Pianist Bob Milne has traveled the world, spreading the joy of ragtime music across the span of the globe. One pocket of the planet with which Milne is familiar is Saugerties, where he’ll perform at the Reformed Church this Sunday, March 25.
Milne, a Michigan native, first played the Church two decades ago, after former pastor Richard Rockwood extended an invitation following a performance in New Paltz. Milne has returned to Saugerties over the years, a popular performer of a style of music that stretches back over a century.
“It’s fantastically interesting stuff,” said Milne. “The field of ragtime is as big as the field of classical music, and I grew up in classical music playing the French horn. Ragtime is not catchy little ditties that come and go and disappear.”
Milne said that anyone coming to see him perform in Saugerties this Sunday will get a true sense of the breadth of the ragtime genre. “They’re going to hear a lot of music from the player-piano era, which is ragtime, boogie-woogie, the old songs of the tearjerkers,” he said. “I’m going to be doing folk ragtime, which is a beautiful style, as well as the saloon-piano-player powerhouse style. Keep in mind that this music captivated tens of millions of people worldwide in that era. It’s limitless.”
Milne will also talk about the different styles in ragtime, where they originated and why they struck a chord. “I like people to know what I’m doing, to have something a little more to take home with them,” he said, adding that the hope is to keep the music alive, even in an age where the means to hear it properly seem to be dwindling. “It’s an extremely difficult undertaking for kids these days,” Milne said. “The piano is disappearing from the landscape, and the reason for this is electronic instruments. When I was learning, growing up in the ‘60s in Michigan, every farm-town bar had a piano in it.”
Still, Milne reckons, ragtime is universally loved, and as long as it can be heard, it will remain that way, almost anywhere in the world. “They love it in Japan,” he said. “They were packing concert halls with three balconies because people wanted to hear ragtime. The same thing in Switzerland.”
Milne will perform at the Reformed Church of Saugerties at 173 Main Street on Sunday, March 25 at 2 p.m. Tickets for the show cost $10 and can be purchased by calling (845) 246-7084 or 246-5524. For more information, visit https://bobmilne.com or www.saugertiesreformed.org.