GALLOPING GHOSTS: A RAGTIME MARCH for concert band
Galloping Ghosts: A Ragtime March by William Ryden. Hear streaming audio on this page. Suitable for high school, community, and college bands, 2 3/4 minutes duration, Grade 3 1/2.
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I wrote Galloping Ghosts (A Ragtime March) to conclude a concert of my chamber music in New York City on October 28, 1986. It is the final part of a work called Rags for Divers Players. This work was written to show the variety possible within the standard rag form. I used all the players available for the finale -- two violins, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and piano. Since this is a rather unusual instrumental combination and not easy to reassemble, I decided to rescore the work for concert band. Galloping Ghosts is written in a standard march form but incorporates many of the syncopations found in ragtime.
The uniquely American music called ragtime traces its history to African rhythms brought over by slaves. Over the years this music became welded to European musical forms such as the quadrille and the march. Drums and banjos and the minstrel tradition lent a special flavor, and from all these elements ragtime slowly evolved within the largely unknown black subculture of the late 19th century. In the late 1890's it emerged as a fully developed form in the classic piano solos of Scott Joplin (1869-1917). Joplin's 1899 hit, Maple Leaf Rag, was an overnight sensation and brought ragtime worldwide fame.
A rag usually consists of two or more "strains," normally 16 measures long, each repeated, and a contrasting "trio" in a different key. Most have a four-measure introduction. Two common forms are AA BB A: CC DD, and A BB A: CC DD C. All rags employ some form of syncopated melody over a steady (regular) bass line that mixes octave-chord patterns with a walking bass. Common syncopations are:
Debussy, Ravel, Ives and Stravinsky all experimented with ragtime and even Brahms considered writing a rag late in his life. I've often wondered what that might have been like!
Galloping Ghosts opens with an 8-measure fanfare of trills introducing the first section in G minor stated by the full band. The theme is angular and syncopated. After a repeat, it modulates to C major for the Trio. The trio theme is broad and flowing over a lightly-scored accompaniment characterized by a multirhythmic pulse: a 4/4 melody over a 3/4 bass.
A 20-measure "ghostly" interlude follows, featuring shifting chromatic dissonances, strongly marked rhythmic motives, and unusual colors and timbres. After a short transition the Trio theme returns in a new key and a slower, Grandioso style for the full band.
Galloping Ghosts should be played with a strong rhythmic drive and a steady forward motion. It should also be playful and spiritedly humorous. The "Grandioso" should be played somewhat "tongue-in-cheek."
- 1 Full Score
- 1 Piccolo
- 8 Flute 1 & 2
- 2 Oboe
- 1 Eb Clarinet
- 4 Bb Clarinet 1
- 4 Bb Clarinet 2
- 4 Bb Clarinet 3
- 2 Eb Alto Clarinet
- 3 Bb Bass & Bb Contrabass Clarinet
- 2 Bassoon 1 & 2
- 2 Eb Alto Saxophone 1
- 2 Eb Alto Saxophone 2
- 2 Bb Tenor Saxophone
- 1 Eb Baritone Saxophone
- 3 Bb Cornet 1
- 3 Bb Cornet 2
- 3 Bb Cornet 3
- 2 Horn 1 & 2 in F
- 2 Horn 3 & 4 in F
- 4 Trombone 1 & 2
- 4 Bass Trombone
- 2 Baritone (B.C.)
- 2 Baritone (T.C.)
- 4 Tuba
- 1 String Bass
- 1 Timpani
- 1 Xylophone
- 3 Percussion 1
- 3 Percussion 2
Copyright © 1998 Manhattan Beach Music. All Rights Reserved.
Performance by Donald S. George conducting the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Symphony Band.
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