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Turkey in the Straw

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Michael Markowski

Michael Markowski

General Info

Year: 2008
Duration: c. 4:15
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: No longer available

This composition has been withdrawn by the publisher due to the tune's potentially offensive origin and associations with racism, slavery, and black-face minstrelsy.


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Alto Saxophone I-II
Bb Tenor Saxophone
Eb Baritone Saxophone
Bb Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Euphonium (Bass Clef & Treble Clef)
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Snare Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Chimes
  • Cowbell
  • Glockenspiel
  • Slapstick
  • Slide Whistle
  • Splash Cymbal
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

We all know the melody, even if not by name. But for me, Turkey in the Straw is nostalgic, beckoning back to a childhood where grandma and grandpa would sit me in front of their TV with a bowl of orange Jell-O (in a small room papered wall-to-wall with decorative clowns), to watch old-time cartoons on VHS. From its early days in vaudeville to its silver-screen premiere in Disney's cartoon Steamboat Willie (1928), the tune has become a staple of Americana (and my favorite cartoons).

Most arrangements stay true to the song's Southern roots. But for a contemporary ensemble such as the concert band, I wanted my arrangement to be somewhat Ivesian, and, as colleagues have described it, closer to Quirky in the Straw. Above all, I wanted this piece to resemble classic cartoon scoring. Rather than simply arranging the brief melody in a handful of contrasting styles (as is typical of theme-and-variations), the form instead takes on an almost storytelling narrative or three-act structure.

Each successive treatment of the melody increases in orchestration and contrapuntal complexity, starting with the simplest orchestration within the first 35 measures. The melody quickly modulates, twists and turns, loses itself and finds itself in musical vignettes (already in development by measure 36). Each new scene seems to bring its own musical plot, orchestrational characterization, and many a custard pie in the face.

- Program Note by composer

In 2020, this work was withdrawn from the publisher's catalog because of its historically racist lyrics and its association with minstrel shows in the 19th century.

Commercial Discography

Audio Links

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Sacramento (Calif.) Symphonic Winds (Tim Smith, conductor) – 5 May 2019
  • Gold Coast Wind Ensemble (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) (Michael Doty, conductor) – 22 October 2017
  • Penn Central Wind Band (Bucknell University) (William Kenny, conductor) – 25 July 2015
  • Great Street Community Band (Brooklyn) (Jeff W. Ball, conductor) - 8 December 2013
  • Williamsburg Concert Band (Brian Worsdale, conductor) - 26 September 2013
  • Sacramento Symphonic Winds (Lester E. Lehr, conductor) - 6 April 2013 (ACB’s 35th Annual Convention (San Ramon, Calif.))
  • SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School Symphonic Band (CHIU Kai Keung, conductor) - 2012

Works for Winds by this Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works