Julie Giroux (b. 1961) is a composer in many media who has made her mark especially in the wind band realm.  A Massachusetts native who grew up in Arizona and Louisiana, Giroux spent the early part of her career arranging and orchestrating music for film and television, as well as for several pop stars in Los Angeles.  Since about 1997, she has focused her creative energies on original compositions.  She has found broad interest in her work around the world, and she has been commissioned to write new music by ensembles of all levels.  Most of her works are published by Musica Propria.

Symphony of Fables (2006) came out of a commission from the United States Air Force Band of Flight and their conductor Alan Sierichs.  Giroux provides her own program notes, taken here from the score and her website:

Once I had decided upon composing a work based on fables and had chosen the five fables that I would musically tell, I was faced the decision of style. Taking to heart the often spoken phrase “write what you know about,” I decided after great debate to compose all the fables in what I consider to be “old school” style. What I mean by that is to say I used styles with which I believe I would have heard as “background” music in my head or at the movies when I was a young. Keep in mind that when I was a child, my favorite musical story compilation was Disney’s “Fantasia.”

I knew I did not want this work to come off as “cartoon” music, but as an emotionally serious and highly programmatic work with several options for the performers in its “telling,” both musically and verbally. Each movement has been composed to stand alone and is capable of being performed in that matter with no introduction other than the usual program notes as a guide. Any combination of the movements in the same matter is also perfectly acceptable. The published “order” is what I feel to be the best if the entire work is being performed but again, I will leave that to the performers.

I have provided short narrations of each fable, which can be read to the audience before each movement, this is my personal choice of how to perform these works. In addition or in lieu of verbally reading to the audience each fable, I have put in the score text which could be described as “story hints.” This text can be given to the audience in variety of ways. The simplest being the words printed out on posterboard large enough for the entire audience to see and raised at the appropriate moments (there is a “Story Line” part included in musical notation as to exactly where these text boards should be shown to the audience). I know it sounds simplistic, but it is very effective.

An overhead projector or video format could be used for the same purpose or could show story boards/pictures from an actual fable book instead. The variety of visual props is endless. I like the idea of only using pictures because it would remind the audience of days gone by when they could not read the words of a story and could only look at the pictures. One recommendation I have along these lines is that I would not recommend actually speaking these words or any others during the performance of any of these movements. A Symphony of Fables was not composed with musical gaps or dynamic considerations for spoken text. I believe that type of presentation is possible but would require some adjustments on the part of the performers.

I will leave all these decisions to you. I only ask that you keep in mind that the total purpose of this music is to make the audience and performers alike, regardless of age or circumstance experience the wonders of a childhood story heard for the very first time through the magic of music.

J.G.

She provides further notes on her source material for each movement, which I will provide below this excellent video of the Filharmónica do Salnés in a complete live performance of the symphony:

(For those interested in particular movements: I starts at 0:00, II at 5:3o, III at 9:58, IV at 14:00, V at 18:24)

Below, each movement heading is a link to Giroux’s website, which also features a score preview and additional recording of the movement.  All notes are excerpted from the website.

I. The Lion and the Mouse

by Aesop:

A Lion was awakened from sleep
by a Mouse running over his paw.
Rising up angrily, he caught him
and was about to kill him,
when the Mouse begged for mercy saying:

“If you would only spare my life,
I would be sure to repay your kindness.”

The Lion laughed and let him go.
It happened shortly after this that the Lion,
fiercely chased by some hunters,
found himself in a cleverly laid trap
which bound him by strong ropes to the ground.

The Lion roared in frustration and despair.
The Mouse, recognizing his roar, came to his aid,
gnawed the rope with his teeth and set him free.

The moral: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

II. The Pied Piper of Hamelin

by the Brothers Grimm

The town of Hamelin was suffering
from an infestation of rats.
One day, a rat-catcher came to the town and
boasted he could rid the town of rats for a fee.
The people of Hamelin promised him payment
if he would rid the town of the rats.

The man produced a pipe.
The music he played with this pipe
attracted the rats and made them follow him.

They followed him to the river,
jumped in and all drowned.

Despite the success of the Piper,
the people reneged on their promise and
did not pay the Piper his earned money.

The Piper left vowing saying some day,
he would receive justice.

The Piper returned to Hamelin and
while the villagers all slept in their beds,
the Piper once again, played his pipe,
this time attracting the children of Hamelin.
They followed the Piper out of town and were never
ever seen or heard from again.

The moral: “Never go Back on Your Word.”

III. The Tortoise and the Hare

by Aesop

One day, a Hare took notice of a particular tortoise.
Its legs were short and its pace was slower than slow.
The Hare, in an attempt to embarrass the tortoise,
challenged him to a race.
Much to the surprise of the Hare, the Tortoise accepted.

All the animals of the forest gathered to watch the spectacle.
When the race began, the Hare ran off and quickly disappeared from sight.
The Tortoise, unwavering in his task, slowly plodded ever forward
towards the goal line.

In the course of the race, the Hare came across a beautiful meadow.
Knowing how pitifully slow the tortoise was,
the Hare decided to take a nap.
Upon awaking from his nap,
the Hare quickly sped to the finish line
only to find out that the Tortoise had already won the race.

The moral: “Slow but Steady wins the Race.”

IV. The Ugly Duckling

by Hans Christian Andersen

One day, a Swan laid an egg by accident in the nest of a duck.
It went unnoticed by the mother duck and eventually
the eggs all hatched. The mother duck and all the ducklings
noticed that one of the ducklings was quite ugly indeed.

It was big and gangly and different in color.
Since it could swim as well as the rest of them,
the duck family accepted it with reluctance.

The ugly duckling endured much teasing and harassment
by not only the ducks, but by all the creatures of and near the pond as well.

This went on for several months,
causing the ugly duckling much grief and sorrow.

One day, several swans returned to the pond.
Everybody could see that the ugly duckling
was not an ugly duck at all, but in fact,
was a beautiful swan.

The moral: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

V. Three Billy Goats Gruff

(of Scandinavian Origin – a version from Norway)

Once upon a time, there were three billy goats named Gruff.
The best grazing place known to them was up on top of a mountain.
On the way up was a bridge they had to cross and
under the bridge lived a great ugly troll.

The youngest Billy Goat Gruff was the first to cross the bridge.
“Trip, trap, trip, trap!” went the bridge.
“Who’s that tripping over my bridge?”roared the troll.
“Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff,”
said the billy goat with such a small voice.
“I am going to EAT YOU,” growled the troll.

“No, please don’t! If you wait a bit, the second Billy Goat Gruff will come.
He’s much bigger and will make a better meal than I,” cried the goat.
Being greedy in nature, the Troll let the first Billy Goat Gruff pass.

A little while later, the second Billy goat Gruff came along.
Trip, trap, trip went the bridge.
“Who’s that tripping over my bridge?”roared the troll.
“Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff,”
said the billy goat with medium voice.
“I am going to EAT YOU,” growled the troll.

“No, please don’t! If you wait a bit, the Big Billy Goat Gruff will come.
He’s much bigger and will make a better meal than I,” cried the goat.
Being greedy in nature, the Troll let the second Billy Goat Gruff pass.

A little while later, the third and largest Billy goat Gruff came along.
Trip, trap, trip, trap, trip, trap went the bridge.
“Who’s that tripping over my bridge?”roared the troll.
“It is I!” the big Billy Goat Gruff said in a booming voice.
“I am going to EAT YOU,” growled the troll.

“You can try!” said the big billy goat and he flew at the Troll.
A ferocious fight ensued and the Big Billy Goat Gruff defeated the Troll,
who shamed and beaten, ran off and was never seen again.

The three Billy Goats Gruff rejoiced in their cleverness on top of the mountain
and never had to worry about crossing the bridge ever again!

The moral: “Never, ever be Greedy.”