Over the last few weeks, Ian Holloway in Blackpool and I in San Francisco have been tossing a ball across cyberspace creating a banjo arrangement of Ragtime Oriole based on the early 1950s recording of Fred Van Eps. Van Eps kept the original piano key of A flat and so have we. Basically we listened and transcribed and refined each other's versions and filled in the gaps left by the other and corrected our mistakes over time. I initially tried to be faithful to whatever I could discern of Van Eps' fingering (open strings are evident on the recording for instance) and also kept a descending diminished arpeggio where he may have actually intended to play the strict melody and simply was off by a fret at one point. But as the transcription got updated over and over my own fingerings and Ian's fingerings entered the picture. About half way through the process we were each won over by the other's idea of which part of the fingerboard to use for certain passages. The final version represents how I play the tune now in June 2009. Ian plays the identical notes using slightly different means. I've just posted the final version which was entered by Ian using G Vox Encore on a wooden computer run by steam generated by a 5 oxen turning a wheel. It looks great I think. I've posted the score in a separate blog and the recording may be found on my page and perhaps the main page for a while anyway. Neither of us is tired of the tune. My respect for the musical imagination of Fred Van Eps has increased as well. I've long thought his 1920s rendition was about as good as classic banjo playing can get, but this later version moves further from the original piano score and more into banjo territory and the territory of good creative musical playfulness.
Except for a few spots which we think were errors and which we did not reproduce, this score represents our best effort at transcribing the version of Ragtime Oriole Van Eps played on this occasion. The indicated fingerings are a combination of the fingerings we think he must have used and how I prefer to play it and the latter has been amended by how Ian prefers to play it. Sometimes we've left the fingerings unmarked because we hadn't settled into one way of playing those passages.