The Roarer March was originally written as a banjo duet by Horace Weston (1825-1890). It was most likely published in 1883 and was still being advertised after his death. Unfortunately the original sheet music for the banjo duet has not been located. The Library Of Congress has two different arrangements of it available for a chamber orchestra and a brass band/marching band. I used the parts that were available for these to reconstruct a score for each arrangement. Then I used the original arrangements to create a new banjo duet in the style of Horace Weston. The resulting banjo duet has quickly become one of my favorite banjo arrangements that I’ve ever done in my career. I hope that it’s something that Horace himself could be proud of. If the original sheet music ever surfaces, I would love to compare it to my version to see how close I got to Mr. Weston’s original vision.
advertisement from S.S. Stewart's 1893 banjo catalogue
This is one of his most sophisticated compositions. It’s the only one in 6/8 time, which he uses to give us the sound of a majestic march. Horace was known to play banjo with Barnum & Bailey’s circus in the early 1870s. There’s a part right before the D.C. in The Roarer March with a lovely chromatic build that evokes imagery of the lions roaring at the circus for me. Here's my banjo arrangement.
This is the version that I’ve been referring to as the small orchestra version. The instruments included are 1st & 2nd violins, viola, 1st & 2nd cornets, 1st clarinet, flute, trombone, bass, and piano.
The other version is the marching band version. The instruments in this arrangement are Db piccolo, Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, Eb cornet, solo Bb cornet, 1st & 2nd Bb cornet, solo Eb alto, 1st & 2nd Eb alto, 1st & 2nd Bb tenor, baritone (treble clef), baritone (bass clef), Eb bass, Bb bass (treble clef), Bb bass (bass clef), snare drum, and bass drum. Here's the original 1883 marching band arrangement:
Both of these arrangements were published by Brophy Bros. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1883. There was no additional arranger included so I’ve often wondered if Horace did the arrangements himself. In the biography of Weston, I quoted some articles that were written about whether or not he could read music. S.S. Stewart was most likely the person who arranged his banjo songs for standard notation. Stewart also argued that despite not being able to play banjo “by note”, Horace Weston was fluent in reading and writing music. As fluent as I am with standard notation, I struggle reading it for banjo music. Especially at the Horace Weston-level of difficulty.
This is my vision of what The Roarer March can sound like for a modern wind ensemble. If you’re interested in a custom-tailored arrangement for your ensemble, please get in touch with me!
Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts about Horace and his music below!
P.S. Show your support for Horace Weston by joining the Horace Weston Fan Club today!
Kyle Gray Young is a fiscal year 2023 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.