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:

  • Poulenc
  • Babar is born
  • digging in the sand
  • riding on his mother’s back
  • Babar’s mother is shot
  • Babar runs away
  • Cording
  • the city and two gentlemen
  • Poulenc
  • the Old Lady gives Babar her purse
  • Cording
  • riding the elevator
  • the Floor Manager
  • buying clothes
  • having a picture taken
  • dining with the Old Lady
  • going to sleep
  • Poulenc
  • exercise and bath
  • riding in the car
  • Cording
  • lessons
  • stories of life in the forest
  • Poulenc
  • Babar remembers his mother
  • buying Arthur and Celeste clothes
  • the pastry shop
  • Arthur and Celeste’s mothers are worried
  • the old stork returns with news
  • mothers scold Arthur and Celeste
  • Cording
  • packing the trunk
  • saying goodbye
  • Poulenc
  • leaving for the forest in the car
  • the Old Lady misses Babar
  • the King of the elephants eats a bad mushroom
  • Cording
  • the three oldest elephants have a meeting
  • Babar arrives at the forest
  • Cornelius speaks
  • Poulenc
  • Babar accepted as King
  • birds invite animals to wedding
  • guests arrive
  • the marriage and coronation of Babar
  • dancing
  • after the party
  • Cording
  • leaving in a balloon for the honeymoon
  • Poulenc
  • the end

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..

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