Unbelievable as it sounds, the good folks at the Bearsville Theater are actually allowing Messrs. Schickele, Malkine, and Horowitz on-stage once again, on December 11, for their fifth annual seasonal installment of silliness, "A Mulled Measure of Merry Mishegas." And while I was unable to reach Malkine—Horowitz hinted darkly about a panicked call from a Turkish prison—Schickele and Horowitz were kind enough to blow smoke in my general direction about what may or may not take place on the Bearsville stage. (Horowitz, ever the provocateur, also called into question Malkine's supposed Franco-American ethnicity, stating, "How French can a guy be who orders duck at a diner in New Paltz?")
For those unfamiliar with the antics of these gentlemen, a primer: Peter Schickele is a composer, author, and satirist best known for his recordings as P.D.Q. Bach, which earned him four Grammy Awards for Best Comedy Performance/Album. According to Schickele, P.D.Q, Bach was the "youngest and the oddest of the 20-odd children" of Johann Sebastian Bach. Schickele's magnificent parodies of baroque music under the P.D.Q. Bach pseudonym include "Good King Kong Looked Out," "O Little Town of Hackensack," and the Concerto for Horn and Hardart. P.D.Q. Bach's best known work is the dramatic oratorio, Oedipus Tex, featuring the O.K. Chorale. Schickele is also known for his radio program "Schickele Mix," which ran for 15 years on National Public Radio. A prolific composer, Schickele's recent recordings include Sneaky Pete and the Wolf, and a setting of music for Hans Christian Anderson's The Emporer's New Clothes. Also in the works is a quintet for trumpet and string quartet. "As far as I know," says Schickele, "there aren't any. There are so many great mutes for trumpet—you can get soft and eerie sounds."
Mikhail Horowitz and Gilles Malkine have been performing their irreverent send-ups of literary classics (doo wop settings of Blake poems, hip-hop Moby Dick, and the like), twisted versions of classics like "If I Had a Hammer," and satirical takedowns of all cows, sacred and profane, since at least the Reagan presidency, but Horowitz thinks it might be longer, as he remembers a cache of Adlai Stevenson material they haven't played in some years.
Schickele will start the show, with Horowitz and Malkine bringing up the rear. "Schickele's afraid to follow us," Horowitz avers. (A few years ago, Horowitz introduced the composer sans trousers; it's anybody's guess what he's got up his pant leg this time.) This year, Schickele will be joined by four singers, and all the pieces will be performed a capella, except "Old Shep," about a boy's favorite dog, wherein Schickele will play guitar. "I'm always amazed how sentimental Southerners can be," Schickele says of "Old Shep." Expect a number of rounds. "I love writing rounds," Schikele says. "One of my specialties is rounds where three parts get combined and you get meanings you don't get when the three parts are played separately." Recovering from back surgery, this will be one of only two concerts Schickele will perform in 2010.
Peter Schickele, Mikhail Horowitz, and Gilles Malkine will stage their fifth annual “A Mulled Measure of Merry Mishegas” at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on Saturday, December 11, at 8pm. Admission is $20. (845) 679-4406; www.bearsvilletheater.com.