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Scaramouche

for Percussion Ensemble and Piano (Intermediate Level)

By Carla K. Bartlett

©2018 Truluck Music (ASCAP)

Instrumentation: Bells, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba (two players), chimes, timpani (3) with medium hard mallets, percussion (medium triangle, mark tree, suspended cymbal with soft mallets & triangle beater)

Scaramouche (from Italian scaramuccia, literally "little skirmisher"), is a stereotypical clown character of the commedia dell'arte, the comic theatrical arts of Italian theatre. The role combined characteristics of the Zanni (servant) and the Capitano (masked henchman). Usually attired in black Spanish dress, Scaramouche was often beaten by the character Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice.

In England, Scaramouche is one of the great characters in the Punch and Judy puppet shows. During performances, Punch frequently strikes Scaramouche, causing his head to come off his shoulders. Because of this, the term scaramouche has become associated with a class of puppets with extendable necks.

Scaramouch The French hero of Rafael Sabatini's historical novel Scaramouche, and its film adaptations, is a swashbuckling character who goes incognito in the theatrical role of Scaramouche (Wikipedia). His was the personification which inspired this percussion ensemble: an extremely intelligent, strong-willed, passionate man who, trying to do right, gets constantly entangled in complications resulting from his own actions that create chaos for him and those around him. Things always turn out well in the end due to Scaramouche’s cleverness, charm, and good luck.

Thus, the piece begins with a wink and a swagger, proceeding gradually into a tangled mess from measures 79 and dissolving into a puff of smoke at 93, only to pick up again as if nothing had happened from 94 to the end.

I highly recommend Sabatini’s novel, which eloquently captures the essence of the player, as well as the flavor of the French Revolutions. In Chapter V we meet Scaramouche:

“Dressed in the close-fitting suit of a bygone age, all black, from flat velvet cap to rosetted shoes, his face whitened and a slight up-curled moustache glued to his upper lip, a small-sword at his side and a guitar slung behind him, Scaramouche surveyed himself in a mirror, and was disposed to be sardonic—which was the proper mood for the part” (p. 133, Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche, A Romance of the French Revolution, 1921, Houghton Mifflin Company).

The Internet provides varying images of Scaramouche. The one shown depicts a famous English actor, J.S. Grimaldi, in the role.

  • (Wikipedia) Public Domain
  • File:J.S. Grimaldi (as Scaramouch).jpg
  • Created: circa 1815 date QS:P,+1815-00-00T00:00:00Z/9,P1480,Q5727902


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