High Time for a Ragtime Revival

jaunty genre warms up winter for a good cause

Tom Giffey

The final chord from the final Eau Claire Ragtime Festival may have reverberated four years ago, but affection for this uniquely American musical genre remains strong in the Chippewa Valley. At its center is Eau Claire’s own “Ragtime” Jim Radloff, a longtime booster of the century-old style who continues to tickle the ivories near and far (including in the State Theatre lobby). Radloff has gathered together nearly a dozen friends for an evening of ragtime entertainment Jan. 13 at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Eau Claire. Like the bygone Ragtime Festival, the concert will raise funds for charity (the American Red Cross) and will feature a sprawling musical bill that includes pre- and post-concert performances. (Be sure to stick around for the latter, which you can enjoy in authentic style with salted peanuts and root beer floats.) The lineup of performers – who will range in age from 9 to 70-something – hail from Wisconsin and Minnesota and will include Bill Fisher, Josh Gallagher, Kathy Johns, Ben Kittilstad, Nick Larson, Judy Lies, Nick Poss, Kayla Shoemaker, Sandy Williams, and Radloff himself. If your experience with ragtime is limited to having plunked your way through Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” as a piano student, you likely don’t know about the rich variety and history of this genre, which ruled the (sheet) music charts in the early years of the last century and influence the evolution of jazz and other popular American genres. “I think it’s the combination of classical European melody and structure ... and the syncopated rhythms of West Africa,” Radloff replies when asked about the ongoing appeal of ragtime. “I refer to it as historical American music. It didn’t happen anywhere else.” This concert promises to be a musical history lesson that will make your toes tap. 

Ragtime and Vintage Jazz Concert • Saturday, Jan. 13 • doors at 4:30pm, preconcert at 6:25pm, concert 7-9pm, afterglow 9-10:30pm in Ingram Hall • First Congregational United Church of Christ, 310 Broadway St., Eau Claire • free will offering ( $15 adults, $5 children suggested) • jaradloff@charter.net

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