The Story of Babar

I wanted to do a project for my grandchildren. After much thought, I decided performing Poulenc’s The Story of Babar would do nicely. I’d always admired Poulenc’s Babar music, and think it contains some of his best material. My only disappointment with Babar was that Poulenc used an abridged version of the story. I always wondered what other great music we missed out on because Poulenc didn’t do the whole thing.

Then I had a crazy thought. “I’m a composer. Why don’t I just fill in the bits Poulenc didn’t do? That will make the gift of the Babar story that much more personal and special !”

If I hadn’t been thinking about who is was for, I’d have thought about it too much and would never have had the courage to put my music side by side with Poulenc’s. Fortunately, I just naively pressed ahead and intimidation never set in.

I didn’t try to imitate Poulenc in any way. I just wrote as I naturally would. The result holds up just fine, I think. And Poulenc’s music and mine go together surprisingly well. (Considering how much I love his music, and what an influence he’s been, maybe not so surprising?)

The resulting music is about 50% Poulenc and 50% me. If you’re not already familiar with the Poulenc, and are curious who wrote what, here’s a breakdown showing the composer for each scene:

Babar is born                                  00:25
digging in the sand                            02:08
riding on his mother’s back                    02:47
Babar’s mother is shot                         03:50
Babar runs away                                04:10
the city and two gentlemen                     04:53
the Old Lady gives Babar her purse             06:18
riding the elevator                            08:00
the Floor Manager                              08:50
buying clothes                                 10:01
having a picture taken                         10:40
dining with the Old Lady                       12:02
going to sleep                                 12:46
exercise and bath                              13:35
riding in the car                              14:42
lessons                                        15:03
stories of life in the forest                  16:31
Babar remembers his mother                     17:22
buying Arthur and Celeste clothes              18:28
the pastry shop                                19:09
Arthur and Celeste’s mothers are worried       19:55
the old stork returns with news                20:27
mothers scold Arthur and Celeste               20:45
packing the trunk                              21:09
saying goodbye                                 21:54
leaving for the forest in the car              23:01
the Old Lady misses Babar                      23:39
the King of the elephants eats a bad mushroom  25:09
the three oldest elephants have a meeting      26:21
Babar arrives at the forest                    27:35
Cornelius speaks                               28:22

Babar accepted as King    30:05 birds invite animals to wedding    31:01 guests arrive    31:33 the marriage and coronation of Babar    32:24 dancing    33:50 after the party    34:33 Cording leaving in a balloon for the honeymoon   36:10 Poulenc the end    37:48

The bold items are my favorite Poulenc sections.

The entire story is about 38 minutes, so settle in before giving a listen.

Listen to: The Story of Babar..