Five Questions for Andrew Greene, Director of the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra
August 12, 2014
On August 16th at 2 p.m., the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery will present the next installment in our Cine-Concert series. The next program features Andrew Greene, Director of the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra, performing his original score for the Buster Keaton classic College (1927, 66 minutes). As a special bonus, the screening will be followed by a 30 minute concert of back-to-school themed ragtime classics. For more details, check out our museum calendar.
In anticipation of the screening and concert, programs coordinator Allison Jessing spoke with Andrew Greene about his passion for ragtime and the upcoming performance at the museums.
Eye Level: You're the Director of the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra, which is dedicated to the celebration and performance of ragtime music. What is it about ragtime that you find interesting and compelling?
Andrew Greene: Ragtime has a pep and enthusiasm that no other musical style can match. It is America's first popular music, predating jazz. Many composers who define the American music genre wrote during the ragtime era, including George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, John Philip Sousa, and Scott Joplin. It grabbed me at a young age as being more "fun" than other works, and I try to share that fun with the audience when I play it. One of the sad things about this music is that while so much of it was published and recorded, it's popularity faded over time. So many worthy compositions have been forgotten. It's thrilling for me to rediscover these pieces and have them performed again.
EL: You'll be performing a score for Buster Keaton's classic film College here on August 16th. What's your favorite moment in that film?
AG: Near the middle of the film there's a scene at a coliseum at his college, where Buster attempts to try and perform in all of the various track and field events (pole vaulting, javelin, discus, etc.) Each of these he tries to do, with hilarious results. Especially when he tries to do a high jump, and ends up buried in the sand!
EL: If you had to write a score for any film ever made, what would you choose and why?
AG: One of the joys of scoring silent films is that virtually no film during that era had a specific score written for it. So almost any silent film that still exists today has the potential to be scored by yours truly! That being said, I'd love to try out scoring The Artist (2011) to give it a true silent film score. It would be neat to see a modern silent film paired with authentic silent film accompaniment!
EL: My favorite question for our musical guests: "What's on your iPod these days?"
AG: Right now my iPod is 80% ragtime music, with a combination of modern and historic recordings of the music, and then selections by classic rock and jazz artists. You'll hear anything from The Beatles to Count Basie, Al Jolson to Rick James. There's not too much modern music on my iPod!
EL: Any exciting projects coming up that you can share with us?
AG: Well, the week after my performance of College my orchestra and I will be playing on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, August 24th! It's quite thrilling to play for the Smithsonian one week and at the Kennedy Center the next! Other than my orchestra's touring concerts and silent film events, I'm about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the orchestra to raise money for our next CD. The subject and fundraising will begin at the Kennedy Center show so keep an eye out for that!
EL: Thank you, and we're looking forward to the show on the 16th!
Cineconcert: Buster Keaton's College with pianist Andrew Greene is on Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 2p.m. in the McEvoy Auditorium. Free tickets will be available at 1:30 p.m. in G Street Lobby.