The paragon ragtime orchestra arranged in various poses around one on an old staircase. They are all wearing period clothing and holding their instruments.

Paragon Ragtime Orchestra in 'Meet Me at the Fair!: Music from the Great World's Fairs'

2 p.m. Sunday, November 17, 2024 | Yardley Hall

Tickets start at $25.
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Pre-show talk with Dr. Paul Laird at 1 p.m.

"Meet Me at the Fair!" is a two-hour spectacular musical celebration of the world's fairs, including the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, and 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

Musical exhibits rotate, but works by Offenbach, Joplin, Moses-Tobani, and Sousa are the core attraction, performed by Rick Benjamin and the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra (PRO), the official orchestra and conductor of the U.S. Pavilion of the 1992 World’s Fair. Music played a key role in the success of these international festivals, launching both hit songs and the illustrious careers of many American musicians (including Scott Joplin and John Philip Sousa).

This new PRO program reunites stirring world’s fair hits with the continuous projections of magnificent fairground images. PRO gets the audience involved (“Meet Me In St. Louis, Louis”), and as a finale, the orchestra accompanies the Moving Picture Travelogue — historic world’s fair films by Thomas Edison and company. All is accompanied by evocative narration from conductor Rick Benjamin.

PRO is the world's only year-round, professional ensemble recreating the sounds of early musical theatre, silent cinema, and vintage dance in the United States. PRO is a result of Rick Benjamin's 1985 discovery of thousands of historic orchestra scores once belonging to Victor recording star Arthur Pryor.

In 1988, the orchestra made its formal debut at Alice Tully Hall, the first concert ever presented at Lincoln Center by such an ensemble. Since then, PRO has appeared at hundreds of leading arts venues, including the Ravinia Festival, Smithsonian Institution, Chautauqua, the Brucknerhaus (Austria), Kimmel Center, and at the 92nd Street Y and City Center in New York City.

In 1999, PRO's music inspired master choreographer Paul Taylor's new dance, “Oh You Kid!” which premiered at The Kennedy Center by the Paul Taylor Dance Company and PRO and has since toured the world. In 2003, PRO presented the world premiere of Rick Benjamin's reconstruction of Scott Joplin's opera, “Treemonisha,” at San Francisco's Stern Grove Festival. PRO has appeared twice at Minneapolis Orchestra Hall as special guests of the Minnesota Orchestra, and in 2017, had the honor of presenting the official Scott Joplin Centennial Memorial Concert at the composer’s grave in Queens, New York.

In addition to its worldwide concert hall, university, and festival appearances, PRO has acquired a considerable following in the U.S. and abroad through radio appearances on New York's WQXR, NPR, the BBC, and the Voice of America. Since 1989, the Walt Disney Company has relied on the orchestra's recordings for the outdoor theme music heard at Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland, Disney World and Disneyland Paris. PRO strengthened its international following during its extended engagement as a U.S. Ambassador of Goodwill at the 1992 World's Fair in Seville, Spain.

Over the years, PRO has been heard on the soundtracks of several motion pictures and television programs. Their recordings have made the Billboard Chart (“Top Classical Albums”), won several major critic’s awards, and are considered instrumental in rekindling interest in America's rich traditions of theatre, cinema, and dance orchestral music.

PRO concerts are sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).