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Charlie Chaplin Film Festival with the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra

Charlie Chaplin Film Festival with the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra

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The Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center will become a vaudeville movie house as the spectacular production, A CHARLIE CHAPLIN FILM FESTIVAL with the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra comes to town at 8 p.m. Saturday, September 9, on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus.

Orchestra founder and conductor Rick Benjamin takes audience members back to the turn of the last century as he leads the orchestra through the original scores from Charlie Chaplin’s The Pawnshop (1916), The Immigrant (1917), and The Rink (1916).

The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra (PRO) is the world’s only year-round, professional ensemble recreating “America’s Original Music” through the syncopated sounds of early musical theatre, silent cinema, and vintage dance.

PRO was founded in 1985 after Rick Benjamin discovered thousands of turn-of-the-century orchestra scores once belonging to Victrola recording star Arthur Pryor.  The Orchestra made its formal debut in 1988 at Alice Tully Hall, the first concert ever presented at Lincoln Center by such an ensemble.  PRO has appeared at hundreds of leading arts venues, including the Ravinia Festival, the Smithsonian Institute, the Chautauqua Festival, 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 PRO.  In June, 2003 the PRO presented the premier of Rick Benjamin’s new reconstruction of Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha at San Francisco’s Stern Grove Festival.

In addition to its worldwide appearances, PRO has been featured on the New York Times’ WQXR, National Public Radio, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Voice of America networks.  The Walt Disney Company has relied on PRO’s recordings since 1989 for the outdoor theme music heard at Main Street, U.S.A. at Disney Land, Disney World, and Euro Disney.  PRO also has been heard on soundtracks of several motion pictures and television programs.

Conductor Rick Benjamin has built a career on the discovery and performance of American music from the late 19th and early 20th Ccenturies.  He is the founder and director of the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, which uses his extraordinary 9,000-title collection of antique theater and dance orchestra music (c.1875-1925) as the basis of its repertoire.  In addition to his work with Paragon, Mr. Benjamin maintains active careers as a pianist, arranger, and tubist.  He has led many ensembles as guest conductor including the National Orchestra of Ireland (Dublin), the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Aalborg Symfoniorkester (Denmark), the Olympia Symphony (Washington State), and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (Reykjavik).

An energetic researcher of music for silent films, Mr. Benjamin has unearthed the original orchestral accompaniments to many of the great motion pictures of the 1910s and 1920s, which he conducts at film festivals around the word.  He has written articles on popular music in several international periodicals and has given lecture tours to more than one hundred colleges and universities throughout North America.  Mr. Benjamin’s four-year reconstruction of the Scott Joplin opera Treemonisha was recently premiered to great acclaim in San Francisco, and he is continuing work on his books The American Theater Orchestra and Encyclopedia of Arrangers & Orchestrators: 1875-1925.

Advance interviews with the artists may be arranged by calling the Office of Marketing and Public Relations at 814-269-2080.

Tickets may be purchased by calling the ArtsLine at 1-800-846-ARTS from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.  Tickets are $20.  Discount tickets of $17 are being offered to senior citizens (over 65 years of age), students under 18, and members of the Pitt Johnstown community (faculty, staff, students, and card-carrying members of the Pitt Johnstown Alumni Association).  There is a $2 handling fee on all mail and phone orders.  The box office is open for in-person sales from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  The box office also opens one hour before performances.

For more information about the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra visit

The Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center is a multi-purpose facility operated by the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.  The Arts Center presents a variety of events including musicals, adult and children’s theatre, dance, and musical productions to 12,000 patrons annually.

Posted by Shook, Kimberly on 8/24/2006 8:40:00 AM