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Program note: Carmina Pu!*

  • Stephen Cronin
  • Source: The Song Company A Programme of New Works 18 October 1992

Carmina Pu !* Stephen CRONIN(b. 1960)
Text: A.A. Milne

Curious about what goes on in the head of a stuffed bear? lt could be argued that
Winnie-the-Pooh ¡s a definitive example of the Renaissance Man (er...bear). Not
just a non-sexist, emotionally unencumbered gentleman (um...ben?) and a scholar
(an expert in Apiary), but his quiet spirituality and deceptively simple way-of-being
has attracted an unknown number of followers.

A.A. Milne wrote about Pooh in the now famous tome, Winnie-the Pooh. That
volume alone has had an inestimable influence in the development of several
generations and its enduring spiritual significance was highlighted in Benjamin
Hoff's The Tao of Pooh. (Although this work is quite scholarly, the easy-reading
style commends it to the lay person as an essential text in the discovery of Pooh's

As a religious strategist, Pooh revealed his genius by having A.A.Milne's book
translateð into Latin by Alexander Lenard in the late 1950s. His foresight was
remarkable. Pooh had correctly predicted that Vatican II would dump Latin in favour
of colloquial English thereby causing mass disenchantment. Lenard's translation
offered disgruntled Roman Catholics an alternative.

Although fluid in membership and usually quite invisible in the broader community,
followers of Pooh can be quite formidable when mobilised. The best example in
recent Australian history occurred during the 1970s when the very vocal and hardcore
Friends of Pool lobbied the Melbourne print media to oust the rebel
Disneyfied version of Pooh. Although it was a long and bitter fight with both sides
proving intractable at times, all ended peacefully (which is what Pooh would want)
when the dailies agreed to run unadulterated Pooh.

These days Pooh is guarded carefully by The Trustees of Pooh Properties (ToPP).
ToPP went to considerable lengths to determine whether Stephen Cronin (a
confirmed non-believer) should be permitted to use the songs of Pooh in this
present work. Remarkably, although not to their surprise, ToPP discovered that'
because of his research into Pooh's teachings, Cronin's hard-nosed agnosticism
had softened and that, indeed, he had become a friend of Pooh.

So what goes on in the head of the stuffed bear? Perhaps it is best to observe the
converted. S.C.

*World première. Commissioned by The Song Company with assistance from the Australia Council.


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