Marches Madness: High-Stepping To Scott Joplin : Deceptive Cadence While Scott Joplin was the king of ragtime, he had his heart set on writing opera. His only surviving score, Treemonisha, ends with a slow march that's "happy as a bird in June."
NPR logo Marches Madness: High-Stepping To Scott Joplin

Marches Madness: High-Stepping To Scott Joplin

It's Marches Madness! Throughout this month, we're posting some of our favorite marches — from the concert hall, opera stage and parade ground. Got one we should hear? Played any yourself? Let us know in the comments section.


From the "Maple Leaf Rag" to "Solace," Scott Joplin wrote some of the jauntiest and most haunting music of the years before World War I. While he's the undisputed king of ragtime, he didn't realize his long-held dream of conquering the opera stage.

He wrote his first opera, A Guest of Honor, about Booker T. Washington dining at the White House with Theodore Roosevelt. The score is lost.

Treemonisha, about a young African-American woman helping her community overcome superstition and lack of education, has fared better, though well after Joplin's death. Multiple productions since the score's rediscovery in 1970 — such as the Houston Grand Opera one excerpted above — have brought its gentle charms to audiences around the world.

In the finale, after a short introduction, the chorus is "marching onward, marching onward," led by Carmen Balthrop as the title character, "marching to that lovely tune."

Correction March 20, 2013

A previous version of this story identified Frederick Douglass as the White House dinner guest.