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Ragtime orchestra combines music, silent film at UHCL

The Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra will transport theater-goers back to the golden era of silent movies.

Named for iconic Texas-born ragtime composer Scott Joplin’s 1901 composition, “The Peacherine Rag,” the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra will transport the audience back to the era of silent movies and syncopated rhythms at the Bayou Theater on March 8 at 5 p.m.

“This year marks Peacherine’s 10th anniversary and we’re doing a special focus on silent film star Buster Keaton,” said Andrew Greene, the Orchestra’s director and founder. “We will show two of his short films—‘The Haunted House,’ from 1921, and ‘Cops,’ from 1922, set to our historic orchestral scores. And we are marking our anniversary and the centennial of Buster Keaton’s comedy shorts as a solo actor by going back to some of our favorite venues, which includes University of Houston-Clear Lake.”

‘Cops,’ said Greene, is known as the quintessential chase film by silent film enthusiasts. “We are a direct recreation of an ensemble that would have existed a century ago,” he said. “We now have 15,000 pieces of music in our library from the 1880s to the 1920s. Our concert experience is a total immersion into the 1920s, with me acting as the emcee.”

Peacherine will play music composed by Texas natives including Joplin, as well as Euday Bowman, composer of the classic “Twelfth Street Rag,” known as a classic honky-tonk piano song, along with some other surprises.

“We’ll be screening the movies and performing the live score at the same time,” Greene continued. “We’ll also have the sound effects of the film coming from our drummer, who will be looking up at the screen from the pit and reacting when Buster does something funny. We encourage booing and hissing at villains, cheering on the good guys, and laughing when it’s funny.”

Greene said he began playing ragtime music almost as an accident, when he was 11 years old. “My piano teacher was noticing I was getting bored and frustrated with Bach and Chopin and all the classical composers, so she said that if I could just get through this Chopin etude, she would let me play the ‘Maple Leaf Rag,’ by Scott Joplin,” he said. “It was so much fun, it latched on to me and I never let go. One of my missions while performing is to show the audience how much fun it is and what a crucial role it’s had in music we know today.”

These days, Greene said, Peacherine is working on modern tunes as ragtime covers. “We’ve done the Bee Gees ‘Stayin’ Alive’ and A-ha’s ‘Take On Me,’ and they’re really fun,” he said. “We’re showing our audience what it sounded like 100 years ago, and then show them that whatever we’re listening to today has its roots in ragtime.”

Read more about events at the Bayou Theater online.