Manners for Men

for unbroken voices, keyboards
and percussion ensemble [c.15']

book cover

script: Peter Wesley-Smith
music: Martin Wesley-Smith

commissioned by Methodist Ladies College,
Burwood, Sydney, 1998

based on the book Manners for Men,
by Mrs Humphry ("Madge" of "Truth"),
first published by James Bowden, London, in 1897

list of songs | libretto | first performance details | bottom


scored for

soloists
two choirs ("girls" and "boys")
piano (four hands), doubling synth (harpsichord/organ)
optional: percussion ensemble (four players)


songs

Manners for Men
Girls, Boys
Woman's Ideal Man
A Gentleman Doesn't
Ladies Are Socially Superior
Manners for Girls
Since Heaven's Door Was Opened


libretto

Note: words in italics are spoken, not sung


solo girl: What do boys need?
all: Manners!
solo girl: What do men need?
all: Manners!
solo girl: What book should they read?
all: Manners for Men
Boys and girls start a general rabble, controlled by the conductor (each hand controls its side of the hall, with height indicating volume and density of the noise). A boy yells "Teacher's coming!!" and there is sudden silence and order. Fanfare. Enter Mrs Wobblebottom, their teacher.
Mrs W: Boys and girls! Good evening!
all: Good evening, Mrs Wobblebottom!
Mrs W: Settle down, now. Today's lesson is the book of etiquette you're all supposed to have read for your homework. Though it was published a hundred years ago it still has a great deal to teach us. Pay attention, Jimmy! One day even you might be a gentleman! You remember the title - don't you, Susan? - it's by "Madge" of "Truth" and it's called Manners for Men.

top | libretto | list of songs | first performance details | Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | bottom

songs: Manners for Men | Girls, Boys | Woman's Ideal Man | A Gentleman Doesn't
Ladies Are Socially Superior | Manners for Girls | Since Heaven's Door Was Opened



SONG: Manners for Men
girls: Manners for men
Etiquette for gentle johnnies
Savoir faire for squires and gentry
Protocol for polished, couth, attentive, gracious,
decent, cultured, well-bred, chivalrous,
smoothly gallant, cultivated chaps
Mrs W: Manners for Men
Manners for Men
Society has decreed them
Manners for Men
Lord knows our fellows need them
This manual of etiquette
No other guide surpasses
It tells you how to be just like
The educated classes

top | libretto | list of songs | first performance details | Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | bottom

songs: Manners for Men | Girls, Boys | Woman's Ideal Man | A Gentleman Doesn't
Ladies Are Socially Superior | Manners for Girls | Since Heaven's Door Was Opened



SONG: Girls, Boys (interleaved with Manners for Men)
boys: Girls, girls, girls, girls
Annoyingly neat
And cloyingly sweet
girls: Boys, boys, boys, boys
As wobbly as jelly
With smelly flat feet!
Mrs W: No no! That's not it at all!
To learn discernment - to perceive
From out of the muck the brasses
Like Viscounts, Barons, Earls, and other
Paterfamiliasses
boys: Girls, girls, girls, girls
The whole truth to tell
They're way past their sell-
by date!
girls: Boys, boys, boys, boys
As comely as chilblains
They're dillbrains as well -
mate!
Mrs W: Well, I must say the girls give as good as they get!
To save you from embarrassment
From fluffs and faults and farces
Like vulgar French pronunciation
And other such faux passes
boys: Girls, girls, girls, girls
So far off the pace
They're not in the race
girls: Boys, boys, boys, boys
As boring as butter
An utter disgrace!
Mrs W: Manners for Men
Manners for Men
Society has decreed them
Manners for Men
Manners for Men
Lord knows our fellows need them


But really, children, this won't do. I want the girls - just the girls this time - no interruptions from the boys - to tell us what the book says about the ideal man. Listen, boys, you might learn what you must become to take your place in society.

top | libretto | list of songs | first performance details | Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | bottom

songs: Manners for Men | Girls, Boys | Woman's Ideal Man | A Gentleman Doesn't
Ladies Are Socially Superior | Manners for Girls | Since Heaven's Door Was Opened



SONG: Woman's Ideal Man
girls: We shall endeavour to describe
As briefly as we can
That paragon of taste and breeding
Woman's Ideal Man
He's first of all a gentleman
To every fault he's blind
He's thoughtful, true, and tender-hearted
Courteous and kind
A man of great refinement
Whom neatness all pervades
Respectful to his social betters
Gentle with the maids
He's never late for dinner, or
Imbibes excessive wine
In every manner he conforms
To woman's grand design
A man of suave gentility
His garments spick and span
With 'if you please' and 'thank you, ma'am'
He's Woman's Ideal Man!


Mrs W: Well done, ladies! Now, boys, horrid little creatures that you are, it's your turn - what is it a gentleman - a real one - what is it he doesn't do?
boy: Aw, do we have to, Mrs Wobblebottom?
Mrs W: Of course you do - and don't be impertinent. Your whole future may depend on this. Imagine if you weren't admitted to the Lord Mayor's Ball? If you don't learn to be a gentleman, even the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras might refuse you admission!
boys: Alright, then:

top | libretto | list of songs | first performance details | Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | bottom

songs: Manners for Men | Girls, Boys | Woman's Ideal Man | A Gentleman Doesn't
Ladies Are Socially Superior | Manners for Girls | Since Heaven's Door Was Opened



SONG: A Gentleman Doesn't
boys: A gentleman doesn't
Reek of old tobacco
girls: Yuck!
boys: He's daintily, exquisitely clean
girls: Yes sir!
boys: He'll always raise his topper
To a lady very proper-
Ly and treat a mem-sahib like a queen
girls: Right on, man!
boys: A gentleman doesn't
Walk with hands in pockets
Or wear a dinner jacket at a play
girls: No way!
boys: He'll never be offensive
Or behave most reprehensive-
Ly no matter what you do or say
girls: Yay!
boys: He's fair and square and true that way
girls: OK!
Mrs W: A gentleman doesn't
Gallop past a lady
Or enter into dinner wearing gloves
all: Wearing gloves!
Mrs W: He'll never make a false step
In a foxtrot or the waltz-step
And he'll only kiss the lady he loves
girls: Aaaaah!
Mrs W: A gentleman doesn't
Mumble to his hostess
Or carry an umbrella in a case
all: In a case!
Mrs W: With dowagers and beauties
He accepts his social duties
With a self-assured repose and grace
all: And grace!
Mrs W: He intimately knows his place!

girls: A proper miss doesn't
Frolic with the butler
Or lift her skirts when riding on a bus
boys: Or on a tram!
girls: In ev'ry house and forum
She must act with due decorum
She should model her behaviour on us
boys: Yes, ma'amselles!
girls: A proper miss doesn't
Dally with a roué
Or sit upon the ghastly fellow's knee
boys: Unless he's me!
girls: Or meet with a musician
Without Dad's express permission
Or accept a fancy gem for free
all: Especially if she's MLC!!


Mrs W: Ah yes, we're learning. Well, boys: what do you have to say about girls now?
boys: Girls, girls, girls, girls
They're wussy and small
And can't throw a ball
girls: Boys, boys, boys, boys
They're mad as a hatter
They sadly don't matter
At all
boys: Girls, girls, girls, girls
They all wish to be
A he not a she
girls: Boys, boys, boys, boys
They're brawling
They're pimply and bawling
They're simply appalling
To see - you see that

top | libretto | list of songs | first performance details | Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | bottom

songs: Manners for Men | Girls, Boys | Woman's Ideal Man | A Gentleman Doesn't
Ladies Are Socially Superior | Manners for Girls | Since Heaven's Door Was Opened



SONG: Ladies Are Socially Superior
girls: Ladies are socially superior
Such morality, geniality
boys: Illogicality!
girls: Such charm!
While men are utterly inferior:
Such venality, animality, so ill-mannered
boys: What? Us? So ill-mannered? Woh! As if we care!
girls: Ladies are paragons of charity
Such precocity, generosity
boys: An atrocity!
girls: Such grace!
While men are bearers of barbarity
Such pomposity, unctuosity, so indecent!
boys: What? Us? So indecent? Gee, that doesn't seem fair!
girls: Ladies are paradigms of purity
So pragmatical, systematical
boys: Autocratical!
girls: So clean!
But men can offer us security
So practical, diplomatical, such bank accounts!
boys: Yes! Correct! Money, security - we're willing to share!
girls: Provided they are men of good society
So attendant on and dependent on the ladies
boys: The ladies!
girls: Strong men of consummate propriety
AND IF YOU EVER SEE ONE PLEASE LET US KNOW IMMEDIATELY!


Mrs W: Exactly what the book says!
boys: Girls, girls, girls, girls
It's still in dispute
But sometimes they're cute
girls: Boys, boys, boys, boys
Though unprepossessing
Usually depressing
Even distressing
They're sometimes a blessing
And simply impressive-
Ly, even excessive-
Ly beaut!


Mrs W: That's getting better! But smarten up, boys - girls are not just "cute", they're warm and wise and wonderful (take me, for example). And they're not merely useful to have around the house - they're bright and talented, the equal of boys in most things, superior in others - they have class!

top | libretto | list of songs | first performance details | Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | bottom

songs: Manners for Men | Girls, Boys | Woman's Ideal Man | A Gentleman Doesn't
Ladies Are Socially Superior | Manners for Girls | Since Heaven's Door Was Opened



SONG: Manners for Girls
Mrs W: A proper miss mustn't
Use immodest language
Or let a simple plumber presume
For if she were to marry
Any Thomas, Dick or Harry
She would rapidly descend to her doom
A proper miss isn't
Handy in the tool-shed
Or even with a pot or frying pan
girls: We'd rather, we admit
A spunky hunk like Bradley Pitt
To any so-called Woman's Ideal Man
(A gentleman looks simp-
Ly like a woman's ideal wimp
Instead of modern woman's ideal man)
(We'd donate lots of hard dough
For a Brad or Leonardo
As the modern woman's ideal man)
boys: Girls, girls, girls, girls
Worth ten out of ten
We all have a yen for them
girls: Boys, boys, boys, boys
They're noble,
boys: Delicious,
girls: Ambitious,
boys: Nutritious,
girls: True-blue,
boys: Tender-hearted,
girls: (And eas'ly out-smarted)
boys: We're steadfast and trusty,
girls: They're loyal
boys: And lusty,
girls: Devoted,
boys: Imperious,
girls: Jocular,
boys: Serious,
girls: Clever and knowing
boys: And so easy-going,
girls: And what's more they grow into
Men!
boys: Yes we do!
girls: They grow into
Men!


Mrs W: At last! Very good, boys and girls - a great advance in the relations between the sexes! You've got it right!

top | libretto | list of songs | first performance details | Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | bottom

songs: Manners for Men | Girls, Boys | Woman's Ideal Man | A Gentleman Doesn't
Ladies Are Socially Superior | Manners for Girls | Since Heaven's Door Was Opened



SONG: Since Heaven's Door Was Opened
girls: Since heaven's door was opened, since earthly time began
Does Man maketh manners or do manners maketh Man?
Is 'Madge' of 'Truth' a tyrant who binds us with her pen
Or does her counsel liberate both women and their men?
Do women insist on etiquette while a man forgoes his soul?
Does men's compliance merely hide men's ultimate control?
Form or substance? Mere appearances? If you can
Please advise:
tabDoes "Madge" of "Truth"'s book "Manners" - "Manners for Men" - maketh Man?
boys: It worked with us!
all: Manners for Men!




1998
Peter Wesley-Smith

score available from The Australian Music Centre

e-mail librettist
e-mail composer

top | libretto | list of songs | first performance details | Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | bottom

songs: Manners for Men | Girls, Boys | Woman's Ideal Man | A Gentleman Doesn't
Ladies Are Socially Superior | Manners for Girls | Since Heaven's Door Was Opened





Manners for Men was first performed on Tues May 4 1999 in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House by MLC School (c.1000 performers!). Soloists: Jermaine Chau (Mrs Wobblebottom) and Naomi Bourke; conductor: Mark Scott; choirs: the MLC School Choir and the MLC Full School Choir; piano: Christina Kenny and Andrea Lam; and the MLC School Percussion Ensemble.

It was an amazing concert, one consisting entirely - except for Percy Grainger's Children's March - of new or recent Australian music. The program included two pieces composed by students at the school (Susie Park and Rachel New):

Peter Sculthorpe:Kakadu
Matthew Hindson:Technologic 1-2
Bruce Rowland:The Man from Snowy River
Ian Munns:Mangrove Bay
Percy Grainger:Children's March
Douglas Simper:Dreams and Visions
intermission
Ross Edwards:Ecstatic Dance No.2
Ross Edwards:Flower Songs [mvt.1]
Paul Stanhope:Morning Star III
Susie Park:Psychosomanic
Carl Vine:Rash
Martin Wesley-Smith:Manners for Men
Rachel New:Technomatic

The concert - enthusiastically received by the packed Concert Hall - demonstrated to other Sydney concert entrepreneurs (Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Musica Viva, Opera Australia, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and so on) the value and success of a strong commitment to Australian music prepared for performance with great energy and skill. Or would've, had they sent representatives. There was no music critic there, of course: it was, after all, just a school concert. But what a concert! It was of far more cultural significance than any other concert in Sydney that week and thus deserved a proper review.

Our thanks to all the performers, to the School as a whole, to the Principal (Mrs Barbara Stone), and to the Music Staff, particularly to the Director of Music, Karen Carey, whose energy and enthusiasm, and love of music, and managerial magnificence, conquered all the small - and huge! - difficulties involved in mounting such an ambitious venture.

Martin Wesley-Smith and Peter Wesley-Smith

top | libretto | list of songs | first performance details | Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | bottom

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