Tastes of Paradise:
Music for Pleasures of the Palate

October 2010

Program Notes

Tastes of Paradise:
Music for Pleasures of the Palate


The Psalme of Food

pseudo-Tallis (16th century)

Bacche, bene venies

Carmina burana (13th c. German), arr. J. Miller

Black Coffee  

Webster/Burke, arr. Miller

From the Coffee Cantata:

J.S. Bach, arr. J. Miller

Four movements:


1.         Recitative (Liesl, Schlendrian)


2.         Aria (Liesl)


3.         Recit. (Liesl, Schlendrian)


4.         Recit. (Narrator)                      


Bagel-Shop Quartet

Robert Cohen & David Javerbaum

Fragments from his dish                     

Bob Chilcott

1.         Grace / The Clean Platter


2.         The Pie


3.         Harvest in My Croft


4.         Christmas Day, 1666


5.         Whines from the Wood


6.         Grace (reprise)            


Chili con carne                                               

Anders Edenroth


Java Jive

Drake/Oakland, arr. Kirby Shaw

Pie R Pie

Malcolm Dalglish

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk

Rufus Wainwright, arr. Patrick Sinozich

Play With Your Food!             

Paul Carey

     Summer’s Bounty               


     Mashed Potato/Love Poem             


     Vending Machine               


     After the Muffin                 




Robert Applebaum


Welcome to Tastes of Paradise: Music for the Pleasures of the Palate. This is a popular program concept here at Chicago a cappella: we have served up three such musical feasts before this one. The program springs from a wonderful book of the same name by historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch, who takes a remarkable perspective on the economics as well as the social implications of food. The synthesis of detail and the unique perspective of the book made me exclaim 12 years ago, “There’s a concert in there!”

The author begins his work with a study of the medieval spice trade and the way it completely drove the European economy and politics, geography and social custom. Fittingly, we start the concert with medieval chant as we evoke the sensibilities of distant places and cultures. The opening semi-religious chant sings of the lengths to which we will go for food, and the excerpt from the original Carmina burana manuscript celebrates the playfulness of wine’s drinkers.

We then move into a coffee-related section, which was directly inspired by the Tastes book. In addition to explaining how people have consumed these and various other substances of pleasure, Schivelbusch writes elegantly about the differences between those cultures that embraced coffee and chocolate.

Coffee was the choice of middle-class, Protestant, northern Europe, while chocolate—consumed as a hot beverage, not in bars—was the lazy-morning delicacy of aristocratic, Catholic, southern Europe (most of his evidence comes from Spain and Italy). The French had it both ways: their good taste in coffee is legendary, and a song about coffee was even published in 1711 in Paris to the same tune as the Christmas carol Tous les bourgeious de Châtres, basically saying, “If you want to live a long time, drink a good coffee seven days a week”!

Coffee’s timing was perfect. It came along just when a great shift in consciousness took hold. It was truly the drug of the Enlightenment (and arguably still is an engine of contemporary productivity). The seventeenth century, Schivelbusch notes,

was the century of rationalism, not only in philosophy, but in all the important areas of material life. The absolutist-bureaucratic state was built on the rationalistic viewpoint that originated in this period. Work in the newly burgeoning factories was organized rationalistically....

The seventeenth-century bourgeois was distinguished from people of past centuries by his mental as well as his physical lifestyle. Medieval man did physical work, for the most part under the open sky. The middle-class man worked increasingly with his head, his workplace was the office. . . The ideal that hovered before him was to function as uniformly and regularly as a clock. In this connection coffee . . . spread through the body and achieved chemically and pharmacologically what rationalism and the Protestant ethic sought to fulfill spiritually and ideologically... The result was a body which functioned in accord with the new demands—a rationalistic, middle-class, forward-looking body.

The steady, running, clock-regular rhythms of Vivaldi are particularly well suited to sense in a society that values order and a high level of predictability. By contrast, chocolate has had mostly upper-class, Roman Catholic connotations. Chocolate is not for speed, but rather for ancien régime repose.

But there is much more to the story than coffee. Bob Chilcott caught our attention early on with his cycle called Fragments from his dish. Before he became “house composer” at Oxford University Press, he wrote this beautiful cycle, which was shown to me by Chris Johnson, who was Oxford USA’s music editor at the time.

Paul Carey’s cycle, Play With Your Food!, is the centerpiece of the second half. This is a hilarious, tender, poignant set of five songs. (Make sure that you catch the last words of “Mashed Potato/Love Poem.”) When we first performed this cycle, our annual Gala was at the Union League Club, which featured mashed potatoes served in martini glasses.

Food can be an occasion for great joy and presence of mind, and it can be part of complete thoughtlessness. We all do it, this eating thing—some too much, many not enough. Food is everywhere, and we are not necessarily the better for it. If you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, you have a sense of the ways that food drives our culture and vice-versa. (Speaking of driving, one-third of meals consumed by children in America take place in the car, which is itself a comment on our culture.) May our celebration and enjoyment of food and drink be tempered with our thoughts and concerns for those who are less fortunate, for whom food may not be available each day.

Happy eating,

Jonathan Miller
Founder and Artistic Director

Recommended reading:
Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Intoxicants, and Stimulants. Vintage Books, 1993 (paperback).


pseudo-Tallis: The Psalme of Food

This piece was discovered only recently, in an astounding stroke of good luck. The eminent musicologist and gourmet, Sir Hamish Smithfield “Ham” Cuisinart, found it written on the back of a fish-and-chips wrapper while hiking near Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. Jonathan Miller got a copy from Sir Ham when on a trip to York. The music, clearly an exemplar of post-Reformation performance practice, follows the traditional formulas of Anglican chant. The biggest unsolved mystery about the text is its set of references to present-day commercial activities.

Carmina Burana (13th-c. German), arr. Jonathan Miller: Bacche, bene venies

Orff’s famous Carmina burana is a setting of texts taken from the medieval German collection of the same name, containing 254 songs written by university students and assorted hangers-on. However, Orff did not preserve the original melodies, one of which we present here. The tunes are simple and provide excellent material for a cappella arranging. The anonymous writers of these texts had a great deal of fun and shared with Chaucer a slightly jaded worldview. Bacche, bene venies is an ode to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, who is said to make hearts happy wherever he appears.

Webster/Burke, arr. Jonathan Miller: Black Coffee

One of the most distinctive of all torch songs, Black Coffee has been covered by swing-era singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Peggy Lee (not to mention Bobby Darin). The song’s more recent champions include k.d. lang and even Sinead O’Connor. Our custom arrangement was created specifically for Chicago a cappella.

J. S. Bach, arr. J. Miller: four movements from the Coffee Cantata (“Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht,” BWV 211)

Bach had a sense of humor, as these pieces clearly show. Coffee took over northern Europe as the drink of choice, to an extent that Bach (whose reputation is that of a completely serious man) chose to satirize the coffee craze with a delightful little cantata. It has been suggested that Leipzig experienced a serious social problem in excessive coffee drinking and also that this cantata, which was published there in 1732, was premiered at Zimmerman’s Coffee House in that city.

Robert Cohen: Bagel-Shop Quartet

This endearing tune comes from Suburb, The Musical, which ran nationally and won the 2000 Richard Rodgers Development Award for both lyricist David Javerbaum and composer Robert Cohen. Bob was also co-author of the musical In My Life, for which he obtained the exclusive theatrical rights to the Lennon/McCartney song catalogue. In this song—a Chicago a cappella favorite for years—bagel flavors become terms of endearment.

Bob Chilcott: Fragments from his Dish

In 1998, Chicago a cappella gave the U.S. premiere of a remarkable cycle of songs about food, Fragments from his dish by former King’s Singer Bob Chilcott. We shared the cycle with our Chicago-area audiences again in 2002 and recorded the entire cycle on our Eclectric CD. Together, the songs provide a long view on humans’ need for, and indulgence of, food.

The staid opening “Grace” by Robert Herrick is followed after a mere breath by a hilarious text by Ogden Nash, titled “The Clean Platter.” Follow along so you can get all the jokes! In a matter-of-fact recitation, “The Pie” sets an 18th-century newspaper article of the largest pie any of us have heard of, while “Harvest In My Croft” uses a medieval epic poem, Piers Plowman, much-loved by the English. “Christmas Day 1666” sets a surprisingly poignant entry from the diary of Samuel Pepys, and “Whines from the Wood” is a raucous drinking song on a text attributed to Chesterton.

For the record: Fragments from his Dish by Bob Chilcott appears on Chicago a cappella’s Eclectric CD.

Anders Edenroth: Chili con carne

Don’t forget the Mexican spices! This piece has been one of our biggest hits since we introduced it to our audiences in 1998. The whimsical recipe finds perfect dressing in a salsa-like arrangement by the high male voice and driving force behind The Real Group, Sweden’s blockbuster vocal quintet.


Oakland/Drake, arr. Kirby Shaw: Java Jive

The connection with coffee may not have been foremost in their minds, but during their early years, as the Ink Spots were trying out different names for their group, they existed for a while as the “Percolating Puppies”! Huge songwriting talent went into this tune’s success. The lyricist, Milton Drake, is also known for “Mairzy Doats” and “Hotta Chocolotta.” Ben Oakland, the composer, had a big film-music career and was nominated for an Oscar for “Mist over the Moon” (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) from The Lady Objects. Kirby Shaw’s light-hearted arrangement keeps the swing moving.

Malcolm Dalglish: Pie R Pie

Arguably the world’s finest hammer-dulcimer virtuoso, Malcolm Dalglish was for several years a leader in traditional Irish-and-American-flavored folk music, in tandem with the virtuoso flute player Grey Larsen and later (in the trio Metamora) with pianist and arranger Pete Sutherland. Malcolm has in recent years taken to choral composing, including writing some fine a cappella vocal music, and working with choirs in numerous settings. Probably his most famous work is the extended piece Hymnody of Earth. His newest ensemble, the Ooolites, hail from Bloomington, Indiana, where Malcolm makes his home.

Malcolm is famous in Minnesota as the composer of Little Potato, a wonderful song which he wrote at the birth of one of his children. That fame led to an appearance at which Malcolm improvised a solo spoken “riff” on the making of an apple pie. That experience led him in turn to create this superb ensemble piece, written originally for the choir at a private boys’ school and later adapted for mixed voices like ours. The device referred to as a “rinky-tinky” is an all-in-one apple corer-peeler.

For the record: Malcolm Dalglish’s song “Pleasure” appears on Chicago a cappella’s Eclectric CD.

Rufus Wainwright, arr. Patrick Sinozich: Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk

Rufus Wainwright, an iconic, eclectic singer/songwriter with a justifiably huge following, recorded this song on his 2001 album Poses. The song is a paean to excesses, including those “which for several reasons we won’t mention.” The production of the original song includes over-the-top instrumentation that evokes Lennon/McCartney’s “A Day in the Life.” Our version, arranged by Music Director Patrick Sinozich, keeps the playfulness of the original while putting the song firmly in the Chicago a cappella canon of custom arrangements.

Paul Carey: Play with your food!

Trained at Yale, Paul Carey has a broad background as a pianist, choral conductor, and composer. His music, published by Oxford and Boosey & Hawkes, has gained wide appeal and recognition; he received an ASCAP special award in 2004 and is active with commissions nationwide. Play with your food! is a five-movement cycle, moving from the driving rhythms of “Summer’s Bounty” to the hilariously overwrought narrative voices of “Mashed Potato/Love Poem” and “After the Muffin” to the multi-layered “Fred.” The movement titled “Vending Machine” perfectly captures the whimsy of a child, absorbed in his own world. The composer writes: “This whole group of songs started out with my setting of ‘Summer’s Bounty,’ which was read through by the Princeton Singers at the Oxford Institute in 2003. Even with what I thought were attempts at being subtle, the read-through produced many guffaws and chortles from the chorus and the piece gained a certain quirky notoriety amongst those in attendance.”


These performances of “Tastes of Paradise” are dedicated to the memory of two very special friends of Chicago a cappella, Marco Matonich and Betty L. Miller.