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In loving memory: Bill Mitchell, 1924-2017

Bill Mitchell with banjoist Jimmy Green

Bill Mitchell, one of ragtime music’s elder statesmen and the anchor of not only the first RagFest but all subsequent RagFests, is gone, having passed away on June 29. Bill was a fantastic pianist and musician and a fixture of the Southern California jazz and ragtime scenes for the past 60 years. He was a co-founder, in 1967, of the Los Angeles-based Maple Leaf Club, one of the first ragtime societies ever created, and was known far and wide for his piano-playing and bandleading skills. When the MLC morphed into the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club, Bill helped keep it going by often MCing at meetings, and when the RLRC monthly newsletter’s editor, Gus Willmorth, passed away, Bill took over as its editor.

When Friends of Jazz and Eric Marchese created RagFest in the spring of 2000, Bill Mitchell was the first performer Eric phoned to tell him about the new festival and to invite him to be the first pianist in the lineup. Bill not only appeared as a soloist; he also brought along the then-new Albany Nightboat Ragtimers, a four-man combo featuring a repertoire of both ragtime and Dixieland. Bill became the anchor of every subsequent RagFest and, in late 2001, was also among the first handful of performers to appear at the Orange County Ragtime Society, another local ragtime club Bill continued to perform at and support even despite an ever-increasing demand for his pianistic talents.

Bill was a true gentleman, and was “old-fashioned” in the best sense of the term: Soft-spoken, considerate, kind and generous. He loved many forms of music and enjoyed listening as much as playing, and he was averse to saying anything negative about fellow musicians, preferring to stay positive. He also had a wonderful sense of humor, evident by the twinkle in his eye and warm smile whenever something tickled his funny bone.

Bill will be sorely missed, and we want to take this moment to pay tribute to him and to dedicate this year’s RagFest to his memory. RIP, dear friend, and please keep looking down on us mere ragtime mortals and keeping watch over us.


RagFest 2017 finds a fantastic new home
at the Curtis Theatre in Brea

RagFest, Orange County’s annual festival of ragtime music, comes to the Curtis Theatre in Brea on Saturday, Sept. 23. The festival starts at noon and runs through 6 p.m., with a ragtime revue stage show at 8 p.m.

RagFest 2017 will be the event’s first time being held outside of Fullerton and first time at the Curtis Theatre, a beautiful venue located at the heart of the city’s civic and cultural center. It boasts 199 seats, yet is intimate – not a bad seat in the house. The theater opened in 1980, yet to date looks almost brand-new, and is named for Dr. Glenn Curtis, who had a 30-year career practicing medicine in Brea and was devoted to the community and its individual residents.

Drop in on the Curtis for RagFest and you’ll be submerged in a wonderful afternoon and evening of toe-tapping syncopation, all courtesy of some of the most amazing keyboard wizards you’ve ever seen – or heard! Get ready for an entire afternoon of great ragtime through half-hour and 45-minute sets – then, after the dinner break, a formal ragtime revue show on the Curtis stage. In between, you’ll be able to meet and talk with the performers and purchase their recordings and other ragtime merchandise.

Past RagFests have starred Ian Whitcomb, Tex Wyndham, Carl Sonny Leyland, Tom Brier, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra and the Albany Nightboat Ragtimers. This year’s will include Vincent Johnson, Johnny Hodges, Paul Orsi, Michael Chisholm, the vaudeville duo Evans & Rogers, Bob Pinsker, Shirley Case and many more. Don’t miss your chance to experience this one-of-a-kind event – one of the only annual ragtime festivals west of the Mississippi!

Ticket prices are $15 per person for the afternoon segment, $20 per person for the evening show, and $30 per person for the entire festival (both segments if purchased simultaneously). Tickets go on sale to the public at noon on August 1 online at curtistheatre.com and also by phone, in person and by mail.

Tickets may be purchased online 24 hours a day by going to curtistheatre.com. Each purchase transacted online via credit card will carry a service charge of $1 per ticket plus a $4 service charge per total order. You may purchase tickets by phone during box office hours by calling 714-990-7722. For assistance with seating, group sales and other matters, call Audience Services, 714-990-7727, during regular business hours (Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

To purchase RagFest tickets in person, visit our box office, which is open from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and noon to 3 p.m. on performance Saturdays, plus one hour prior to performances (if tickets are still available).

To purchase RagFest tickets by mail, send your order to Curtis Theatre box office, 1 Civic Center Circle, Brea CA 92821. Please make checks payable to City of Brea (checks payable to “RagFest” will not be accepted), and please be sure to indicate that your payment is for RagFest 2017 and note the total number of tickets you’ll need.

The Orange County Ragtime Society

2017 Dates

February 5 – 2 to 3:30 p.m., Nixon Library
February 1 – 8, 1 to 4:30 p.m., FCLO Music Theatre
March 18 – 1 to 4:30 p.m., FCLO Music Theatre
April 15 – Noon to 3 p.m., Muckenthaler Center
May 20 – 1 to 4:30 p.m., FCLO Music Theatre
June 17 – 1 to 4:30 p.m., FCLO Music Theatre
July 15 – Noon to 3 p.m., Muckenthaler Center
Aug. 19 – 2 to 4:30 p.m., Bradford House
October 28 – Noon to 3 p.m., Muckenthaler Center
November 11 – 2 to 4:30 p.m., Bradford House
***Also on our calendar is RagFest 2017!***
September 23, 12 to 6 p.m.; 8 to 10:30 p.m. Curtis Theatre, Brea

There is no cover charge or admission price for OCRS meets. Reservations are not required, but seating is first-come, first-serve. The format is 'open piano,' meaning that those with demonstrated ability performing ragtime (or ragtime-related music) are welcome to perform. See the OCRS page for further information!


2017 OCRS Flyer


2017 RagFest
Flyer

 

The World Championship Old-time Piano Playing Contest & Festival

http://oldtimepianocontest.org

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