New York City native Paul Richards (b. 1969) is an award winning composer who presently teaches composition at the University of Florida. He has received commissions from organizations around the United States. His works run the gamut from solo and chamber works to large ensemble and theatre works, including a dozen works for wind band to date.
If You Could Only See the Frog was written in 2008 on a commission from the Saint Mary’s University Concert Band, directed by Dr. Janet Heukeshoven, director, with support from the Sam & Helen Kaplan Foundation. It was the winner of the 2014 Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest. Richards explains it on his website:
“Si Veriash a la Rana” (“If You Could Only See the Frog”) is the title of a children’s song from Bulgaria sung by exiled Jews in the Spanish-Jewish dialect of Ladino:
If you could only see the little frog sitting on the oven, frying her fritas and sharing with her sisters!
If you could only see the little mouse sitting in the corner, shelling walnuts and sharing with her sisters!
If you could only see the little camel sitting on the dough-board, rolling out filo thinner than hair!
The deceptively simple and playful tune stems from a wide range of cultural influences, combining typically Ladino melodic figurations with a traditional Bulgarian metric construction, punctuated by a curious refrain in Turkish that simply means, “I love you so much”.
This concert band piece is a percussion-driven exploration of this infectious and time-tested melody.
The University of Florida Wind Ensemble gives a rousing performance:
To really get into the sound world that this melody came from, you should listen to the extra videos below. Here is a folky version of the original tune:
And a more pop version:
And another folk version with a more instrumental emphasis: