Remember the scene in The Music Man when the gossiping women from town sing “Pick a Little, Talk a Little” (cheep, cheep, cheep)? The school board arrives, demanding to see Professor Harold Hill’s credentials. Hill distracts them by singing “Goodnight, Ladies” in harmony with the women’s “Pick a Little.” The men from the school board can’t resist joining in, barbershop quartet–style, and Professor Hill slips away.
I recently learned that a combination of songs like the one in The Music Man is called a “quodlibet,” a strange word that comes from Latin: quod meaning “what” + libet “it pleases.” So, “as you please.” It’s pronounced kwod-luh-bet.
Jazz vocalist Nina Simone partnered two songs in a quodlibet on her 1958 debut album. She combined the melody and lyrics of Rodgers and Hart’s “Little Girl Blue” with the melody of the popular carol “Good King Wenceslas.” It’s stunning. (The quodlibet starts at 1:35.)
Here’s another one. “Night of Silence,” a Christmas carol written in 1981 by American composer Daniel Kantor, can be sung simultaneously with “Silent Night.” (Skip to 2:50 if you want to hear the songs together.)
I’ll be back in January. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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