October 15, 2005

Rick Benjamin

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Rick Benjamin, conductor and music director of the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, will give a talk about "Treemonisha," an opera by the great ragtime composer Scott Joplin, Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. in the Rooke Recital Hall of the Weis Music Building at Bucknell University.

The talk, which is free to the public, is part of the Weis Center's ongoing meet-the-artist lecture-demonstration series. Benjamin will give some background on the unique aspects of this production, and will take questions from the audience.

This production boasts a newly reconstructed orchestration by Benjamin, who is one of today's most highly regarded experts on music of the ragtime period. Approaching this opera as an amalgamation of traditional American vaudeville, tab-show, melodrama and minstrelsy held together by Joplin's inspired music, Benjamin scored the accompaniment for the more standard theatre orchestra of the ragtime era.

Under Benjamin's direction, the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Singers will perform "Treemonisha" Saturday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. in the Weis Center. Tickets for the Oct. 29 performance are $20.

Recently premiered to great acclaim in San Francisco, "Treemonisha" is an optimistic musical portrait of an African-American community's emergence from slavery. The townspeople are led by a young woman, Treemonisha, to reject superstition in favor of hard work and learning.

Benjamin, who lives in Lewisburg, has built a career on the discovery and performance of American music from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An energetic researcher of music for silent films, he has unearthed the original orchestral accompaniments to many of the great motion pictures of the 1910s and '20s, which he conducts at film festivals around the world.

The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra is the world's only year-round, professional organization performing ragtime-era music: vaudeville hits, silent movie accompaniments and dance-hall favorites. For more information, see http://www.paragonragtime.com/

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