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Purveyors of “America’s original music” will open HBPA season

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HESSTON, KAN. – Rick Benjamin’s Paragon Ragtime Orchestra will open the 2008-09 Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts season with a 3 p.m. concert at Hesston Mennonite Church, Sunday, Oct. 26.

The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra (PRO) is the world’s only year-round, professional ensemble re-creating “America’s original music” – the syncopated sounds of early musical theater, silent cinema and vintage dance.

PRO came into being as the result of Rick Benjamin’s 1985 discovery of thousands of turn-of-the-century orchestra scores once belonging to Victrola recording star Arthur Pryor. In 1988, the orchestra made its formal debut at Alice Tully Hall in the first concert ever presented at Lincoln Center by such an ensemble. Since then, PRO has appeared at hundreds of leading arts venues, including the Ravinia Festival, the Smithsonian Institution, Chautauqua and the American Dance Festival.

In June 2003, PRO presented the premier of Benjamin’s new reconstruction of Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha at San Francisco’s Stern Grove Festival. In 2005 and again in 2006, PRO had the honor of being presented in Minneapolis’s Orchestra Hall as guests of the Minnesota Orchestra.

The orchestra has acquired a considerable following in the United States and abroad through its radio programs on the New York Times’ WQXR, National Public Radio, the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Voice of America networks. Since 1989, the Walt Disney Company has relied on the orchestra’s recordings for the outdoor theme music heard on Main Street USA at Disneyland, Disney World and Euro Disney.

Paragon Ragtime Orchestra’s Hesston concert is titled “Scott Joplin and the Original Kings of Ragtime.” It includes several works by Joplin as well as selections by John Phillip Sousa, Jerome Kern, George M. Cohan, W.C. Handy and others. The program will end with the orchestra playing the score to a silent film as the film is projected on the church sanctuary screen.

This program is presented in part by the Kansas Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, which believes that a great nation deserves great art. The presentation is supported by Mid-America Arts Alliance with generous underwriting by the National Endowment for the Arts, Kansas Arts Commission and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Other concerts in the 2008-09 season include: Lieurance Woodwind Quintet (3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23, Hesston Mennonite Church); The King’s Singers (7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, Memorial Hall, Bethel College); David Munnelly Band (3 p.m., Sunday, March 1, 2009, Memorial Hall); and Trio Voronezh (3 p.m., Sunday, April 5, Hesston Mennonite Church).

Season tickets range from $60 to $70. King’s Singers tickets range from $19 to $23, with tickets for all other concerts priced between $14 and $17. Discounts are available to students and senior citizens. Call 620-327-8158 or 316-284-5205 to order tickets.

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