Rags to Riches

In the 1970s I became fascinated by ragtime music of Scott Joplin, and wrote a number of pieces for piano in this style. Here I have arranged these pieces for six-, seven -, or nine-part brass ensembles. (One of them was in part newly-written, from an incomplete piece I had sketched some years before.) By clicking on the title of each piece you can hear the first minute or two. To hear the complete version of each piece, and to down-load the score and parts, you should click on the “SibeliusMusic” button at the foot of this page. This will transfer you to the SibeliusMusic website, from where, using “Browse by composer” you will find my pieces. Total duration of this suite: about 25 minutes. In order, the pieces (and their brief descriptions) are:

1. Any Old Rag

Originally written in piano form about 1976, the last year before I came to New Zealand, when I lived in Selly Oak, Birmingham. In my score, I have added, above the very last phrase of the brass arrangement the words “Alleluiah, Amen”, which just fitted the rhythm. Acknowledgements to my brother Tom for a suggestion half way through where there is a “syncopated rest”.

2. Song of Contemplation

This also must have been written about the time I left Britain, because I know there is another idea which I owe to my brother Tom, that is, to bring back the main tune at the end in the tenor register.

3. Sim Street Rag

When I arrived in Dunedin in April 1977, I rented a house for a short time in Sim Street, Maori Hill, only about 100 years from where I now live on Monro Street. There was a piano in the living room, and that was where this piece emerged.

4. Lullaby and Awakening

This is the fusion of two pieces. One was originally called “Ragtime Lullaby”, written in the early 1980s, when I was a new father. The other was incomplete until 2007, with the title “Ice-Cream Cake Walk”. In the composition class at Otago, in 2007 we had an assignment to write a piece for brass group, so I thought of completing the second piece, and joining it to the first. My tutor in this part of the course, Peter Adams, suggested a “bridge passage”, explained as follows: The infant, at last, has fallen asleep, the parents themselves fall asleep, for all-too-short a spell. Then the alarm clock rings, and then “all hell breaks loose” again, and the second part, in faster rhythm begins.

5. Grandma’s Been at the Gin Again

The image I have in mind here is of a fit sixty year old grandmother, who has a few drinks. . . .Then someone puts on an old 78 rpm record from the 1920s, and before long she is showing her grandchildren how to do the Charleston.

6. Weeping Song

This was written about 1985, the year my marriage ended. That perhaps is enough to explain the emotional tone of this piece. The climax of the piece is when the music become very quiet and almost stops, and then “digs deep”, and gradually rebuilds confidence, to end on a more positive note, but still tinged with sadness.

7. George Street Stomp

This was written sometime in the mid-1980s, and here is scored for nine brass instruments, the largest combination I use of all these seven pieces. “George Street” is the main shopping street of Dunedin. The image I have in mind is of the class of Physical Education students, who were the class I did most of my teaching with in the first few years at Otago. This is about what they get up to on a Saturday evening.


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