I know it’s been awhile since I have written a post on this blog, and it is because I’m up to my eyeballs getting ready for my trip to Connecticut next week. I am going to hear Joey Fala play the first of his four graduate organ recitals at Yale. By “getting ready,” I mean that I’ve spent a good number of hours surfing the Internet looking for winter clothes and buying items for my trip. I’ve also been stuck to my computer typing next week’s Sunday bulletins and newsletter for St. Andrew’s Cathedral so that I can leave Honolulu without a guilty conscience!
This morning, I was looking through the latest Facebook posts, and I found one which instantly said to me contrafacta. On this blog, I’ve posted several examples of contrafacta, the practice of writing a new text to a familiar tune, or as Wikipedia puts it: the substitution of one text for another without substantial change to the music.
There have been several local contrafacta written on the occasion of retirement, such as the one written by Sandra Theunick for my late husband, Carl Crosier (“A song for Carl”) sung to the tune EIN FESTE BURG. Pastor Fritz Fritschel wrote one on my retirement, to the tune “When in our music God is glorified.” Fritz also wrote lyrics in honor of Central Union Church’s organist emerita Nyle Hallman for her 80th birthday, on the tune LASST UNS ERFREUEN: For nearly thirty years they played.
Today on Facebook, I found this post on “What a friend we have in Cheeses,” sung to the familiar CONVERSE tune. Here is the complete text:
What a friend we have in cheeses, Cheddar, Brie, and Camembert! How they often richly please us, Cheshire, Gloucester, plus Gruyere! O what joy with which we savor Gouda, Stilton, Saint Nectaire! All because we took to labor Milk and rennet in our lair!
Have we chills and stark starvation? Is the Winter’s grip so tight? We should never fear negation, Look to cheeses each cold night! Can we find a meal so faithful That puts hunger all to flight? Cheeses make us full and grateful; Turn to cheeses each cold night!
Such a friend we have in cheeses, Worlds of taste we can explore: Loving arms each day to greet us Humboldt Fog right at our door! Meats and wines he’ll put to pairing, Parmigiano, then Beaufort! After, with the sweet, so pleasing: Gorgonzola, Roquefort!
Believe it or not, this text was written by Wilhelm Neumeier (1828-1884), composed during the mid-19th century Great Culinary Awakening, then adapted by Joseph Scriven for the popular hymn tune by Charles C. Converse (1834-1918).
Apparently, this is a popular theme on which to write contrafacta, because I found even more varieties of cheese in this version from the U.K.:
What a friend we have in cheeses, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Swiss! Bleu and Limberger’s sweet breezes Lingering like a lover’s kiss. Humble milk’s apotheosis, Muenster, Provolone, Brie Damn cholesterol’s thrombosis Cheese is Gouda stuff by me! Heed the U. S. Dairy Council, Keep the Gruyere on the shelf. Even just a tiny ounce’ll Give you vitamin B-12. Gather, pilgrims at the deli Buying Edam and Havarti, Wedges moist and cold and smelly, Bring home lots and have a party!
And another written by Oliver Baker: What a friend we have in Cheeses, Edam, Cheddar and Gruyere! What a privilege to eat some Gorgonzola with our pear! Oh, what satiety we forfeit, Oh, what meagerness we bear, All because we cannot eat some Gorgonzola with our pear!
Have we pledged to wait for dinner? Would a promise we forswear? We should never be discouraged Gorgonzola goes with pear. Can we find a friend so faithful? Which will pangs of conscience spare? Cheese is not a sign of weakness; Gorgonzola goes with pear.
Are we weak and heavy-laden Facing leftovers to spare? Precious cheese plate still our refuge Take Gorgonzola with your pear. Have thy guests all turned to face thee? Have Gorgonzola with a pear! In its curds cheese takes and shields thee Thou wilt find a solace there.
Blessed Stilton, Thou art ripening, Thou art ready Camembert May our board be ever bearing Gorgonzola for our pear Soon in dreamy night, unclouded There will be no need for pear—Sav’ry and never ending Will be our cheese portion there.
Copyright © 2008 Oliver Baker
There is even a company which sells T-shirts, coffee mugs, aprons, buttons, napkins and other items with designs based on the slogan, “What a friend we have in Cheeses.” Check out the link here.
Sadly, it just so happens that there is a tragic story behind the poem, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” and you can read all about Joseph Scriven here.
Here’s the organ setting of the hymn tune CONVERSE by Dale Wood. It is played by David Christensen at Eden Lutheran Church in Riverside, CA where Dale Wood was formerly organist-choirmaster.