Theodore Roethke’s charming and wistful poem ‘The Hippo’ is given an appropriate setting that matches the tongue in cheek sentiment of the author. Roethke (1908-1963) was an American poet who wrote “an extraordinarily diverse and lyrical body of poetry. He could be sombre or playful, surrealistic or erotic or romantic, or many of these things at once.”
Graham Lloyd notes the pause on the word ‘yawn’ in ‘...he starts to yawn, it takes all day.’ Perhaps the music is a little bit more melancholy than the spirit of the poem demands. Yet from a listener’s point of view this is a near perfect matching of text and music. The song was composed in 2003 and received its first performance that year at the Royal Grammar School in Worcester with Nathan Vale as soloist and Paul Plummer on the piano. The Hippo is the last of Venables’ Six Songs Op.33.
The mezzo soprano Sally Porter-Munro and pianist Graham Fitch give a superb performance of this song. It was part of a concert given at The Royal Grammar School, Worcester, on July 23rd, 2011.
Listen to Ian Venables’ ‘The Hippo’ on YouTube.