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composed and arranged by

Walter Burke

A Trip To Rocky Point is a fun bit of musical Americana that was published in Boston in 1890. Walter Burke composed it for two banjos, guitar, mandolin, optional vocal quartette, and sound effects.

A Trip to Rocky Point - cover. (Click to enlarge.)
A Trip to Rocky Point - cover. (Click to enlarge.)

One fine Saturday afternoon in August 1997 several members of the Washington Guitar Society (Washington, D.C.) got together and worked it up from scratch, playing the banjo parts on guitars capoed at the third fret. Some of the players were very accomplished, others of us were dedicated amateurs and students. You might hear imperfections, but if you let that detract from your enjoyment of this happy music... well, you can see me about that.

Make no mistake; they don't write 'em like this anymore!

For the most part, this page has been superceded by the YouTube presentation:

Trip To Rocky Point with vintage post cards
"A Trip To Rocky Point" with vintage post cards (Youtube)

The post cards nicely illustrate our trip to Rocky Point and back. You will find the composer's description and images of the music as well. But I leave everything here in place, such as to aid in web searches. If you'd like to download the MP3 file, you can do it from this page.

IF YOU WANT TO PLAY ALONG WITH US, you can find all the parts in this "Trip to Rocky Point" sheet music file (pdf). There are parts for 1st Banjo, 2nd Banjo, Guitar, and Mandolin. The banjo parts are readily playable on guitar capoed at the 3rd fret. The Guitar part is "easy" - mostly boom-chuck chords. The 1st Banjo is "advanced", making its way around the fingerboard. The 2nd Banjo is "intermediate", with chords and melodic material mostly in the first position. (NOTE: if you choose the 2nd Banjo part, you must jump ahead two pages for the "On the Bay" section, and then back again to where you left off.) The YouTube video and the sheet music pdf file should fire up in separate browser tabs to help you get them going together.

From here on is essentially the original version of this web page. It will carry you along through the "action" of this programmatic piece while you listen to a sound file on this site, or the YouTube video.

The subtitle for the work is A Descriptive Fantasie. Burke supplies this description:

This composition is supposed to represent a Trip from the City of Providence R.I. to Rocky Point and return. In imagination the listener goes over the following route: We first enter the Steam Cars, and when ready to start the Whistle blows. The sound of the cars is imitated by a lively movement in two-four time. The Cars gradually increase in speed and diminish as they approach the Point, A beautiful watering place on Narragansett Bay. As the train stops the strains of a Military Band are heard, after which we are supposed to visit the Minstrel Entertainment in progress at the Casino. While here, we listen to the selections: "My Pretty Little Dark Eyed Claire", a Song and Dance air, with jig effect, and a Minstrel Song with vocal chorus. Soon the Boat whistle sounds and we go on board to start for the City. While on the Boat we hear a Waltz, "La Paloma", with Castanets, a Mandolin solo etc: supposed to be rendered by the boat musicians. We next hear the boat whistle three times as a signal for the draw bridge to open; also the bell on the bridge rings three times in answer to the boat whistle. A peculiar sound is heard as the boat goes through the draw and the same sound is heard as the boat leaves the wharf at the Point. After passing through the bridge we land at the Dock in Providence and are escorted to our Hotel by a band in waiting.

Don't worry about latching on to all of that right now; further down I'll lead you through step by step as you listen to the music. And to give you a heads-up on what you're in for, here are the composer's . . .

Directions For The Performers.

W, use a whistle, something that will answer for a locomotive and steamboat whistle, but not as loud, except in large Orchestras.

S, use sand paper. Two blocks of wood with sand paper tacked on; when rubbed together they produce the effect of a jig danced on a sanded floor.

C, use Castanets: those with handle attached are the best for this occasion.

B, use a bell: same directions as for whistle.

[strum symbol] open the hand and bend the fingers back as far as possible, keeping them close together, then draw the hand lightly and swiftly across the strings toward the body.

Where the words "Auburn, Rocky Point and Providence" occur in the music, one of the performers can announce those stations.

Use whistle and bell that will accord with the other instruments.


Now, to correlate the music with the composer's description of the action, first crank up either the "Trip To Rocky Point" mp3 sound file on this site, or the YouTube video. While the music is playing, come back here and click on the first link below to join the day trippers and follow the music. A time tag in brackets shows where the section starts in the sound file.


Rocky Point "today" (1997): At the time we recorded "A Trip To Rocky Point" I had an internet friend, Lisa, who lived in West Warwick, Rhode Island. In an October 1997 note, Lisa provided this first-hand look at Rocky Point:

I noticed on your tape one of the songs is titled "Rocky Point". That's so neat. Rocky Point was a 100 year old amusement park/chowder house/banquet hall. Now it's a flea market. It's still quite a landmark around here but I doubt you'd find it on a map. It is located in the Warwick Neck section of Warwick, RI.

I'll have to send you a picture. It's quite a scenic place, right on the water. Still serve great clam cakes and chowda. Even have some semi-big names play in the theatre on the grounds (Frampton and the like.) The amusement park closed only 2 years ago. I was looking forward to taking the kids [aged 1 and 2] in the future, I guess not huh?


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Helpful keywords not in the main text: 19th century american guitar music.