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Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra - San Diego, CA

San Diego’s Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra was founded in early 2005 by pianist BOB PINSKER and cornetist and author Bruce Vermazen, originally to provide accompaniment for ragtime-era events put on by the San Diego Vintage Dancers. Co-leader Pinsker is also a historian of the music and a collector of sheet music, piano rolls, and the like. Vermazen, exiled from the San Francisco Bay Area, mined a well-regarded San Diego concert band, the Hillcrest Wind Ensemble, for musicians, and four of the original six are still with the HRO: John Winkelman (tuba), who directs the Hillcrest group, Fernando Herrera (flute and piccolo), a computer whiz, Patrick McMahon (tenor sax), whose terrific memoir about being an adopted child was recently published, and co-leader Vermazen. The five musicians who joined the group as the years passed are the concertmistress and music director, respectively of the North Coast Symphony Orchestra, Cheryl and Dan Swem (violins), Everett Crouse (clarinet and alto sax), Ed Henson (cornet), Stan Kling (trombone), and Ed Ducharme (drums). They are all very sought after in San Diego, and the Heliotrope is lucky to have them.

The orchestra takes its name from the wonderful 1907 Louis Chauvin-Scott Joplin rag “Heliotrope Bouquet.” The delicate and fragrant heliotrope’s behavior, a constant turning toward the sun as the day passes, makes a good metaphor for San Diego’s affinity for sunshine.

The Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra reproduces the authentic sound of a dance band from the height of the ragtime era – say, about 1915. This is the group’s 8th RagFest appearance.


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