October 07, 2011

Rick Benjamin's Paragon Ragtime Orchestra

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Rick Benjamin's Paragon Ragtime Orchestra will perform in concert on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. in the Weis Center at Bucknell University.

The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra is the world's only year-round, professional ensemble recreating what has been called "America's Original Music" — the syncopated sounds of early musical theater, silent cinema, and vintage dance.

The PRO came into being as the result of Benjamin's 1985 discovery of thousands of turn-of-the-century orchestra scores that belonged to Victrola recording star Arthur Pryor. In 1988 the Orchestra made its formal debut at Alice Tully Hall, the first concert ever presented at Lincoln Center by such an ensemble.

Since then PRO has appeared at hundreds of leading arts venues, including the Ravinia Festival, the Smithsonian Institution, Chautauqua, the Brucknerhaus (Austria), the New York 92nd Street Y and the American Dance Festival. In 1999 PRO's music inspired master choreographer Paul Taylor's new dance "Oh You Kid!" which was premiered at The Kennedy Center jointly by the Paul Taylor Dance Company and the orchestra. In 2003 the PRO presented the premiere of Rick Benjamin's new reconstruction of Scott Joplin's opera "Treemonisha" at San Francisco's Stern Grove Festival. In 2005 and again in 2006, Paragon had the honor of being presented in Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall as guests of the Minnesota Orchestra.

The PRO has performed on NPR and the BBC as well as at the Campus Theatre, providing music for silent movies. Since 1989 the Walt Disney Company has relied on the orchestra's recordings for the outdoor theme music heard at Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland, Disney World, and Disneyland Paris, and served an extended engagement as a U.S. Ambassador of Goodwill at the 1992 World's Universal Exposition in Seville, Spain.

In addition to its worldwide concert hall, university, and festival appearances, the PRO has acquired a considerable following both here and abroad through its radio programs on the New York Times' WQXR, National Public Radio, the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Voice of America networks. Over the years the orchestra has been heard on the soundtracks of several motion pictures and television programs.

Tickets are $20; discounts for senior citizens and students are available. Advance tickets can be charged at www.bucknell.edu/boxoffice or by calling 570-577-1000.

Advance tickets are available in person from several locations including the Weis Center lobby weekdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University bookstore in Lewisburg weekdays and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 12:30 to 4 p.m.; and the CAPS Center Box Office, located on the ground floor of the Elaine Langone Center, weekdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets also may be purchased one hour prior to each performance.

In addition to the performance at the Weis Center, Bucknell's student-run radio station WVBU will broadcast the concert at 8 p.m. 'Live from the Weis Center' may be heard at 90.5 FM or streamed via www.WVBU.com.

The next performance in the Weis Center series is Ballet Memphis, a nationally acclaimed company that interprets the South's cultural legacy through dance, production and training, on Nov. 4.

Contact: Division of Communications