River Raisin Ragtime Revue to Honor WWI Veterans

River Raisin Ragtime Revue to Honor WWI Veterans
October 27, 2017 Sarah Zientarski

River Raisin Ragtime Revue is entertaining a very special audience this Veterans Day when they head up to Manistee and perform a tribute to World War I veterans at the historic Ramsdell Theatre.

“We think It’s very appropriate to honor American Veterans with American music as ragtime is really America’s original indigenous popular music,” River Raisin Ragtime Revue Music Director, William Pemberton said. “It’s going to be a mix of marches and rags and popular songs from the World War I era and we’re just really looking forward to it.”

Ragtime intertwines with the military as it is a variation on the march and two-step – both military style of music. Ragtime took elements of the march and combined it with African and Latin rhythms and Eastern European harmonies to make the new music at the time.

Ragtime composers were also serving in World War I and River Raisin Ragtime Revue will pay tribute to them during the performance.

“There are some very important ragtime composers that served in World War I and probably the most notable is James Reese Europe who was really the king of ragtime and early jazz at the time of World War I,” Pemberton said. “He led this incredible military band called the Hellfighters Band that were part of the 369th infantry, The Harlem Hellfighters. And so we’re going to be highlighting some of his military music in this concert.”

In addition to performing The Hellfighters’ music, River Raisin Ragtime Revue will play an armed forces salute, which is a medley of the different military service branch anthems.

“(Playing the armed forces salute) gives veterans a chance to stand up and be honored,” Pemberton said. “And it gives a chance for those who are honoring their loved ones who are no longer with us a chance to be honored as well.”

Ramsdell Theatre makes for an appropriate backdrop to River Raisin Ragtime Revue’s performance.

“Ramsdell Theatre is the perfect setting for this concert because it was built in 1903 so it’s built right there in the (ragtime) period,” Pemberton said. “Some people don’t know that the Ramsdell up in Michigan in Manistee is renovated partly through an endowment of James Earl Jones. James Earl Jones, the great actor, grew up in a little town of Brethren outside of Manistee…And the theatre is absolutely gorgeous.”

The performance will coincide with Ramsdell Theatre’s WWI exhibit that reflects the period with items, memorabilia and uniforms collected from local museums.

“The launch of this show is significant to our community,” Executive Director of the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts, Xavier Verna said. “I’m so grateful for the arts & cultural alliance group for making this a reality. The River Raisin Ragtime Revue, with a premiere at the Ramsdell Theatre, will play wonderful music for our veterans.”

The event is November 11. The exhibit opens at 4pm with the performance following at 7pm.

You can check out River Raisin Ragtime Revue on Detroit Performs here: https://youtu.be/gRW4cFp1om8