Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra

San Diego, California
Updated 10/26/2010

San Diegoís 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 memoir about being an adopted child is about to be published, and co-leader Vermazen. The five musicians who joined the group as the years passed are Cheryl and Dan Swem (violins), respectively concertmistress and director of the North Coast Symphony, 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. It performed at the WCRF in 2007, the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Festival in 2006-09 (where it will appear again this year), and the Orange County RagFest in 2005-09. Stomp Off Records has issued two CDs by the group: Itís a Bear! (Stomp Off CD1411) and Thatís Going Some (Stomp Off CD1427), and the orchestra is featured for a few precious moments on the soundtrack of the film The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (available on a Screen Media DVD). Best of all, the orchestra is now available for your eventóbe it a wedding, Bar Mitzvah, what have you!

Contact either of the co-leaders, Bruce Vermazen or Bob Pinsker, at the email address made up of their names in the form 'brucev' or 'bobp', plus the '@' sign, plus the address 'sandiegoragtime.com' (without any of the quotes). (Sorry about that awkwardness, but it's to cut down on spam.)