Turkey in the Straw

From Wind Repertory Project
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This composition has been withdrawn by the publisher due to the tune's potentially offensive origin and associations with racism, slavery, and black-face minstrelsy.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
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
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In 2020, this work was withdrawn from the publisher's catalog because of its historically racist lyrics and its association with minstrel shows in the 19th century.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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