Modern Major General Challenge

How fast can you do it? Challenge three of of your friends to post a video of their best attempt! Now… for some loose rules –

  • Words, pitch, meter all matter!
  • Bonus points: Self accompaniment, parasols, bloopers, and your best General hat

[Lyrics are at the bottom of the page]

So many of us singers – amateur, professional, or shower crooner – work for years perfecting breath control and timbre. But while we’re all locked down, we have a challenge for you – PATTER! We searched the internet for the fastest recording we could find and we think the BBC recording below sets the right bar. 

Singer, Simon Butteriss, performs The Modern Major General at a blistering pace – 2 minutes and 14 seconds! We don’t expect everyone to perform the the entire thing (but our hats off to you if you can do it sans accompaniment), so we’ve taken Simon’s fastest verse/chorus:

  • Chorus: 16 seconds
  • Verse: 8 seconds

Share your results below and invite us to watch! We’ll post some of our favorite results on 

Good luck!

Lyrics: Modern Major General’s Song

The Pirates of Penzance By Gilbert and Sullivan

(Butteriss in the recording above does the bolded verse/chorus in 24 seconds!)

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical,
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted too with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news—
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
I’m very good at integral and differential calculus,
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous;
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
I know our mythic history, King Arthur’s and Sir Caradoc’s,
I answer hard acrostics, I’ve a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parablous.
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from the Frogs of Aristophanes,
Then I can hum a fugue of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.
Then I can write a washing bill in Balylonic cuneiform,
And tell you every detail of Caractacus’s uniform;
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
In fact, when I know what is meant by “mamelon” and “ravelin”,
When I can tell at sight a chassep”t rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I’m more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by “commissariat”,
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery:
In short, when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy,
You’ll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee—
For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

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