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Watch and Listen: Central High School String Quartet Plays Sousa With a Twist! Live from WRTI 90.1

Courtesy of Ben Blazer
Central High School String Quartet

We celebrated 30 years of the Sousalarm on WRTI 90.1 with a special live broadcast featuring a string quaret from Central High School, playing works by Gustav Holst, Scott Joplin, and John Philip Sousa. Gregg Whiteside, host.

Central High School String Quartet: Frances Ebner, Violin 1; Calistha Gunawan, Violin 2; Hana Lampson, Viola; Reil Abashera, Cello

Suite in E Flat for Military Band by Gustav Holst
III. March
Solace by Scott Joplin/ Arr. Jan Kelley
Liberty Bell March by John Philip Sousa

Marches and string quartets? You may not think it's a match made in heaven but the Central High School String Quartet might just change your mind. Drawn from the most advanced players from the orchestra and string orchestra, they do a number of performances each year, especially for community outreach.

While many of us associate John Philip Sousa, the “March King," most closely with the march repertoire and the wider concert band repertoire, there are many other composers who share an important place in that repertoire, who wrote some of our most beloved (non-Sousa!) classic march masterpieces.

Those composers were from the same late 19th- to early 20th-century period when Sousa lived including Henry Fillmore, Edwin Bagley, Percy Grainger, George Chadwick, Gustav Holst and Edward Elgar.

In the 1890s when Sousa was busy writing marches, another popular American musical form known as ragtime was all the rage and Sousa’s contemporary Scott Joplin was ragtime’s biggest champion. (i.e., In other words...what Sousa did for the march, Joplin did for ragtime.

While Sousa was the “March King," Joplin was the “King of Ragtime." And while we think of ragtime and marches as different things, ragtime marches are a whole lot like Sousa’s in form but with a rhythmic twist...syncopation.

Gregg was the host of WRTI's morning drive show from 2012 until his retirement from WRTI in January, 2021. He began producing and hosting The Philadelphia Orchestra In Concert broadcasts in 2013, joining the Orchestra in Hong Kong for the first-ever live international radio broadcasts from that island in 2016, and in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for two historic broadcasts in 2018. You can still hear Gregg as host of the Orchestra broadcasts every Sunday and Monday on WRTI.