I'm Sick of "Musnt's" (2014)*

Conductor Caroline Crocker at the premiere

Conductor Caroline Crocker at the premiere

For Three-part Treble Chorus and piano


Commissioned by:
Caroline Crocker, for the 2014 Georgia ACDA Treble Honor Choir

Premiere and recording source:
2014 Georgia ACDA Treble Honor Choir / Caroline Crocker, conductor
Music Education Building, Clayton State University, Clayton State Boulevard, Morrow, GA
June 27, 2014

score excerpt

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919), with additional text by Russell Nadel

"Oh, I'm sick of 'musn'ts,'" said Dorothy D. 
"Sick of musn'ts, as I can be. 
From early dawn till the close of day
I hear a musn't, and never a may.
All day long I'm told what I musn't do,
By teachers, preachers and parents too.
They judge me and shake their heads all day long -
Everything I do seems wrong!"

"It's 'you musn't lie there like a sleepy head,'
And 'you musn't sit up when it's time for bed.' 
'You musn't cry when I comb your curls,'
'You musn't play with those noisy girls.' 
'You musn't be silent when spoken to,'
'You musn't chatter as parrots do.'
'You musn't be pert, and you musn't be proud,'
'You musn't giggle or laugh aloud.'
'You musn't rumple your nice clean dress,'
'You musn't nod, in the place of a 'yes.'"

"So all day long the 'musn'ts' go, 
'Til I dream at night of a horrible row
Of goblin 'musn'ts' with monstrous eyes
That stare at me in a shocked surprise. 
Oh, I hope I will live to see the day
When someone will say to me, 'Dear, you may.' 
For I'm sick of 'musn'ts,'" said Dorothy D. 
"Sick of musn'ts, as I can be!"

Program notes:

I found this text hilarious, and still amazingly relevant and familiar even after more than 120 years - Wilcox really captured the irony and frustration that sometimes comes with being a child, and I'm sure her narrator's plea for a "may" will resonate with children of all ages! Help students notice the three main melodic themes that return throughout the piece (mm. 3-11, mm. 43-47 in Voice 2, and mm. 50-54 in Voice 2), and encourage singers to make the performance their own with the addition of student-suggested facial expressions, hand gestures, body language, and even lyric substitutions (as suggested in the Performance Notes in the score)! Young singers should make sure to come across as sophisticated and frustrated (not whiny) during this song.

I am most grateful for Caroline Crocker's patience and assistance in editing this work through many drafts, and to Caroline Goldstein and the Georgia chapter of the American Choral Directors' Association for helping bring this piece to life.