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The Great God Brown


Although the period of The Great God Brown is unspecified and its action covers a span slightly short of twenty years, the music fixes the play in the 1920s. It begins with a barbershop quartet singing "Sweet Adeline," includes a quotation from the ballad "Ah, Moon of My Delight," and asks for a "sentimental medley of 'Mother-Mammy' tunes" to be played on the nickel-in-the-slot piano in the parlor of Cybel, the whore. The medley is intended as an ironic symbol of Cybel's triune nature: whore, mother, and earth mother. Later the medley is referred to as "the old sentimental tune," suggesting that a single tune such as the one proposed here can be substituted for a multisong medley. The point of her music is expressed in Cybel's lines that begin act 2: "I love those rotten old sob tunes. They make me wise to people. That's what's inside them what makes them

love and murder their neighbor crying jags set to music!" Dion, the desperate fugitive poet, replies: "Every song is a hymn. They keep trying to find the Word in the Beginning."

In the prologue and epilogue, O'Neill calls for an unspecified waltz to be heard across water, a sound in which he seems to have taken particular romantic pleasure since he repeats it in the love scene of Ah, Wilderness! and makes music over water a significant part of the action of The Moon of the Caribbees.

(From the Casino comes the sound of the school quartet rendering "Sweet Adeline" with many ultra-sentimental barber-shop quavers.) [II, 473]

Sweet Adeline - words by Henry W. Armstrong, music by Richard H. Gerard, published 1895

Margaret (looking upward at the moon and singing in low tone as they enter) "Ah, moon of my delight that knowest no wane!"
Billy (eagerly) I've got that record John McCormack. It's a peach! Sing some more. (She looks upward in silence.) [II, 477]

Ah, Moon of My Delight - words by Edward Fitzgerald, translated from The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam, published 1859, music by Liza Lehman, from the song cycle In a Persian Garden, published 1895

(The player-piano is groggily banging out a sentimental medley of "Mother-Mammy" tunes.) [II, 492]

Mother Machree - words by Rida Johnson Young, music by Chauncey Olcott and Ernest R. Ball, published 1910


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