Varmi’ts! (1985)

Texas Tall Tales For Narrator, Mixed Chorus and Orchestra

Duration:  12 minutes 
Piano/Vocal Score Available 

Commissioned by the City of Richardson, Texas  
In honor of the Texas Sesquicentennial (1835 – 1985) 

Premiere Performance:  October 18, 1986; Richardson Symphony Orchestra;
Charles Nelson, Narrator; Chris Xeros, Conductor

Program Note:

Varmi’ts! (1985) is a comic bestiary drawn by the composer from Southwestern folklore.  The text celebrates the pioneer spirit of Texas by describing an assortment of colorful indigenous wild life:  buzzards, armadillos, scorpions, rattlesnakes, mosquitoes, plus the colorful and most deadly varmi’t of all:  the Texas lawyer (“…some of ‘em even walk on two legs”).  Each varmi’t is introduced by the narrator as the chorus intones the animal’s scientific Latin name.  The singers comment upon the nature of the beast with appropriate verses and, in some cases, noises.  Of the six episodes, the last, a Pecos Bill story about an attack of Texas-size mosquitoes, (“…They say two of ‘em could whip a dog!”), is the most elaborate.   The music of Varmi’ts! includes both traditional and non-traditional choral and instrumental sounds and is likewise based on folk elements.  The ballad “Hell in Texas” is quoted in various guises through the work.  The song is juxtaposed with street and animal noises depicted by the orchestra through clusters, glissandi, a variety of percussion effects, and by the chorus through the use of kazoos, bird calls, pots and pans, metal spoons, car horns, police whistles, and other noise-makers.