Fayetteville State University students and faculty will present a 12-hour Scott Joplin marathon

Mention Scott Joplin and most peoples' minds go automatically to "Maple Leaf Rag."

But Fayetteville State University music professor Amanda Virelles said there's a lot more to the composer, who died 100 years ago. The operas he penned, for instance, and the ballet he wrote.

That musical legacy will be explored Friday when the university presents a 12-hour Scott Joplin marathon in Seabrook Auditorium.

"Many of the students probably know one piece, one rag, that they use as background music in a movie," Virelles said. "We want to showcase some more of his repertoire."

 

The marathon is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. In addition to commemorating the 100th anniversary of Joplin's death, the performances are part of the university's year-long sesquicentennial, or 150th year celebration.

Joplin, who was born in Texas, was an African-American composer who became known as the "King of Ragtime."

The musical style, which was popular in the early 20th century, featured a syncopated, energetic rhythm. It was especially popular in big cities until jazz and other music forms supplanted it by the 1920s.

Joplin composed such ragtime standards as "Maple Leaf Rag," "Wall Street Rag" and "The Entertainer." The latter song spearheaded a ragtime revival in the 1970s when it was featured in the Paul Newman-Robert Redford movie "The Sting."

Along with the rags he composed, Joplin wrote the operas "A Guest of Honor" and "Treemonisha" and the ballet "Elite Syncopations." In all, he wrote nearly 50 pieces.

Joplin died April 1, 1917, at age 48. Although he was largely forgotten in the decades following his death, his work underwent a revival in the 1970s and he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1976.

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The Fayetteville State marathon, which is free and open to the public, will consist of five sections highlighting different stages of Joplin's life and career. A short talk will precede performances of works such as "Wall Street Rag," "Binks' Waltz," "Solace" and "Bethena."

"Every concert is going to have a different theme regarding the life and work of Scott Joplin," said Virelles, one of the organizers of the marathon. "If you come at 9 a.m., the information you get will be different that the one at 11."

The concert that begins at 6 p.m., called "The King of Ragtime," will feature an overview of Joplin's career.

Performers at the marathon include university faculty and students, including the its brass and percussion ensembles. Virelles and Don Parker, interim chairman of the school's department of performing and fine arts, will be among the performers.

Parker said the marathon should illustrate the breadth of a career that most people boil down to just one or two numbers.

"The fact is that his work translates to different interpretations very easily," Parker said. "I think that's really a part of this, to highlight his work as a whole."

 

Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at rmullen@fayobserver.com or 486-3561.