Virtual West Coast Ragtime Fest a Signal Success

The intrepid West Coast Ragtime Society has announced the overwhelming success of their 2021 virtual 35th annual Ragtime Festival. For the second year, the all-video weekend of November 19 – 21 was gratefully viewed by over 9,000 guests watching the eight concerts comprising the event. Traditional concerts included the Sampler, and the Rising Stars (featuring young performers under the age of 15) and a concert focused on the popular music of 1901 (120 years ago). This year’s special features included a special program of instrumental music by Morten Gunnar Larsen’s Ophelia Ragtime Orchestra from Norway, emceed by Max Morath.

Historian Maddy Linck tells the story three murder ballads with St. Louis roots as part of the Sunday afternoon seminar.

Another special feature was the St. Louis Ragtime Showcase on Friday evening, produced and performed by Ethan Leinwand and T.J. Muller. St. Louis performers played the music that made St. Louis famous on the original sites which made each piece very special. Just playing a piano on the slopping St. Louis cobbled Riverfront was a major accomplishment. A highlight was a set by the original St. Louis Ragtimers: Don Franz, tuba; Joe Mason, cornet; Al Stricker, Banjo; and, sitting in for his father-in-law Trebor Tichenor, was Marty Eggers on piano. From Maddy Linck’s “Frankie and Johnnie” ballad history to performances by Richard Egan and Royce Martin, it was a marvelous reminder of the original National Ragtime Festivals on the Riverfront from 60 years ago.

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The Society Board announces donations were on a par with last year to pay expenses and reward over 40 performers and groups participating. Contributions can still be accepted on the Society’s website or through PayPal.

Warren Jennings wrote in response to my inquiry, “The WCRS is fortunate to have a dedicated and talented core group that rises to changing conditions to ensure that the show goes on. In addition to the director Virginia Tichenor, Production Technician / Supervisor Andrew Green, and master graphics designer Lewis Motisher (who created all the festival graphics and introductory videos for each concert), the following were critical to the success of the festival: Robin Drivon, Bub Sullivan, Chris and Jack Bradshaw, T.J. Muller, Marty Eggers, Michael Chisholm, Rob Thomas, Sean Sharp, Damit Senanayake, and several others. It takes a village. We’ve got a good one!”

Congratulations to the West Coast ragtimers on the signal success of their festival—and thanks for the great entertainment that broke the isolation of our pandemic lockdown!

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Larry Melton was a founder of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 1974 and the Sedalia Ragtime Archive in 1976. He was a Sedalia Chamber of Commerce manager before moving on to Union, Missouri where he is currently helping to conserve the Ragtime collection of the Sedalia Heritage Foundation. Write him at [email protected].

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