Arts & Culture

Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

Paragon Ragtime Orchestra Plays the Oldies

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | May 7, 2015 7:30 PM
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Headquartered in Lewisburg, PA, The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra is known as one of the premiere performance groups for American music written around the turn of the 20th century.  Since 1985 the group has been re-discovering and performing the music of that era in hundreds of concert venues and in a large number of recordings which continues to grow.

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 since 1989.


Rick Benjamin

Rick Benjamin is the founder and director of the group. He rescued thousands of orchestra scores that were being discarded from the library of Arthur Pryor, a conductor from the earliest days of the recording industry.  This recovery became the catalyst for the launch of the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra. He tells the remarkable story in our audio feature above.

The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra has also meticulously reconstructed the film scores for some 50 silent movies, and performs them at special screenings. They have recently released a CD with some of the best music by the forgotten composers of the silent film scores. It's called The Pioneers of Movie Music, Sounds of the American Silent Cinema. In Part 2 of our interview below, Rick Benjamin talks about how the whole process of scoring a film worked in the days of silent films. 


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