Ragtime festival honors composers

Monday, June 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:33 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In a nod to ragtime’s importance to modern music, the John William “Blind” Boone Ragtime and Early Jazz Festival began as Boone started his concerts — with a syncopated version of a classic hymn. It also featured a seminar paying tribute to one of the genre’s most noted composers.

A music fair showcasing the styles and talents of the festival’s headline performers kicked off the three-day festival.

Patricia Lamb Conn, daughter of classic ragtime composer Joseph F. Lamb, shared the stage with musicologist Kjell Waltman to speak about her father and his life.

“He was not a performer,” Conn said of her father. “He went to work every day like everyone else’s father. Music was his hobby.”

Nonetheless, Lamb is considered one of three classic ragtime composers, alongside Scott Joplin and James Scott.

Conn said her father never knew any musicians, with the exception of Joplin. Lamb met Joplin by chance in a music store, and the two became friends. After Joplin helped Lamb publish one of his rags, Lamb’s credibility as a composer took off.

Throughout the seminar, Waltman, an accomplished composer and ragtime performer, played Lamb’s pieces. He explained a few of the technical aspects of the music to the audience, such as time signatures, and joked about various songs, saying Lamb’s “Cottontail Rag” would be Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner’s favorite.

Waltman and Conn also joined voices on an old favorite, “Follow the Crowd to Coney.”

Festival director Lucille Salerno spoke on the importance of Lamb’s contribution to ragtime music and thanked Conn for traveling from the East Coast to speak at the festival.

“I have a friend who is a pianist who made me aware of Lamb’s music,” Charlie DeVore said. “It is marvelous, lyrical music, and it was wonderful hearing Pat speak about her father.”

The Ragtime Festival continues through Tuesday.

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