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Postcards from Erica August 2022

Trying to find unaccompanied cello music by Black composers? Look no further.

Postcards from Erica August 2022

This is the seventh installment in my series of digital postcards about unaccompanied works by Black composers.

In selecting the music every month, I keep in mind orchestra directors and students in search of contest pieces, teachers seeking supplemental literature, and professionals hankering for new repertoire.

These monthly postcards give you the information you need to help you choose a piece that’s right for you. I also include links to make it easy for you to locate and purchase the sheet music you want. I hope you enjoy exploring these pieces as much as I did selecting them.

Catch up on my previous postcards in this series, my postcards on women composers (“That’s What She Said”), or revisit all of my postcards.

August Postcard #1

This first selection almost needs no introduction – it is one of the most famous ragtime piano pieces in the world, only slightly less well known than the “Maple Leaf Rag.” Interestingly, composer Scott Joplin considered ragtime to be a form of classical music; his work advanced the genre such that it was described by music critic Martin Williams as “an Afro-American version of the polka, or its analog, the Sousa-style march.”

  • Title: The Entertainer
  • Composer: Scott Joplin (1868 — 1 April 1917)
  • Arranger: Randi Calistri-Yeh
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 3:10
  • Number of Measures: 108
  • Number of Pages: 2
  • Tempo: quarter = 60, 72
  • Difficulty Level: high intermediate
  • Highest Position Reached: 6th
  • Technique Employed: bass clef, 2/4 time signature, quadruple stop pizzicato, double stops, triplets, syncopated rhythm, swing
  • Publisher: Sheet Music Plus
  • Where to Purchase: Sheet Music Plus
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: $4.99


Program Notes

“The Entertainer” is a 1902 classic piano rag written by Scott Joplin. It was sold first as sheet music, and in the 1910s as piano rolls that would play on player pianos. The first recording was by blues and ragtime musicians the Blue Boys in 1928, played on mandolin and guitar.

As one of the classics of ragtime, it returned to international prominence as part of the ragtime revival in the 1970s, when it was used as the theme music for the 1973 Oscar-winning film The Sting. Composer and pianist Marvin Hamlisch’s adaptation reached #3 on the Billboard pop chart and spent a week at #1 on the easy listening chart in 1974. The Sting was set in the 1930s, a full generation after the end of ragtime’s mainstream popularity, thus giving the inaccurate impression that ragtime music was popular at that time.

The Recording Industry Association of America ranked it #10 on its “Songs of the Century” list. – Wikipedia

Cellist’s Guide

This is both a musically and technically good arrangement for the cello. Though it occasionally ventures into neck position, the majority of the score can be played in the lower positions. It lies well on the instrument despite the numerous double stops, many of which are paired with an open string.

I am slightly hesitant to rate this as a high intermediate piece, simply because of the numerous double stops. If you are new to double stops, then this is the piece for you!

August Postcard #2

Eric Lacy’s contemporary compositional style combines romanticism with 21st century techniques, bringing a lush and expressive quality to his music. Eric has composed chamber ensembles and orchestral music, as well as music for film and video games. This particular work is a fantastic exercise for cellists seeking to practice reading high bass and tenor clef as well as double, triple, and quadruple stops.

  • Title: Three Question Marks
  • Composer: Eric Lacy
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 2011
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 4:30
  • Number of Measures: 54
  • Number of Pages: 2
  • Tempo: Moderato
  • Difficulty Level: late intermediate
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb position
  • Technique Employed: bass & tenor clefs; 5/8, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4 time signatures; grace notes; double, triple, and quadruple stops; accidentals
  • Publisher: Eric Lacy
  • Where to Purchase:
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: $6.95


Program Notes

In this work for solo cello, “Three Question Marks,” I eagerly seized the opportunity to combine grand melodic gestures with intense chordal structures. As always, my intention was to present the performer with the satisfaction of being challenged and at the same time, provide enough freedom to connect with the music. Additionally, in the forefront of my mind was the ease with which the listener would be able to receive the message communicated by the performer–a timeless message of hope and tranquility. A message which I sincerely hope is well embedded in the music. – Eric Lacy

Cellist’s Guide

“Three Question Marks” lies quite well on the instrument and is rhythmically accessible throughout. Though the piece journeys briefly into thumb position, the vast majority is written in first through seventh positions.

A common element throughout this work is the frequent use of double stops. Though they would not prove difficult for an advanced or professional player, a late intermediate cellist would find them challenging. Anyone about to wade into the Bach Suites would definitely benefit from learning “Three Question Marks.”

Due to the double stops, especially the quadruple stops, notes that would normally be written in tenor and treble clefs had to be written in high bass and tenor clef. I must admit having to stop several times to make sure I was playing the notes correctly. If you need practice reading high bass or tenor clefs, here is your opportunity!

August Postcard #3

The description accompanying the sheet music download says it all: “This 11 minute solo suite for cello is a fun romp! The title is a reflection of its inspiration: comedic poetry and drama. This work brings to a close the ‘poetic’ trilogy of suites, coupled with the ‘Lyric,’ Op. 26, and ‘Tragic,’ Op. 44. The four movements are: 1. Moderato 2. Andante Grazioso 3. Adagio 4. Allegretto.”

  • Title: Comic Suite, Op. 45
  • Composer: Joseph Jones
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Published: 2020
  • Movements: Moderato, Andante Grazioso, Adagio, Allegretto-Andante-Vivo
  • Duration of Work: 11’’
  • Number of Measures: 110, 62, 33, 114
  • Number of Pages: 6
  • Tempo: half = 60, 70; dotted quarter = 56; quarter = 50; quarter = 90, 108, quarter = 50, quarter =132
  • Difficulty Level: advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb position
  • Technique Employed: bass, tenor, treble clefs; 6/8, 2/4, cut, 4/4 time; pizzicato; double, triple, and quadruple stops; false harmonics, sul tasto, trills, glissandos
  • Publisher: Sheet Music Plus
  • Where to Purchase: Sheet Music Plus
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: $25


First movement:


Second movement:


As a composer, Mr. Jones’ works have been performed in the United States, and Europe. He has written a wide variety of music, including art song, solo instrumental, chamber music, choral, concertante, chamber, string, and full orchestra, oratorio, and opera. Most recently, he was the first prize-winner in the call for scores held by Music of the Unsung America in Miami, giving the premiere of his Second Symphony for String Orchestra in April 2021. – Composer’s website


At first glance, Comic Suite appears to be written for the intermediate cellist. Upon reading the piece, I discovered false harmonics, thirds, intricate passages with numerous accidentals and rapid string crossings. Though not stunningly difficult, Comic Suite requires that the player have a fair amount of technique.

The first and last movements stand nicely on their own, giving the performer the choice of playing just a single outer movement or, time permitting, the entire piece.

This exuberant work is delightfully sarcastic in nature. Though it reminds me a bit of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, it is in no way derivative. I feel that this is a piece that audiences would enjoy, and I definitely plan on adding this to my repertoire.

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*Prices given are accurate at the date of the publication of this article. Please check the given links for the current price. The Cello Museum does not control these prices and cannot take responsibility for price changes.