peacherine ragtime society orchestraPHOTO: The Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra will perform live the songs of several Edison short Christmas films as they appear on screen at Kean University’s Wilkins Theatre in Union, N.J. on December 4.

UNION, N.J. - The Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra will perform at Kean University’s Wilkins Theatre on Sunday, December 4. The orchestra will play live music to accompany several of Thomas Edison’s short Christmas films, performing the musical selections as they were first presented with the films original debuts. 

“This is a different take on the whole yuletide experience,” said Andrew Greene, Peacherine’s director. “We have access to the first film versions of the best known Christmas stories. People don’t realize that Jingle Bells was originally written during the ragtime era.”

The Christmas Classics program combines several Edison short films from 1905-1929, including A Christmas Carol, The Night Before Christmas, Santa Claus vs. Cupid and the hilarious Laurel & Hardy short Big Business. These shows are combined with Christmas-themed ragtime selections, such as the Reindeer Rag, written in 1915.

“Very few people play ragtime anymore,” said Greene. “Some people like it for the sense of nostalgia because it reminds them of a time gone by. But a lot of young people are discovering how fun the music is. They’re finding it’s a breath of fresh air for their rap and rock ears.”

Twelve musicians will recreate the music for these Christmas shows, some playing vintage instruments, including two coronets from 1919 and a 1918 drum set complete with sound effects. “We will even have a slide trombone parody of the Hallelujah Chorus,” said Greene. “It’s a very fun take on it.”

The professional ensemble is primarily composed of musicians under age 30, which is no surprise since Greene himself is only 25 years old. He developed a love of ragtime music when, at age 11, his piano teacher gave him a break from Chopin and introduced him to Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.

“It was so different and lively and wonderful,” he said. “I’ve been on a break from classical music for 14 years now. There’s an innate sense of happiness and joy that comes from ragtime that I just find irresistible.”

Greene founded Peacherine when he was a freshman at the University of Maryland, hoping to draw attention to this neglected but historically important music. The orchestra has appeared at the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, American Film Institute, historic theaters and performing arts centers across the country. 

In addition to the film accompaniments, Peacherine offers concert programs that highlight the music of the late 1800s and early 1900s with selections by composers such as Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, W.C. Handy, George M. Cohan and Scott Joplin.

The Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra will perform at Kean Stage’s Wilkins Theatre, 1000 Morris Ave., Union,N.J. at 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 4. Tickets are $18 and are available at the Kean Stage Box Office in Wilkins Theatre, by phone at 908-737 SHOW (7469) or online at www.keanstage.com.