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Updated February 25, 2020

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Choral - secular >>>

The Pirates of Penzance:
A Choral Medley

About "The PIrates of Penzance"

I grew up singing and listening to the music of Gilbert & Sullivan. My mother was an operatic soprano who sang the roles of Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance), Yum-Yum (The Mikado) and Josephine (H.M.S. Pinafore). I played the role of Ruth in my high school production of The Pirates of Penzance. In my mother's later years, she became a producer and director of local Gilbert & Sullivan productions.

While programming my 2018 winter quarter repertoire for my college community choir, I thought it would be fun to introduce them all to the genius of Gilbert & Sullivan. I looked everywhere for SATB choral arrangements and found one -- just one -- for H.M.S. Pinafore, arranged by Philip Kern.

I also wanted to sing the Pirates and, unable to find a suitable arrangement, I grabbed the score from the public domain and arranged the Pirates myself.

This arrangement features the following songs:

"I am a Pirate King"
"Telling a Terrible Story"
"Hail, Poetry!"
"When the Foeman Bears His Steel"
"Go, Ye Heroes"
"With Cat-Like Tread"
"Poor Wand'ring Ones" (Finale)

The men in the choir told me how much they loved singing some leads and their enthusiasm was palpable. Click here to see their performance on YouTube.

For SATB and piano
Lyrics and Music by Gilbert & Sullivan
Arranged by Bronwyn Edwards

Performed by:

South Seattle College Community Choir (March 2018)

Rehearsal Parts:

Piano Accompaniments

(Please note, some of these are slower than performance speed to assist singers to more easily learn their parts.) The rehearsal files are divided into four sections (see lyrics, right).

1. Pirate King Piano Accompaniment

2. Terrible Story, Hail Poetry Piano Accompaniment

3. Tarantara, Go Ye Heroes Piano Accompaniment

4. With Cat-Like Tread, Poor Wandering One Piano Accompaniment


Pirate King - SOPRANO, upper part
Pirate King - SOPRANO lower part (with Alto 1)

Terrible Story, Hail Poetry - SOPRANO 1
Terrible Story, Hail Poetry - SOPRANO 2

Tarantara, Go Ye Heroes - SOPRANO 1
Tarantara, Go Ye Heroes - SOPRANO 2

With Cat-Like Tread, Poor Wandering One - SOPRANO 1
With Cat-Like Tread, Poor Wandering Ones - SOPRANO 2


Pirate King - ALTO, upper part (with Soprano 2)
Pirate King - ALTO lower part

Terrible Story, Hail Poetry - ALTO 1
Terrible Story, Hail Poetry - ALTO 2

Tarantara, Go Ye Heroes - ALTO 1
Tarantara, Go Ye Heroes - ALTO 2

With Cat-Like Tread, Poor Wandering One - ALTO


Pirate King - TENOR

Terrible Story, Hail Poetry - TENOR

Tarantara, Go Ye Heroes - TENOR

With Cat-Like Tread, Poor Wandering One - TENOR

Baritone | Bass

Pirate King - BARI-BASS

Terrible Story, Hail Poetry - BARITONE1
Terrible Story, Hail Poetry - BASS

Tarantara, Go Ye Heroes - BARI-BASS

With Cat-Like Tread, Poor Wandering One - BARITONE
With Cat-Like Tread, Poor Wandering Ones - BASS



Oh, better far to live and die under the brave black flag I fly,

Than play a sanctimonious part with a pirate head and a pirate heart!

Away to the cheating world go you, where pirates all are well to do,

But I'll be true to the song I sing, and live and die a Pirate King.

For I am a Pirate King! And it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Pirate King!

For I am a Pirate King! You are! Hurrah for the Pirate King!


He is telling a terrible story which will tend to diminish his glory;

Tho they would have taken his daughters over the billowy waters

It is easy, in elegant diction, to call it an innocent fiction,

But it comes in the same category as telling a regular terrible story.

If he's telling a terrible story, He shall die by a death that is gory;

Yes, one of the cruelest slaughters that ever were known in these waters.


Hail, poetry thou heav'n born maid! Thou gildest e'en the Pirate's trade.

Hail, flowing fount of sentiment, all hail! All hail! divine emollient.


When the foeman bears his steel, Ta-ran-ta-ra, ta-ran-ta-ra!

We uncomfortable feel! Ta-ran-ta-ra!

And we find the wisest thing, Ta-ran-ta-ra, ta-ran-ta-ra!

Is to slap our chests and sing Ta-ran-ta-ra!

For when threaten'd with emeutes, Ta-ran-ta-ra, ta-ran-ta-ra!

And your heart is in your boots, Ta-ran-ta-ra!

There is nothing brings it round like the trumpet's martial sound,

Ta-ran-ta-ra, ta-ran-ta-ra, ta-ran-ta-ra, ta-ran-ta-ra!


Go ye heroes, go to glory! Though ye die in combat gory!

Ye shall live in song and story, go to immortality!

Go to death and go to slaughter, Die and ev'ry Cornish daughter

With her tears your grave shall water! Go, ye heroes go and die!

Go, ye heroes, go to immortality!

Away, away! These pirates slay! Then do not stay! Then why this delay!

Yes, forward on the foe, They go, they go! Yes, forward on the foe!

At last they go, at last they go, at last they go! At last they really go!


With cat like tread upon our prey we steal,

In silence dread our cautious way we feel!

No sound at all, we never speak a word,

A fly's footfall would be distinctly heart!

Come friends, who plough the sea,

Truce to navigation, Take another station,

Let's vary piracee, With a little burglaree!


Poor wand'ring ones,

Though ye have surely strayed,

Take heart of grace,

Your steps retrace

Poor wand'ring ones!

Poor wand'ring ones,

If such poor love as ours

Can help you find true peace of mind,

Why take it, it is yours.

Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah!

Fair days will shine.

Take heart, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah!

Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah,

heart, take mine!

Take heart!

Take ours!

Take heart, fair days will shine,

Take heart, take heart, take ours!  

Music scores available at
as printed copies or digital download.

View partial score (selected pages) in PDF format

Comments: is a catalogue of original music and arrangements by composer Bronwyn Edwards, with links to online sheet music sales at and
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