Zowie! Goes the Weasel for 3 violins and viola
May 6, 2018: Kerry McDermott, violin; Clara Neubauer, violin; Paul Neubauer, viola; Oliver Neubauer, violin
Zowie! Goes the Weasel, a humorous arrangement for four violins of the well-known nursery tune “Pop! Goes the Weasel,” appeared in print in 1947 in Fiddle Sessions, a collection of ensemble pieces for two, three, and four violins compiled by Livingston Gearhart. A pianist, educator, composer, and arranger, Gearhart published a series of nine such Sessions, known for their humor and liveliness as they build students’ music skills. He may be best known, however, for his arrangement of the classic “Dry Bones” for Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians.
Gearhart studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, where he also met Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, and Robert Casadesus—and formed a successful piano duo with his future wife, Virginia Clotfelter (professional name Morley). They returned to the U.S. owing to WWII conditions, and by 1954 they had performed over 2,000 concerts, most of them under contract with Columbia Concerts and the Fred Waring Show. They also made many recordings for Columbia Masterworks and Decca Records, and Gearhart worked as a staff arranger for the Fred Waring Show.
In 1955 Gearhart joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) where he taught piano, theory, and orchestration until his retirement in 1985. Also in 1955, divorced from Virginia, he married violinist and conductor Pamela Gerhart (not a misspelling!), for whose students at SUNY Buffalo, the Community Music School of Buffalo, and many workshops and clinics he continued to compose and make arrangements.
Gearhart included no biographical information in Fiddle Sessions about “Y. Dobon” the composer of Zowie! Goes the Weasel, but it is entirely possible that it was one of his colleagues at the Fred Waring Show or someone he encountered on tour. Information about Dobon may lie somewhere in the 507 folders of Gearhart’s original compositions, arrangements, collections, and personal papers held at the SUNY Buffalo Library, but for the present, Gearhart deserves the credit for making this jazzy, lighthearted arrangement known. Here the four-violin arrangement is adapted for three violins and viola.
© Jane Vial Jaffe