•   Art Song 

New Jersey Gay Men's Chorus - click to enlarge

Composoer Brian Wilbur Grunstrom at the Piano

The Benefit of Going to Law

Soprano (or flute) and guitar (or piano)
2004
5 minutes

Commissioned by
Colla Voce
Steve Ng, Director
San Francisco


Performances
• J. Andrew Dickenson and Yeonjune Suh on November 9, 2005 and July 11, 2005
• Harlie Sponaugle and Warren Zwicky Friday Morning Music Club November 9, 2007 and Kennedy Center, Nov. 27, 2007

Lyrics by Benjamin Franklin

Two beggars traveling along,
One blind, the other lame.
Pick'd up an oyster on the way,
To which they both laid claim:
The matter rose so high, that they
Resolv'd to go to law,
As often richer fools have done,
Who quarrel for a straw.
A lawyer took it straight in hand,
Who knew his business was
To mind nor one nor t'other side,
But make the best o' the cause,
As always in the law's the case;
So he his judgment gave,
And lawyer-like he thus resolv'd
What each of them should have;
Blind plaintif, lame defendant, share
The friendly laws impartial care,
A shell for him, a shell for thee,
The middle is the lawyer's fee.


Benjamin Franklin’s poem by the same title provides inspiration for this song with guitar and soprano. Ben Franklin’s timeless work tells the amusing story about the pitfalls of litigation – for everyone except the lawyer.

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston in 1706. He was a philosopher, scientist, inventor, musician, statesman and economist, among other things. He moved to liberal Philadelphia in his twenties and started writing poetry, although he never considered himself to be a poet. Franklin was an important statesman, signing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, as well as negotiating treaties with other countries. He died in Philadelphia in 1790, and thousands of mourners turned out for his funeral.

Classical guitarist J. Andrew Dickenson was awarded an Encore Grant from the American Composers forum to play this piece.