When guests were over at our house for a meal or just for a visit, mom inevitably ended up at the piano. Folks requested their favorite songs and she’d play, we’d sing or else laugh trying to remember the lyrics.
The voices in the room would be a combination of flat, sharp, loud, muffled, full of bravado or barely a whisper. No one seemed to mind as most guests joined in and sang their little hearts out.
Mom knew classical works, contemporary pieces and, of course, hymns. Songs from WWI and II were interspersed with grand ole gospel songs. It seems everyone had a favorite. As long as I can remember, I had two. The first, Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin and the second, The Storybook Ball.
Because of its length and difficulty, Mom often sighed and skipped over my request for Gershwin’s piece. “Later,” she’d say to me. “I’ll play it for you later.” But when I asked for The Storybook Ball she’d immediately would start running her hands over the keys but say she didn’t remember the words. But she did. We all did. It was a family favorite.
The Storybook Ball was one of a few musical pieces mom performed early on in her life and never forgot. Pianologues became popular in the early 1900’s and were usually comedic pieces spoken to music. She had three or four she’d sing: In the Usual Way, When Apples Grow on the Lilac Trees and The Storybook Ball.
Here are the lyrics:
In Mother Goose’s book up in the nurs’ry,
Poor Simple Simon said, “I’m feeling sad.”
Said Peter Piper’s daughter, “So am I, and think we oughter
Try to think of something that will make us glad.”
So Smarty Smarty said, “I’ll give a party,”
And they called on the Old Woman in the Shoe.
The cat she brought her fiddle, and she played “high diddle diddle,”
And what happened then, I’m goin’ to tell to you.
CHORUS 1: Little Jackie Horner, eating pie up in the corner,
Stuck in his thumb, pulled out a plum.
Little Missy Muffet she was sitting on a tuffet,
And she said, “Yum, yum! Please give me some.”
Little Georgie Porgie with his pudding and pie,
Kissed Mary Quite Contrary till he made her cry;
And Little Bo Peep she lost her sheep
And couldn’t find ’em, their tails behind ’em.
Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater had a wife and couldn’t keep her.
At the ball in the hall.
Humpty Dumpty met her, said, “Better that I get her
And I’ll make her fall.” That’s not all.
Old King Cole, that merry old soul,
He fell for Mother Hubbard, blew his big bankroll
Buying lollipops and pretties for the kiddies at the Story Book Ball.
VERSE 2. They danced and sang till early in the morning.
They really didn’t know just when to stop;
So as the day was dawning and the kiddies all were yawning,
They found out the mouse had run up in the clock.
Then Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick, he started,
And right over that big candlestick he flew.
Then Little Tommy Tucker started singing for his supper,
And then Poor Boy Blue said, “Gee, I’m hungry too.”
CHORUS 2: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickling peppers,
Brought ’em to the hall, and that’s no stall.
Tommy Tom the piper’s son, he stole a pig and away he run
To the ball. Ah, that’s not all.
Polly put the kettle on. The tea got cold.
They had to eat the porridge that was nine days old.
Then Jack fell down. Jill broke her crown
And spilled the water. She hadn’t oughter.
Four and twenty blackbirds were baking in a pie,
And they refused to sing anything.
Wasn’t that an awful way little birds to act
Before a queen and king? Such a thing!
Said the knave and the king to the Queen of Hearts,
“Come on. Hurry up, honey. Bring some tarts.”
So she did and the kids had a picnic at the Story Book Ball.
Somewhere in my stash of papers and family memorabilia back in the USA, I have a recording of mom performing this piece for the family. It’s there. I’m here. So unfortunately I can’t share mom’s version with this post. But I found a recent rendition that is really quite good. It’s just not mom’s.
Listen if you like.