June is a month of firsts for French ragtime performer Sébastien Troendlé. It’s his first appearance at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival and also his first visit to America.
Troendlé was born in Saint-Louis in the east of France in 1977 and graduated from the Conservatory of Basel in Switzterland. He know lives in Strasbourg, Alsace, France with his wife Tiffany Macquart.
After performing at Gazebo Park Friday Troendlé said it was great to part of the festival.
“I said yesterday, I always have goosebumps,” he added. “I enjoy being here. All the people here are so nice in America at at the festival as well. It’s great.”
Troendlé was able to come to this year’s festival due to the generosity of Herbert Frei, of Switzerland, who is a frequent festival attendee. Frei didn’t know Troendlé but enjoyed listening to his music.
“He bought a CD from me on the Internet, he didn’t know me,” Troendlé said. “He felt it was really great.”
Frei asked Troendlé if he’d heard about the Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia.
“I said ‘I know it from name, but I’ve never went,’” he said.
Frei asked if he’d like to play at the festival this year; Troendlé said yes. Frei sent the CD to Scott Joplin International Ragtime Music Director Brian Holland and he agreed that Troendlé should be in this year’s musical lineup.
Troendlé added that Frei paid for he and his wife’s way to the festival. He also said Frei was unable to attend the festival this year due to a death in the family.
Besides ragtime Troendlé plays boogie-woogie and has created a music show, provides workshops to schools and has performed in European boogie-woogie festivals, La Roquebrou, Cambrai and Beaune. The proclivity for playing rag and boogie was fostered by his parents when he was a child.
“I was maybe 4 or 6-years-old, my father had me listen to all kinds of music, especially boogie-woogie (and) jazz,” he said. “Ragtime was a little bit later.”
He added that he wanted to be a pianist and play the music, but knew it would be “technically difficult.”
“But when you are very young you feel ‘OK, I can play that,’” he noted. “Now I can do it, it’s long work.
“When I was a student in jazz school in Switzerland, when I received my diploma, they said ‘you play well, but you have too much boogie-woogie, there’s not enough jazz,’” he added.
They told him to not use as much boogie-woogie in his music. Instead of following the conservatory’s suggestion, Troendlé decided to do a boogie-woogie show with some ragtime thrown into the tunes.
“Now I have a show called ‘Rag’n Boogie’ where I tell the story of both styles of music,” he said.
While playing his concerts Troendlé sits a top a large silver exercise ball, instead of a piano bench.
“I have a back problem,” he said. “That was one of the solutions to help with my back problem. On the ball you stay always straight, then you can relax your shoulders.”
Troendlé said he has so many favorite ragtime and boogie pieces that it’s difficult to point out only one. Among his favorite performers are James Price Johnson, Pete Johnson and Eubie Blake.
“I like the playing of Adam Swanson,” he noted. “There’s also a lot of very good boogie pianists in Europe, and in Germany and France too.
As for the 2017 Scott Joplin Festival Brian Holland has already extended the invitation Troendlé to return for performances.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.