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A review of the 2003 Rocky Mountain Ragtime Festival



                        by Joanne Clark

(Originally published in the Fall 2003 edition of Chandelier,
official newsletter of the Terra Verde Society, reproduced
by permission)


            For someone to whom music is fundamental to

life, a music festival seems a natural destination.  My

trip to Boulder for the 2003 Rocky Mountain Ragtime

Festival, however, happened in a roundabout way.

Once there, I found an exciting world of living music

that has enriched my life.

            I liked ragtime and so signed up to attend the

2002 West Coast Ragtime Festival (WC) in

Sacramento.  It was my first ragtime festival and I

didn’t know what to expect.  I found that it was not

just classic ragtime from Joplin and others of that era;

the festival introduced me to New Ragtime, Terra

Verde and living composers.  I liked the pieces Frank

French and David Thomas Roberts played (they both

performed at WC 2002), so I purchased some of their

CDs, as well as a couple of Scott Kirby CDs (he wasn’t

able to attend the festival that year).  I also joined the

fledgling Terra Verde Society because I wanted to

learn about and support this new genre.

            After playing the CDs, searching for more

information about Terra Verde, and picking up CDs

from other composers/performers (Brian Keenan,

Glenn Jenks, Hal Isbitz) and finding more CDs from

French, Roberts, and Kirby, I was hooked.  I felt a

great appreciation for the music and the

composers—I concluded that I had to attend the

Rocky Mountain Ragtime Festival.  After all, it was

billed as the premiere festival to hear Terra Verde,

and I knew I would hear New Ragtime as well as the

classic Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb pieces (and

there was this tantalizing mention of the art of a

choro).  I also was hoping to hear more Nazareth and

Gottschalk.  Through the CDs and 2 of Frank French’s

San Francisco Bay Area performances, I learned that

they were important as developmental influences for

Terra Verde.

            At Boulder I was disappointed to find that no

Terra Verde set was scheduled.  However, I had (and

took) ample opportunity to hear and learn about Terra

Verde’s roots, related musical styles, and to

experience Terra Verde in context. Wow!  So sign me

up for the 2004 Rocky Mountain Ragtime Festival…..

            The Rocky Mountain festival (RM) had a

different format from that of the West Coast festival.

WC has more performers, has multiple venues, and

each performer has a long block of time to fill.  At any

one time, festival attendees have up to five competing

performances from which to choose.  The RM, in

contrast, has one venue, and each block of

performance time has a theme and features multiple


            The one venue at RM is large and provides

good opportunities to see the performers.  This was a

mixed blessing.  I had no trouble finding a parking

place or getting a good seat—but the audience never

approached capacity in the concert space.  Having

become a devotee, I would like to see the festival

draw more people, especially ones who would take in

the whole festival rather than just one evening


            Experiencing live performances of these new

pieces I had on CD was thrilling.  Getting to see not

only composers I had seen at WC (Frank French and

DTR) but others (notably Scott Kirby and Brian

Keenan) impressed upon me the vitality of ragtime

and Terra Verde.  Ragtime is not frozen in time with

Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb—and elements of a

number of musical styles, including ragtime, have

developed into an important contemporary

pan-American genre—Terra Verde.

            I was happy to see talented young performers

(for instance, Elise Crane and Marit Johnson) who had

been through the “Institute” in prior years.  One can

only hope that funding will again be available to

continue the Institute.

Highlights of the festival for me were:

·           The piano duets;

·           Performance of the entire suite “New Orleans

Streets” by David Thomas Roberts (it was a

memorable performance which must have

been exhausting to perform);

·           The premieres (I hope to soon hear Frank

French’s new Carnivalesque when the rhythm

section does not overpower the pianos!);

·           Hints about ongoing composing and recording



I felt that the composer/performers were  community

who had great respect for one another.  It is a

community I appreciate being able to experience in

some measure.  A heartfelt “thank you” for sharing

your gift with me.


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