memory: Bill Mitchell, 1924-2017
Mitchell with banjoist Jimmy Green
one of ragtime music’s elder statesmen and the anchor
of not only the first RagFest but all subsequent RagFests, is
gone, having passed away on June 29. Bill was a fantastic pianist
and musician and a fixture of the Southern California jazz and
ragtime scenes for the past 60 years. He was a co-founder, in
1967, of the Los Angeles-based Maple Leaf Club, one of the first
ragtime societies ever created, and was known far and wide for
his piano-playing and bandleading skills. When the MLC morphed
into the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club, Bill helped keep it going by
often MCing at meetings, and when the RLRC monthly newsletter’s
editor, Gus Willmorth, passed away, Bill took over as its editor.
When Friends of Jazz and Eric Marchese created RagFest in the
spring of 2000, Bill Mitchell was the first performer Eric phoned
to tell him about the new festival and to invite him to be the
first pianist in the lineup. Bill not only appeared as a soloist;
he also brought along the then-new Albany Nightboat Ragtimers,
a four-man combo featuring a repertoire of both ragtime and
Dixieland. Bill became the anchor of every subsequent RagFest
and, in late 2001, was also among the first handful of performers
to appear at the Orange County Ragtime Society, another local
ragtime club Bill continued to perform at and support even despite
an ever-increasing demand for his pianistic talents.
Bill was a true gentleman, and was “old-fashioned”
in the best sense of the term: Soft-spoken, considerate, kind
and generous. He loved many forms of music and enjoyed listening
as much as playing, and he was averse to saying anything negative
about fellow musicians, preferring to stay positive. He also
had a wonderful sense of humor, evident by the twinkle in his
eye and warm smile whenever something tickled his funny bone.
Bill will be sorely missed, and we want to take this moment
to pay tribute to him and to dedicate this year’s RagFest
to his memory. RIP, dear friend, and please keep looking down
on us mere ragtime mortals and keeping watch over us.
RagFest 2017 finds a fantastic new
at the Curtis Theatre in Brea
|RagFest, Orange County’s
annual festival of ragtime music, comes to the Curtis Theatre in
Brea on Saturday, Sept. 23. The festival starts at noon and runs
through 6 p.m., with a ragtime revue stage show at 8 p.m.
RagFest 2017 will be the event’s first time being held outside
of Fullerton and first time at the Curtis Theatre, a beautiful venue
located at the heart of the city’s civic and cultural center.
It boasts 199 seats, yet is intimate – not a bad seat in the
house. The theater opened in 1980, yet to date looks almost brand-new,
and is named for Dr. Glenn Curtis, who had a 30-year career practicing
medicine in Brea and was devoted to the community and its individual
Drop in on the Curtis for RagFest and you’ll be submerged
in a wonderful afternoon and evening of toe-tapping syncopation,
all courtesy of some of the most amazing keyboard wizards you’ve
ever seen – or heard! Get ready for an entire afternoon of
great ragtime through half-hour and 45-minute sets – then,
after the dinner break, a formal ragtime revue show on the Curtis
stage. In between, you’ll be able to meet and talk with the
performers and purchase their recordings and other ragtime merchandise.
Past RagFests have starred Ian Whitcomb, Tex Wyndham, Carl Sonny
Leyland, Tom Brier, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra and the Albany
Nightboat Ragtimers. This year’s will include Vincent Johnson,
Johnny Hodges, Paul Orsi, Michael Chisholm, the vaudeville duo Evans
& Rogers, Bob Pinsker, Shirley Case and many more. Don’t
miss your chance to experience this one-of-a-kind event –
one of the only annual ragtime festivals west of the Mississippi!
Ticket prices are $15 per person for the afternoon segment, $20
per person for the evening show, and $30 per person for the entire
festival (both segments if purchased simultaneously). Tickets go
on sale to the public at noon on August 1 online at curtistheatre.com
and also by phone, in person and by mail.
Tickets may be purchased online 24 hours a day by going to curtistheatre.com.
Each purchase transacted online via credit card will carry a service
charge of $1 per ticket plus a $4 service charge per total order.
You may purchase tickets by phone during box office hours by calling
714-990-7722. For assistance with seating, group sales and other
matters, call Audience Services, 714-990-7727, during regular business
hours (Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
To purchase RagFest tickets in person, visit our box office, which
is open from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and noon to
3 p.m. on performance Saturdays, plus one hour prior to performances
(if tickets are still available).
To purchase RagFest tickets by mail, send your order to Curtis Theatre
box office, 1 Civic Center Circle, Brea CA 92821. Please make checks
payable to City of Brea (checks payable to “RagFest”
will not be accepted), and please be sure to indicate that your
payment is for RagFest 2017 and note the total number of tickets
The Orange County Ragtime Society
February 5 – 2 to 3:30 p.m.,
February 1 – 8, 1 to 4:30
p.m., FCLO Music Theatre
March 18 – 1 to 4:30 p.m.,
FCLO Music Theatre
April 15 – Noon to 3 p.m.,
May 20 – 1 to 4:30 p.m.,
FCLO Music Theatre
June 17 – 1 to 4:30 p.m.,
FCLO Music Theatre
July 15 – Noon to 3 p.m.,
Aug. 19 – 2 to 4:30 p.m.,
October 28 – Noon to 3 p.m.,
November 11 – 2 to 4:30 p.m.,
***Also on our calendar is RagFest
September 23, 12 to 6 p.m.; 8 to
10:30 p.m. Curtis Theatre, Brea
There is no cover charge or admission price for OCRS meets.
Reservations are not required, but seating is first-come, first-serve.
The format is 'open piano,' meaning that those with demonstrated
ability performing ragtime (or ragtime-related music) are welcome
to perform. See the OCRS page for further