2017-05-31 / Front Page

King Of Ragtime Honored On Centennial Of His Passing

BY JASON D. ANTOS

(L. to r.); The members of the Victrolian Vaudeville Barbershop Quartet serenade the grave of Scott Joplin, the King of Ragtime in St. Michael’s Cemetery. PHOTOS JASON D. ANTOS(L. to r.); The members of the Victrolian Vaudeville Barbershop Quartet serenade the grave of Scott Joplin, the King of Ragtime in St. Michael’s Cemetery. PHOTOS JASON D. ANTOSMore than 400 fans of ragtime music came from as near as Astoria and as far away as Europe to enjoy the annual salute to Scott Joplin, the creator of Ragtime.

Held on May 27 at St. Michael’s Cemetery in East Elmhurst, the 12th annual tribute is the only one of its kind in New York City. It was the largest turnout in the history of St. Michael’s Cemetery.

The centerpiece of the celebration was the live musical performances by the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and the Victrolian Vaudeville Barbershop Quartet. Much of the music featured included notable songs by Joplin and his contemporaries, including “The Maple Leaf Rag,” “The Entertainer” and “Solace.”

Born near Texarkana, Texas in 1868, Joplin became a talented pianist and at the height of his career was dubbed the “King of Ragtime”.


Rick Benjamin and his Paragon Ragtime Orchestra. Rick Benjamin and his Paragon Ragtime Orchestra. St. Michael’s Cemetery Musical Director Ed Berlin, an authority on Joplin and author of the biography, “King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era,” was on hand to answer any questions and share information about the history of ragtime.

During his career, Joplin wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet and two operas. One of his first pieces, “The Maple Leaf Rag” became ragtime’s first and most influential hit.

Joplin died on April 1, 1917 in Manhattan at age 49, impoverished. He is buried at St. Michael’s in a community grave between two women. The grave marker bears only his name. Joplin’s final request was for “The Maple Leaf Rag,” to be played at his funeral. At his wife’s request it was never played.


St. Michael’s Cemetery General Manager Dennis Werner. St. Michael’s Cemetery General Manager Dennis Werner. Joplin’s music was rediscovered in the early 1970s with the release of Joplin’s rags recorded by Joshua Rifkin, which sold one million copies, followed by the Oscar-winning movie, “The Sting” in 1973 which featured several of his compositions, such as “The Entertainer.” Marvin Hamlisch adapted Joplin’s music, including “The Entertainer” for the film. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize. And in 1977, actor Billy Dee Williams portrayed Joplin in the film, “Scott Joplin.”

At the conclusion of the concert, guests were invited to gather at Joplin’s grave to pay tribute with a serenade by the Victorian Vaudeville Barbershop Quartet who sang, “We Will Rest Awhile,” from Joplin’s opera, Treemonisha.


St. Michael’s Cemetery CEO Jeff Miller. St. Michael’s Cemetery CEO Jeff Miller. There was also the unveiling of a special memorial bench made of black granite bearing the inscription, “Scott Joplin: King Of Ragtime.” In honor of the centennial of Joplin’s death, the barbershop quartet performed “The Maple Leaf Rag” parting with the 100-year tradition honoring Mrs. Joplin’s request of not having it performed since she considered it “rude” to play ragtime music at an occasion such as a funeral.

For more information about St. Michael’s Cemetery contact Ed Horn via email ehorn@stmichaelscemetery.com or by phone 718-278-3240 or visit www.stmichaelscemetery.com.



St. Michael’s Cemetery Musical Director Ed Berlin, an authority on Joplin and author of the biography, “King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era.” St. Michael’s Cemetery Musical Director Ed Berlin, an authority on Joplin and author of the biography, “King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era.”

Miriam Tursi and James Lake dance to the syncopated rhythm of the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra. Miriam Tursi and James Lake dance to the syncopated rhythm of the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra.

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