1 April 2017 marks 100 years to the day of Scott Joplin’s passing. Americans across the country honored the occasion in a tribute to the great composer of the Maple Leaf Rag whose wish to have this piece played at his funeral was not honored 100 years ago.
More info coming. Stay tuned!
Time to jam the “Maple Leaf Rag” in tribute to Scott Joplin who wanted it played at his funeral on this day in 1917, though it never was, as explained in our 2012 post when we started this Maple Leaf Rag Day tradition.
In “Three Pianos on Fire,” Tom Brier is joined by Patrick Aranda and Frederick Hodges at the Sutter Creek Ragtime festival in 2009, where they all join together to play the Maple Leaf Rag at a blazing speed (as many players do, despite the composer’s wishes to not play ragtime too fast…).
Next up, Mimi Blais (a.k.a. Queen of Ragtime) does a medley of Scott Joplin compositions in an Amsterdam performance in 2014, finishing with a Mozart-esque rendition of the Maple Leaf Rag dubbed “Maple Leaf Ragadeus” (starting at 5:35 in the following video):
For longer version of her Scott Joplin medley that includes additional numbers, see this video of Mimi’s performance from 2008.
So cheers to Scott Joplin, King of Ragtime composers, and a hearty Maple Leaf Rag Day cheer to all who appreciate his enduring musical contribution!
Vive la Ragtime! 🙂
The tradition continues this year as we honor Scott Joplin’s unfulfilled wish to have the “Maple Leaf Rag” played at his funeral. Read this post from 2012 which explains the story behind this blog. Play it if you can, listen to others playing if you can’t!
In last year’s post, all of the featured performances of the MLR were done by men. So this year we’re putting the women in the spotlight.
We start off with Sue Keller‘s version (“you know you wandered into D♭…”):
Next we feature Stephanie Trick doing her “Maple Leaf Stride” in 2009. Scott Joplin meets Fats Waller:
Going way back to 1959, here’s Jo Ann Castle on the Lawrence Welk show clearly having the most fun of anyone who ever played the Maple Leaf Rag:
Happy Maple Leaf Rag to everyone 🙂
Continuing the tradition from last year when we began marking the anniversary of Scott Joplin’s funeral on 1 April 1917 with a playing of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, everyone is invited to play this piece on their instrument of choice, or just listen to it, this April 1st.
It was Scott Joplin’s wish to have the MLR played at his funeral in 1917, but it never was. It not only launched his career as a composer, but it also propelled Ragtime into the international musical spotlight in the late 1890s and set the stage for the rise of jazz and other forms of popular music. Ragtime was actually America’s first popular musical genre to achieve widespread attention (and that attention was not always nice — many in the musical establishment at the time feared that Ragtime would lead to the destruction of civilized society; those predictions have proven wrong… so far!)
So let’s do our best to honor the Maple Leaf Rag on April 1st. If you play it already, perform it as if you were personally asked by Scott Joplin to perform it at his funeral. And if you can’t play it, try learning it on whatever instrument you prefer (humming, whistling, spoons & cheeks are fine, too :)). If you’re not a musician, give it a listen on this day.
One of the things that Ragtime sparked was improvisation, as different performers would take a piece like the MLR and personalize it with their own embellishments. Eubie Blake, Jelly Roll Morton and many other pianists of the ragtime and early jazz era enjoyed riffing on the MLR and other of Joplin’s pieces.
Here’s an awesome, stride-tinged contemporary example by the great Adam Swanson doing his own version of the Maple Leaf Rag in 2012:
Martin Spitznagel takes the MLR on a jazzy romp here:
Cory Hall does a perfect straight-up MLR rendition here:
Did you play it or otherwise enjoy the MLR on April 1st? Do you know of different versions played on different instruments? Leave us a note in the comments. If you’ve got a video of yourself performing it or another favorite version of it, include a link in your comments.
In 1950 the widow [Lottie Joplin] still regretted that she had refused the request her husband had so often made for the Maple Leaf Rag to be played at his funeral. — from Rudi Blesh’s introduction to Scott Joplin: Complete Piano Works (“Scott Joplin: Black-American Classicist,” 27 July 1971)
So time has come to make amends and honor Scott’s request in a manner appropriate to the internet age.
Here’s the plan: on April 1, play the Maple Leaf Rag on your instrument(s) of choice. Band performances are fine, too. If you don’t play any instrument, fire up your favorite Maple Leaf Rag mp3. Crank it.
Musicians: You are strongly encouraged to share your performance with the world, so record yourself (or a friend or your band), upload your recording to your favorite video or audio sharing website, and post a link to it in the comments below. You can also tweet it to @King_Of_Ragtime or share it on the King Of Ragtime’s Facebook wall. Or keep your performance private, if you prefer, but feel free to share your thoughts.
Videos posted on YouTube will be collected on the KingOfRagtime’s channel.
Start practicing your Maple Leaf, get it down and be ready to jam on 1 April. Play it straight as-written, or add your own interpretation. It’s a challenging piece, so don’t worry about playing it perfectly — this isn’t a contest; energy and spirit are much more important than perfection (but don’t play it too fast ;)).
Remember, it’s important to perform the piece live on 1 April. Play as if Scott Joplin had personally invited you to perform it at his funeral. Let’s all give him the funeral he wanted!
April 1, 2012 will mark the 95th anniversary of Scott Joplin’s passing and this will be the first year of his belated funeral Maple Leaf Rag performance. If there’s interest, maybe we’ll do something special for the 100th year anniversary in 2017.