Friday, April 26, 2019 Scott Joplin Memorial Concert, St. Michael’s Cemetery 5/18

Scott Joplin

April 26, 2019

Ed Berlin

In 2005, I was contacted by St. Michael’s Cemetery: they would like to have a concert to honor Joplin and wondered if I could help to organize it. Of course I agreed and selected a few outstanding pianists for the event: MacArthur Award winner Reginald Robinson; conservatory-trained blues and ragtime pianist Peter Muir (author of the book Long Lost Blues); and Juilliard jazz-studies student and (now) famed jazz pianist Aaron Diehl, who performed Joplin rags as they might have been played by Fats Waller. The free ragtime concert (not exclusively Joplin) was held out-doors, with free barbecue provided by the cemetery (with contributions from local businesses) and excellent beer dispensed by Harlem Brewery, a firm that actively supports jazz performances. Celeste Beatty, the brewery’s president, is a great grand-niece of the celebrated black minstrel Dan McCabe, who had been a friend of Joplin’s. With an audience numbering around 200, the concert was a rousing success, and was concluded with a procession to Joplin’s grave, a walk of about three or four minutes.

The concert attracted so much local attention that the cemetery administration decided to fund Scott Joplin Memorial Concerts as an annual event and allowed me considerable freedom in programming and selecting performers. At first I chose mostly pianists and small groups (such as one led by Terry Waldo). In 2007, adding to a roster of instrumentalists, we had members of the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans, an African-American congregation, perform vocal excerpts from Joplin’s opera Treemonisha.


The 2019 concert will be held at 2pm on May 18. (Inclement weather will move the concert to the chapel.)  [East Elmhurst, New York]

No comments: