The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra was founded in 1985 by Rick Benjamin. Its foundation was prompted by Benjamin's discovery of an enormous cache of musical arrangements belonging to a theater orchestra once led by Arthur Pryor, a library Benjamin rescued quite literally at the 11th hour from an abandoned warehouse about to be torn down. Benjamin organized a number of his fellow students at Juilliard to perform the material, and in 1988 the ParagonRead more Ragtime Orchestra made its public premiere at New York's Alice Tully Hall as the first period instrument ensemble to appear there.
Since then the group has been actively engaged in reviving American music of the ragtime era in a dizzying variety of venues throughout the world. In addition to performing concerts, the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra also supplies music for dance companies, silent films, and making appearances at festivals and on public radio. In 1993 the group made an extended journey to Seville, Spain, as a U.S. Ambassador of Goodwill to the World's Universal Exposition. The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra also provides the music recordings utilized for the Main Street, U.S.A., installations at Disney's theme parks. The group's first recording, On the Boardwalk, appeared in 1986 on the Newport Classics label. Since then the group has recorded for Dorian, GB, Gaslight, Vanguard, and New World; in 2001 the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra began to record for its own label, Rialto.
Rick Benjamin has stated that the Pryor library is in itself so extensive and vast that Paragon almost never has to go outside of it for material, and that the group seldom uses arrangements sought from elsewhere or creates originals. Nonetheless, the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra scored a hit in 2006 with its touring version of Benjamin's reconstruction of Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha, premiered at the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco. In keeping with theater orchestras of the early 1900s, the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra employs singers; in-house soprano is Jody Dall'Armi. Read less
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