Kitties in the Kitty-combs

If you don’t like cats, I advise you to avert your eyes from this blog right now.

Because I’m going to tell you about my Halloween Carol, “Cats In The Catacombs,” which is full of cat goodness!

Oh yes, I LOVES deh kittehs! In fact, a good dose of “lolcats” is happy medicine. If you’ve never heard of this site …

… try it out. It’s so funny. Yes, sometimes there are cheesy, sentimental “Hallmarky” pictures there, but most of the time, the pictures and captions are just plain funny. (To my Trick-or-Treaters for whom English is a second language, some of the captions are in the silly “internet English” or “lolspeak,” so just slowly sound out the letters to figure out what the caption is saying. Example: “kitteh” is a funny way of pronouncing “kitty”)

So, on to my Halloween Carol. My cat, Molly, is the rock star of this song. I adopted her from a shelter when she was four years old. For months and months and months, she didn’t purr. No purring. This poor kitty had been physically abused by the former owner’s husband (as a cruel way to mentally abuse the owner), so she put Molly in the shelter. Poor owner. Poor Molly!

Why did I adopt a cat that didn’t purr? Well, I was just drawn to this beautiful creature! She’s a silky, black, elegant thing, and out of all the cats available, she struck me as the most intelligent, the most sophisticated. The shelter was surprised that I chose her, but they were also astounded that I was able to calm down her growl-y nature. It was like Harry Potter and his wand – simply the right match.

I thought about changing her name, because I would have never chosen “Molly” as a cat name, but no name came to my mind, and this little animal knew her name. So I “Kristened” her Molly Macabre the Halloween Cat.

About a year or so into owning Molly, she began to purr. Lots of love and gentle affection has healed this little beast. As well as lots of tuna. Yes, human’s tuna, right from the can, juices and all. I love this girl! She is so smart and funny. Really, she has a funny little sense of humor. She makes these “huh?” sounds when she catches my eye. And we play hide-and-seek. No joke.

And I’m happy to say that today, 11 years after I adopted her, she has a mighty purr. A cat motor. But one “kitty issue” remains – she HATES being held when it’s not her idea. She’ll come and sit on my lap by her own choice, but if I try to put her on my lap – no way! And if I pick her up, she’ll growl, hiss, and spat. She just doesn’t like it, but I still try because … when I want to hold a cat, I WANT TO HOLD A CAT!!!

Anyway, when I was arranging this carol, “Cats In The Catacombs,” for the recording, it struck me that I really should have Molly as a featured vocalist. This song was made for Molly.

I scored this carol for organ, piano, xylophone, cello, and cat.

For cello, I asked my friend Brian Stucki to play that for me. He is one outstanding cellist. He is one outstanding musician! He’s my friend from college and I wanted his skills and his personality on the recording. He is at once very silly and quirky, and then very balanced and pleasant. He, his wife, and their two children are currently in Warsaw, Poland, because he is singing in an opera there. Yes, he does it all. A fantastic musician. He double-majored and double-mastered in cello and voice (tenor). Here he his if you would like to know more about him:

The xylophone use in my song is a wink at Danny Elfman and his “xylophone band” that I have been a slobbering fan of since I was 10 years old – Oingo Boingo. Here’s one of their xylophone songs, “Grey Matter”:

I love all of Oingo Boingo’s songs, but here is my favorite song of theirs, “Just Another Day”:

The harmonies and upper register piano usage are a wink at Camille Saint-Saëns, the composer of “Danse Macabre” and the incomparable “Organ” Symphony (No. 3 – the main theme of which is used in the movie, “Babe” – LOVE it).

Here is “Danse Macabre,” original orchestration:

And here is an organ reduction of the score:

I’ve got to learn to play that! Maybe for a future Halloween organ concert. And here is a link to the final movement of Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3:

It is so beautiful. Out of this world. Gosh, here I am typing this blog with it still playing on YouTube and I’m sobbing out of control. Where did that come from? It’s sooooooooo preeeeeeeeeeetty. Especially when that heavenly piano comes in (listen for it at 0:30). Unreal. Such a truly sweet musical theme.

When it came to recording Molly, well, that was easy. I held her. Yes, I held her in front of a microphone, and the longer I held her, the more annoyed she got. She performed beautifully. No, I did not hurt her. I would never do that. And to soothe her growls afterward, I gave her a whole can of tuna.

“Cats In The Catacombs” came about because I love to play with words, I love cats, and I’m intrigued with catacombs. I’ve been to Paris three times, but I have yet to see the catacombs there. I know, what’s my problem?

Cats’ association with Halloween comes mainly from their companionship to witches. I’ve read in some places that cats (and other animals) were sacrificed by the Druids to help in their Samhain prophecies long ago, but I don’t like to think about that. Aaah, Molly’s ancestors!

As far as companionship to witches, it’s such an understandable thing. I am a quirky woman who loves cats. I can see how a lot of women like me throughout the centuries were called witches. If it weren’t so tacky, I’d own 100 cats. And I’d make soup all day from a garden while my cats kept me company (but making soup isn’t tacky – no, no! It’s a brilliant art.) I love rubbing my face in cats and listening to their purr motors.

And wow, this is a long blog, but I have to share one more story with you before I end. Several years ago, I was getting ready for a Halloween party. I dressed up as … a cat … and curled my hair into a huge, golden fro. I painted crazy, detailed cat make-up on my face. Before I left, I went to say goodbye to Molly, who was lounging atop a bunk bed. The room was dark, so she only heard me until I came closer to her. And then, when she saw me, her eyes grew so big! I kept talking and cooing to her to reassure her that it was I, but she backed away from me and her fur bristled. When I reached out to pet her, she backed up so rapidly that she hit the wall and fell to the lower bunk. The poor thing was “spooked to poofs of nerves and fur!”

Cats in the catacombs have scratchy, catchy claws.

They tousle a mouse or a ratty, tatty rat, then pause,

For something in the darkness creaks; and curious to see …

RAWR! Spooked to poofs of nerves and fur!

Cats hiss like catalysts for mighty, frighty nights.

They cater with caterwauls down the labyrinthy halls,

Then patter, scatter as a knocking echoes down the way …

RAWR! Spooked to poofs of nerves and fur!

Cats’ eyes can categorize images so dim.

Like bunk beds of bones holding grins and gory eyes awake.

A cataplexy like a hex will seize the bristly beast …

RAWR! Spooked to poofs of nerves and fur!

Cats brush by catafalques which, slipped in crypts beneath,

Can portend a mortal end to the lives-of-nine inclined.

Well, pity kitties on their eighth who paw a
t loose, pile
d skulls …

RAWR! Spooked to poofs of nerves and fur!