Ragtime Enriches Yes, I Mean Money, lots of it! And yes, it’s time to be happy again. Listen to some Scott Joplin, Charles Lamb, Eubie Blake, Tom Turpin, James Jesse Europe or Luckyeth Roberts. Their music is as entertaining as their names. Eubie Blake said in gracious tribute, “Joplin was the father of us all.” Ragtime is a musical style that enjoyed its peak popularity between 1895 and 1918. Its cardinal trait is its syncopated, or “ragged”, rhythm. The style has its origins in African-American communities like St. Louis years before being published as popular sheet music for piano.
Scott Joplin is unquestionably the father of ragtime.
What brought about the return of ragtime after 1918? The movie called The Sting. The film is noted for its anachronistic use of ragtime, particularly the melody “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin, which was adapted (along with others by Joplin) for the movie by Marvin Hamlisch (and a top-ten chart single for Hamlisch when released as a single from the film’s soundtrack). The film’s success created a resurgence of interest in Joplin’s work.
The Scott family was attracted by the Kissin’ Cuzzins marquee that announced me playing ragtime piano. They own Scott’s Oquaga Lake House in the Catskills. Its been in the family since 1869. The current year was 1983. For my audition I had to play the Pineapple Rag perfectly for the The Scotts. They were so impressed that they invited our entire family up to New York for that summer. That started a long string of about 20 summer seasons in the Catskills. We got to live our lives like as it was in the 1930’s setting of The Sting. It was like we took a time machine to the past. All loved it! It give rise to my book of poetry, The Oquaga Spirit Speaks, available on the product page.
Ragtime Era Lives on the Isle of Boca Grande. David Ohrenstein is engaged as the pianist for his 8th year at the historic Gasparilla Inn. He is currently playing there 6 nights weekly. That will be until April 13. The Inn was built in 1911. That’s when ragtime was in full swing. What three words best describe ragtime? In David’s opinion, “happy, happy, happy.” It seems like the 1st world war put an end to the ragtime era. Ragtime – also spelled rag-time or rag time – is a musical genre that enjoyed its peak popularity between 1895 and 1918. Its cardinal trait is its syncopated, or “ragged”, rhythm.[
David senses that even the walls of the Inn welcome ragtime. Scott Joplin studied piano and composition with a German professor. He structured his ragtime pieces like the marches of John Phillip Sousa or the Waltzes of Johann Strauss Jr. They consist of individual sections. Many are in varying key signatures. Most start in flat keys. Then they add more flats in successive sections. For example,
The Maple Leaf Rag sets the tone. It starts in four flats. Another section reaches five flats. It ends in four flats.
The Gladiolus Rag starts in four flats. The last two sections are in five flats.
The Pineapple Rag starts in two flats. The last two sections are in three flats.
Easy Winners (from the movie, The Sting) starts in four flats. The last two sections are in five flats.
For the revival of ragtime in the late 20th century, we have Marvin Frederick Hamlisch (June 2, 1944 – August 6, 2012) to thank. He was an American composer and conductor. Hamlisch was one of only twelve people to win Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. This collection of all four is referred to as an “EGOT”. He is one of only two people (along with Richard Rodgers) to have won those four prizes and a Pulitzer Prize.
I personally call flat keys the “social keys.” They blend people together without bumps. Flats have curved and smooth endings. Sharps are pointed. Flats make for wonderful romantic music. Flat keys are perfect for social dancing. They even unify soldiers in their quest. Check out our front page on DSOworks. All kinds of wonderful projects are in the works.