar one-act operas that introduced fierce and sordid emotions including lust, betrayal, hatred, and even murder.

Mascagni came from humble roots, he entered his composition for Cavalleria rusticana in a competition to write a short one or two-act opera and was the winner.


Introductory woman’s chorus: The orange trees in the green groves scent the air, the larks sing through the flowering myrtles; now is the time for everyone to murmur the tender the tender song which quickens the heart. “Cavalleria rusticana” composed by Pietro Mascagni, 1963-1945 with libretto by Guido Menasci and Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti. Drawing by Meredith Eliassen.


The drama is hot when Santuzza learns she has lost her lover to a married woman named Lola, and it gets hotter when on Easter morning Santuzza informs Lola’s husband of the affair.

Snake Nocturne…

February 23, 2015

Last Friday I went to a concert by the a cappella group called “Nordic Voices” held in San Francisco. They did things with their voices that I would not do at home without a voice coach present, and it was fantastic. San Francisco’s charming Norwegian consul and company were there too support the group too. The music ranged from madrigals to modern Norwegian composition and some of it was quite primordial!!! As a result this weekend’s drawing is a little different, kind of primordial and abstract, not exactly logical in design, but I like it, and hope you do too. I’ve got to go do Norway!!!

Snake Nocturne was designed by Meredith Eliassen, 2015.

Snake Nocturne was designed by Meredith Eliassen, 2015.

In the art of war, the esprit des corps – the movement of muscles in unison together with chants, song and loud rhythmic yells – creates euphoric energy in battle. The British confident in their ability to defeat the unseasoned American militia selected Baltimore to be the next target. Prior to the battle, Francis Shunk (1788-1848) quoted the opening lines of “Farewell Song to the Banks of Ayr” (1786), Robert Burns’ farewell dirge to his native land, and wrote, “The dark clouds filled with thunder & rain hastened to verspread [sic] the fermentation. The gloom of approaching night adds terror to all surrounding objects… and here I wonder amidst the contention of elements forlorn and silent depressed and unhappy too well does the tumult of my heart accord with the violence that surrounds. After the battle, Shunk happily anticipated the celebration of victory with friends where he would play Green Grow the Rashes, O (1783) – with all his might on the violin. The British did not anticipate that a gutsy Senator named Samuel Smith would change tactics by instituting regular drills featuring marching songs.

Hence, the Battle for Baltimore as chronicled by Francis Scott Key in “The Star Spangled Banner” proved to be a turning point when British forces were repulsed at Fort McHenry, and the city of Baltimore was saved:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

A poor farm boy in a multicultural world. Be not deceived, my friends, the carefree days of youth amang the lasses, O, do not a wayfarer still. Mr. Chunk, as he was sometimes called, stayed close to home and hearth, becoming a governor of Pennsylvania who built public institutions of learning and was an early proponent of married women’s property rights.

Next we will explore Jane Austen in a new America…