2018-05-23 / Front Page

Scott Joplin, ‘King of Ragtime,’ Honored With Annual Concert

BY JASON D. ANTOS


St. Michael’s Cemetery CFO Jeff Miller introduces the Dan Levinson’s Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra. 
Photos Jason D. Antos St. Michael’s Cemetery CFO Jeff Miller introduces the Dan Levinson’s Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra. Photos Jason D. Antos The rain could not dampen the spirit of 200 enthusiasts of music legend Scott Joplin and his creation, which changed the modern music world, ragtime.

Held on May 19 at St. Michael’s Cemetery in East Elmhurst, the annual tribute was held indoors instead of outside due to rain, and attracted people from as far away as Pennsylvania and even London, England.

The honor of this year’s live musical performance and Joplin tribute, the only event of its kind in New York City, was in the hands of Dan Levinson’s Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra and the Victrolian Vaudeville Barbershop Quartet.

Prior to the concert, Musical Director Ed Berlin, an authority on Joplin and author of the biography, “King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era,” gave a lecture on the impact Joplin had on the music scene during his career and how it impacted contemporary music in America for all time.


Musical Director Ed Berlin and Gazette Publisher Tony Barsamian. Musical Director Ed Berlin and Gazette Publisher Tony Barsamian. The concert got off to a beautifully syncopated start with “It’s Long Way To Tipperary.” Other hits performed included “Wall Street Rag,” “Until We Meet Again,” “Solace,” “Elite Syncopations” and the melancholy waltz “Bethena” which Joplin composed in 1905 after his wife died of pneumonia just 10 weeks after they married.

“St. Michael’s Cemetery is honored to host this annual event which means so much to so many people,” said St. Michael’s Cemetery CFO Jeff Miller.

The barbershop quartet led everyone in an a cappella sing-along of “The Sidewalks of New York.”

At the conclusion of the concert, guests were invited to gather at Joplin’s grave to pay tribute with a serenade by the Victrolian Vaudeville Barbershop Quartet. The annual traditional procession from the cemetery chapel, where the concert was given due to the rain, was led by the barbershop quartet. There they sang, “We Will Rest Awhile,” from Joplin’s opera, Treemonisha.


Dan Levinson performs the Scott Joplin classic “Bethena” using a rare saxophone from 1920. Dan Levinson performs the Scott Joplin classic “Bethena” using a rare saxophone from 1920. Last year the barbershop quartet, in honor of the centennial of Joplin’s death, 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. That same year, St. Michael’s Cemetery unveiled 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 Victrolian Vaudeville Barbershop Quartet serenades Scott Joplin with the song “We Will Rest Awhile.” The Victrolian Vaudeville Barbershop Quartet serenades Scott Joplin with the song “We Will Rest Awhile.” Born near Texarkana, Texas in 1868, Joplin became a talented pianist, and at the height of his career was dubbed the “King 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 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.”


Dan Levinson’s Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra got things of to a jazzy start with “It’s Long Way To Tipperary.” Dan Levinson’s Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra got things of to a jazzy start with “It’s Long Way To Tipperary.” In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

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



The annual procession from the concert to the final resting place of Scott Joplin was led by the barbershop quartet. The annual procession from the concert to the final resting place of Scott Joplin was led by the barbershop quartet.

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