Lizard Jazz

A “concerto of geckos” and other noises of the night come to life through syncopated rhythms and jazz harmonies underneath a lyrical melody. SA or SSA, piano, opt. Orff instruments, opt. percussion.


SA or SSA, piano, opt. Orff instruments, opt. percussion. Duration: 5’00”

Order from Shawnee/Mark Foster (Hal Leonard) or music retailer.


(The Northfield Youth Choirs, Northfield, MN; Cora Scholz conducting)


Composer’s Notes

Lizard Jazz was written on commission for the combined singers of the Northfield Youth Choirs Concert Choir and the Greenvale Park Elementary School Choir. The text (in full below), by American poet Maurya Simon, won the Mary Carolyn Davies Award for “poem most suitable to be set to music” from the Poetry Society of America. The project was the brainchild of Cora Scholz and Carol Benson, directors of the two choirs.

Lizard Jazz is longer than most children’s choir anthems, but it is not difficult to learn. The vocal part is melodic and lyrical. The optional Orff part (easy and written for child players) and the percussion part (a fairly advanced part involving mainly mallets, also optional) convey a dry, brittle, desert feel. The piano part consists largely of jazz harmonies and syncopated rhythms but requires no improvisation.

Lizard Jazz was made possible in cooperation with the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council through funding from the Minnesota State legislature.

Here is a copy of Maurya Simon’s wonderful poem:

Lizard Jazz

how earnestly this concerto of geckos
chirps our house into a staccato
of echoes, as each note syncopates
the night’s pauses and phrases.
Our lives buzz in a hubbub of voices,
inner and outer, a rainbow of noises —
clock’s tick, baby’s rattle, tolled bell,
and the lowing of cattle — all still,
stilled, when the moon’s shutters open
when the room’s keen congregation
gathers on tiptoe, flexes its elbows —
the walls trembling with shadows —
Oh, geckos!

–Maurya Simon (reprinted by permission of the author)