Saturday, April 1, 2017 A Hollywood Ending to William Appling’s Scott Joplin Quest [On Centennial of His Death, 4 CDs "The Complete Rags, Waltzes & Marches" Are Released]

Cover design by “The Design Studio™ at
Disc Makers” A labor of love: William
Appling plays the complete solo piano 
music of Scott Joplin (available April 1
from CD Baby, iTunes, and all online

Scott Joplin (c.1867-1917) is profiled 
at, which features a 
Bibliography and comprehensive Works 
List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma,

Albert Imperator, Contributor

Arts Promoter, Co-founded 21C Media Group
Composer anniversaries are often a big deal in 
the world of classical music, but sadly, the 
centenary on April 1, 2017 of the death of Scott 
Joplin has mostly gone by, at least thus far, with 
very little notice. Except for a terrific feature by 
Stuart Isacoff in this week’s Wall Street Journal
I haven’t seen any other major-media tributes to 
“The King of Ragtime,” who, to quote Isacoff, 
“shepherded an American musical genre to new 
heights of sophistication.” 
My big Joplin moment came back in the early 1970s 
when, like millions of Americans, I left the premiere 
of the now classic Robert Redford/Paul Newman film  
The Sting humming Joplin’s “The Entertainer” 
(trying to master it on the piano became a near 
obsession in the months, if not years, afterwards). 
Here was music of irresistible charm and joie de vi·vre
with its trademark rhythms and lilting gait — an all-
American original! But I suspected there was more to 
this music than met the ear.
Fast forward nearly thirty years, when I received a call 
from an industry colleague, Toby Tumarkin, who was 
also a student of William Appling, a beloved choral 
conductor, pianist, arranger and educator. Knowing I 
was a music promoter, he asked me if I would do him 
a favor and meet with Bill, who was working on a big 
Joplin project that might be interesting to hear about. 
Soon after, I met Bill for lunch, and I immediately fell 
under his spell. He was wise, soft-spoken, gracious 
and brilliant, and he knew just about everything about 
Joplin, whose music he had discovered relatively recently. 
“I want to perform and record all of it,” he told me. “This 
is the music of a genius, and more Americans need to 
know about it.” There was nothing I could really do to 
help him at this point—there was nothing yet to promote—
but for a few subsequent years we would get together on 
occasion for another meal, another brainstorm, and another 
long talk. His insight into music, his gentle ways, his deeply 
spiritual aura, and so many other qualities, touched me 
greatly. But then, for a long while, I didn’t hear from him, 
and in 2008 I learned from Toby that Bill had passed away.

Fast forward again, this time to December 2016, when I 
received a note from Bill’s friend and colleague William 
McClelland, who told me the most extraordinary news: 
just before his death, William Appling had indeed finished 
recording of all the rags, waltzes and marches of Scott 
Joplin. McClelland—a composer and pianist himself, as well 
as the founder of Bag Snaggers, a company which 
manufactures the only patented tool ever designed to take 
plastic bags out of trees!—knew and worked with Appling 
for many years, producing four recordings by William 
Appling Singers & Orchestra on the Albany and New World 
record labels.
The new four-CD Joplin set will be released on April 1, 
exactly 100 years after the Texas-born composer’s death, 
at age 49, in New York City. In the Q & A below, McClelland 
 tells us more about William Appling and why his revelatory 
new recording might connect a new generation of listener’s 
to Joplin’s indisputable genius. 

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