(Click on title for lyrics/audio)
Derr-Air (On the Barroom Ceiling 3’20”
(Recording: Henry Mollicone, baritone and piano)
For baritone solo with piano accompaniment
Level: medium, 1’50”
“Derri-air”, a “ragtime song” for baritone and piano, was written during the production of the new feature-length documentary film, “THE FACE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR- The Poem, the Place, the opera”.
“The Face on the Barroom Floor” refers to the famous picture painted on the floor of the Teller House Bar in Central City, Colorado (inspired by the poem by D’Arcy), and the opera I composed to John S. Bowman’s libretto in 1978, which was performed every season in Central City for 33 years, and continues to be my most performed opera.
Film producer Lawrence Kraman found on the internet a poem which tells a similar story of another woman whose backside (clothed in a can can dress) was painted on the ceiling in a bar a few blocks away. Alas, the bar (and the lady on the ceiling) are no longer there, but for those who know the face poem, “Bottoms up- or the end of the slip of a miss”, the poem by Colorado’s Sid Squibb, published in 1951, is truly funny- a kind of parody of the Face poem, detailing in this case how the painting got to be done on the ceiling!”
Derri-Air (On The Barroom Ceiling)
‘Twas a quiet night, which didn’t seem right,
In the Glory Hole Saloon.
Those that were there would just sit and stare
As they heard each ragtime tune.
Try as they would to react as they should,
The crowd was drifting apart,
When out of the night, which was really a fright,
Came a dog, a horse and a cart.
The door flew wide and just outside
A leering face appeared;
‘Twas a carnival man who was driving the van
And toward the lights had steered.
With long dark face and coat to match
He slithered through the door;
Took one quick look at that morbid crowd
And fell upon the floor.
A tobacco tin that was filled with gin,
Was found on someone’s hip
And, Gad, how he sighed, and his eyes opened wide,
As they gave him a healthy nip.
The crowd got a treat as he rose to his feet
And told of his magical powers–
He would fly to the ceiling–paint a portrait revealing,
If the piano played “Hearts and Flowers.”
“A drink on the house for this rummy old souse
And I’ll show you a trick or two.”
He gulped down the drink, and quick as a wink,
Around the room he flew.
He paused on the ceiling–showed no proper feeling,
But pulled out a paint box instead,
And painted his Love–from below, not above,
And explained how she’d lost her head.
She’d let him down and gone out of town,
Attired in a Can Can dress;
She was slightly misguided with intentions divided
And got in a terrible mess.
She took up with a miner–now what could be finer–
But she never knew where to stop;
She found her another, much more like a brother,
And didn’t know which one to drop.
With one in each bar, and it wasn’t too far
To fly between the two,
She thought she’d try magic, with results that were tragic–
She’d forgotten a word or two.
And so to this day, in her own unique way,
She is still very much to be seen,
With her face in one place, and her base up in space,
With a block and a half in between.
“Bottoms Up” or “The End Of A Slip Of A Miss” –Sid Squibb
©Copyright 1951, Newbury. Used by permission of Robert T. Squibb