The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Sue Loves Butter

An exuberant toast to friendship, fun, and everybody’s favorite comfort food

Words by Elizabeth Alexander

Once upon a fishing trip, Sue added butter to everything she cooked — fish, potatoes, eggs and vegetables alike — an extravagant ingredient her convivial companions never let her forget! Sue Loves Butter, composed in memory of Sue’s big heart and joyful spirit, is an over-the-top frolic which invites the singers and audience to celebrate the warmth, camaraderie, joy, and just plain fun which good friends bring to our lives.

Warning: This piece includes unabashed mirth, shameless musical puns, groovy hand motions, a sing-along for the audience, and dairy products.

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

Sue Loves Butter was commissioned by a women’s choir in memory of Sue Fern, a beloved singer and founding member of the chorus. In order to give me a taste of Sue’s personality, the chorus sent me stories, poems, letters, emails and videos about her. They wrote of her kindness, generosity and love of singing – but what stood out most to me were the stories about her humor and zest for life. Everyone seemed to have at least one story about Sue’s laughter and good-natured practical jokes, including her legendary lusty “moo’s” during choir rehearsals, a reference to the conductor’s childhood on a dairy farm. One singer wrote that Sue made everyone feel younger. One wrote about a fishing weekend with friends during which Sue cooked everything in butter – fish, potatoes, eggs and vegetables alike. Butter, I thought. What a great metaphor for exuberance!

Sue Loves Butter is the most unabashedly playful song I’ve ever written. Many of my women’s choir songs – like Why I Pity the Woman Who Never Spills, Life is Not a Garden, and Reasons for the Perpetuation of Slavery – bring out the strong and courageous side of women. But it was also a pleasure to just let myself have fun, and remembering what life was like when I was a curious, irrepressible girl.

Some might think that a playful song isn’t fitting for a memorial piece. But somber just didn’t seem like the right vibe for Sue. And personally, I’m not sure it would be right for me either. If there’s ever a posthumous musical celebration of my life, I sure hope there will be room for bad puns, amateur dancing, vigorous hand-clapping, frolicking children, and plenty of butter.

Text

Sue Loves Butter

I couldn’t sing a song about a garden unless I mentioned sun and rain,
And I couldn’t sing a song about a red caboose if I didn’t sing about the train.
I couldn’t sing a song about arithmetic without telling you one and one make two,
And I couldn’t sing a song about friendship without telling you all about Sue.

Sue loves butter on her bread, and fedoras on her head –
Unless instead she wants to feel the wind in her hair.
She has a merry flair which she carries everywhere,
And which she’ll gladly share with friends and strangers too. (It’s true!)

Sue loves butter on her peas, and finesses recipes
So butter seasons every bite – it’s almost a crime!
She does it every time. What a saucy paradigm!
How I love the fact that I’m on the very same planet as Sue. (I think you live there, too.)

Sue is the very best driver in the neighborhood.
Her turns are awfully good,
And it is understood that in all likelihood
She’s driving under the influence of LOVE.
She always brakes for really really really bad jokes,
She signals to all friendly folks,
And yields the right of way to hopscotch. (Hopscotch!)

Butter on popcorn, butter on toast – Sue loves butter better than most.
Buttercup, butterfly, buttermilk pie (my, oh my!)
My darling playmate (ha ha!), come out and catch a fish,
We’ll fry it up (yum yum!) In lots of buh-dah-buh-dah-buh-dah-buh-dah-buh-dah!
Bah-dah, bah-dah, bah-dah, bah-dah, bah-bah-bah!…etc.

Sue loves butter in her life, spreads it thickly with her knife:
It eases every pain, and sweetens every delight.
Oh when I sing this song for Sue, I know exactly what she’ll do:
She’ll sing it too, her face a feast of light.
She’ll study every part, and she’ll learn it all by heart,
And once she’s mastered it, she’ll start
To teach it to you!

Listen now; it goes like this — Joy shared is doubled, and pain shared is cut in two.
Come on and sing it like you mean it! — Joy shared is doubled, and pain shared is cut in two.
I’m having a little trouble hearing you — Joy shared is doubled, and pain shared is cut in two.
Bah-dah, bah, bah! Bah-dah, bah, bah, etc. — Joy shared is doubled, and pain shared is cut in two.

I couldn’t sing a song about arithmetic without telling you one and one make two,
And I couldn’t sing a song about friendship without telling you all about Sue!

Elizabeth Alexander
© 2015 by Elizabeth Alexander

Performers

Performers

Premiere: Voices, the Chapel Hill Chorus / Sue Klausmeyer (Chapel Hill, NC)
Indianapolis Women’s Chorus / Meagan Johnson (Indianapolis, IN)