The Day Thou Gavest, Lord is ended first appeared in the English Hymnal in 1874. It is one of the most popular of all of English hymns, and is also a regular choice of hymn at funerals, the sentiment of the words and the gentle lilt of its waltz time melody providing calm and comfort. The melody and words appear throughout the opera, often representing the closeness between Herbert and his Mother. It is also used when Father puts all his faith in the power of the Monkey's Paw. At the end of the opera, we hear the tune and words for its original purpose – as a funeral hymn.
A number of folk tunes can be heard, often sung by the off stage choir, reminding us of the time and place the story takes place in.
Keep that wheel a turning – often sung by the men of the choir, tells of the working man and the rise of industry.
The Beverley Maid and the Tinker is a nineteenth century love ballad. Mother sings it as she waits for her son to return home from work.
Mother and Herbert are close, often to the exclusion of Father. They often joke together, singing their own nursery rhyme melody, much to the annoyance of Father.
The choir have a number of roles in the opera. Primarily, they act as part of the orchestra providing (always offstage) vocal tone colour. They also represent, at times, the men and women of the village, and to some extent the inner voices of Father's temptation, presented to him by the Sergeant Major.
This strange hybrid instrument, a cross between a church organ and a folk accordion, perfectly represents this life of small town community and strong religious faith.
Different types of bells are used throughout the opera. The glockenspiel, the sound of the mantelpiece clock or a nursery music box – represents the warmth and safety of the home and family. The vibraphone, the only instrument in this orchestra to have an electric component, is the otherworldly sound of the magical paw and its ability to grant wishes. Finger Cymbals evoke the sounds of the exotic east as Morris sings of his time abroad. The anvil, not strictly a bell, but still metallic and struck with a metal hammer, is the sound of the factory – not least the grind of machinery which results in Herbert's death. Lastly, the tubular bell is naturally the toll of the funeral bell.
The violin has long been considered the devil's instrument and is often used by composers (particularly when played double stopped) to represent Satan's malevolence. It is also the instrument the soldier plays in Stravinsky's
The Soldier's Tale, which he sells to the devil. In
The Monkey's Paw, Morris is both a soldier and a devilish Mephistopheles, presenting temptation to the family. Thus it is only right that the violin plays his themes.
Whilst marching drums also represent Morris, they also tap out seductive tango rhythms as he tempts the family. Also, time and again we hear the ratatatatat of the drums forshadowing the devilish knocking on the door by Herbert at the end of the opera.
Ratatatatat. The turning point in each scene is always a knock on the door. Always the same rhythm. Always looking towards the devastating climax of the opera. Herbert's door knocks in the final scene start as before, a quiet ratatatatat – before crescendoing to a violent relentless bashing of the door. In no way should this be connected to the music on the stage – rather, the singers and musicians need to carry on with their show, despite the noisy offputting pounding of the door.