The Snicklefritz Swing

A cheerful retrospective mashup of two genres of music: a cappella barbershop quartets and big band swing dancing music. Lots of fun for both performers and audiences! Can easily accommodate a dozen percussionists, but can also be played successfully with as few as three.

Concert Band | Grade 4 | 4:30

Performance materials coming soon!

In loving memory of Jan and Arv Lachowitzer.

About the piece

The Snicklefritz Swing is a delightfully nostalgic mashup of two beloved styles of music. It opens in barbershop style with a solo brass quartet, soon joined by the rest of the winds in chorus. At the conclusion of the verse, a hi-hat groove enters to signify the beginning of the swing dance, where the tune resumes in big-band style. The swing portion wraps up with a roaring shout chorus before transitioning to a thrilling barbershop-style tag, complete with a long post on B-flat.

The Snicklefritz Swing was commissioned for the New Prague High School Bands by their conductor, John Pohland, and his wife, Mary Kate. It is written in loving memory of her grandparents, Jan and Arv Lachowitzer, who loved to sing and dance. Jan and Arv sang in barbershop choruses (chapters of Sweet Adelines and Barbershoppers, respectively) throughout their life. Jan especially was always the life of the party at any family gathering. “Snicklefritz” (a term of endearment for a particularly mischievous child) was Arv’s nickname for Mary Kate.

Musically speaking, the piece takes cues from two songs: “Mairzy Doats” and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”. Both tunes begin with a descending root-position tonic triad, which I have used as the basis for this piece. “Mairzy Doats” is a comic novelty song written by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston in 1943. The lyrics appear to be nonsense but are actually a play on words, so that the title, for example, translates to “Mares eat oats”. Mary Kate remembers singing it with her grandparents when she was young. “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” was composed by Peter C. Lutkin in 1900. It is a choral setting of the Aaronic benediction from Numbers 6:24-26. For many years, the Concordia College Band has sung the anthem to close their tour concerts. This tradition is deeply meaningful to all who have played in the band, including Mary Kate and myself.

This piece is pure fun, and a fitting tribute to Jan and Arv. For the inspiration for this music, and for any joy that it may bring to its performers and audiences, I give all glory to God.

The Snicklefritz Swing was premiered on May 1st, 2023 by the New Prague High School Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, John Pohland conducting.