Juliet November Tango

Program Notes:

A funny story concocted by one of choral music’s most playful composers using only words available in the NATO alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc…). “Juliet” has a series of misadventures with various men who are not what they seem!

Conductor Notes:

This work was commissioned for Elektra by the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music and performed at the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona. Written for six-part a cappella women’s choir, the writing is highly successful – great voice leading, solid voicing, the tessituras are all just right for the story to be told clearly. We had various singers take the acting roles of the characters as this zany “drama” unfolded. Cheerful overacting and small props helped put this “over the top” in silliness, and the audience laughed at all the right times.

Composer / Arranger Notes:

This piece was predicated on a simple structural challenge: whether it would be possible to tell a story using nothing but the NATO alphabet. There is clearly potential there for drama, as there is only one woman (Juliet) but several men (Charlie, Mike, Oscar, Victor and, happily, Romeo). Potential settings are limited to Québec, India and Lima, and the choice of airline and hotel is rather severely restricted (Delta). I soon found I had to add single-digit numbers to the mix to have any chance of coming up with a libretto, such as it is, mainly to be able to use 2 and 4 to stand in for ‘to’ and ‘for’, respectively. Why a tango, then? Because a tango is always an option, especially with a love story, even one as elliptically expressed as this one.
The names ‘Delta Air Lines’, ‘Delta Hotels’, ‘[Ford] Sierra’ and ‘Alfa-Romeo’ are the property of their respective trademark owners, and allusions to them in this piece are purely for satirical purposes.
The performers are invited to choreograph and characterize the piece in order to illustrate the narrative, which at times can be rather cryptic. Some indications for this are given in the score.

Summary: Romeo and Juliet meet in Québec in November, fall in love and go to the Québec Delta Hotel. Soon Juliet’s eye is caught by Mike, apparently a US serviceman with a flashy car. He sweeps her off to India (an artistic liberty forced by the constraints of the material, since currently Delta does not fly to India), where they live it up at a golf hotel. But Mike is exposed as a fraud by Papa Oscar: Mike actually drives a Ford Sierra, not an Alfa-Romeo, and far from being a serviceman, he was rejected by the US Army (the code ‘4F’ meaning ‘unfit for service’). Papa Oscar takes Juliet back to Québec, where in the meantime Romeo has drunk himself into an early grave. Papa Oscar ends up comforting Juliet, but it is anyone’s guess whether he is Juliet’s father or perhaps a sugar daddy; this is never made clear, and I have no idea.

Helsinki, 8 December 2016
Jaakko Mäntyjärvi


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.


Commissioned by the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music, Barcelona 2017


November, Quebec, Romeo. November, Quebec, Juliet. 1 Echo Romeo, 1 Echo Juliet.
Romeo, Juliet 2 Quebec Hotel.
November Tango 4 2, 1 Tango 4 2.
Hotel Bravo 5, Quebec Delta Hotel.
Romeo 4 Juliet, Juliet 4 Romeo.
November Tango 4 2.
Mike! Yankee Uniform. Mike! Alfa-Romeo.
Mike Foxtrot Juliet, Mike Foxtrot Juliet.
1 4 Mike, Juliet Delta 2 India.
November Tango 4 2, 1 Tango 4 2.
Hotel Bravo 5, 1 India Golf Hotel.
Whiskey, Foxtrot 9 2 5, 1 4 Juliet, 1 4 Mike. November Tango 4 2.
Juliet! Papa Oscar! Papa Oscar!
Juliet! Papa Oscar! Papa Oscar!
Juliet! Mike X-ray! Mike Zero! Mike Tango 4 5!
Alfa-Romeo? 4 Sierra!
Yankee Uniform? 4 Foxtrot!
Juliet, Delta 2 Quebec!
Quebec, Juliet 6 4 Romeo. Quebec, Romeo Whisky, Whisky, 911! 1 Zero Romeo, Mike Golf India.
Juliet 8 1 Kilo, Papa Oscar, Hotel!
November Tango 4 2, Papa Oscar, Juliet. 10-4! (or: Bravo!)