Rags to Riches was first released on the Fanfare Label in 1986. In 1987 it was picked up by Pro Arte/Intersound and re-packaged and rereleased on that label. In 1998 the U.K. Label Carlton Classic re-released Rags to Riches.
In 2008 Opening Day Entertainment Group (ODEG) invited Ensemble Vivant to join their select group of artists and repackaged the group’s entire back-catalogue of recordings. Since 2008, Rags to Riches has been available on Opening Day Recordings under Ensemble Vivant.
In 1985, Julian Rice, President of Fanfare Records heard me perform at Toronto’s Windsor Arms Hotel in the celebrated Courtyard Café. This establishment engaged musicians to perform for 6 consecutive nights, Monday through Saturday, and I was fortunate to receive regular employment there from the early 1980s through 1987 after which my career direction changed course. One evening, Mr. Rice approached me on the on heels of my having completed my last set, inviting me to speak with him about a possible recording opportunity. That evening I had been invited to join the famous author and columnist George Jonas at his nightly table with his other guests, among them, the famous criminal lawyer Eddie Greenspan. George insisted that I take 15 or 20 minutes and speak with Mr. Rice before joining him and his guests, and he even offered to join me and Mr. Rice and jot down notes pertaining to this possible recording opportunity. I’m grateful that I accepted George’s offer to join me and Julian Rice for that conversation.
Julian Rice said to me: “I’m utterly captivated by your beautiful, sensitive playing. It is simply outstanding and so warm and rich with feeling, and your exquisite pianistic touch is truly rare. Listening to you segue from J.S. Bach to Scott Joplin to Frederic Chopin to George Gershwin to various jazz-related styles so effortlessly is incredibly refreshing. As we all know, it’s highly unusual for a classical pianist of your high-calibre to be so stylistically diverse.”
I told Mr. Rice about my trio (The Catherine Wilson Trio) comprised of piano, violin and cello, which I was passionate about, as I love the combination of piano and strings, and of the Ragtime Piano Duo, Arpin and Wilson, that pianist John Arpin had invited me to form with him. Interestingly, Arpin had heard me play at the Courtyard Café and he too had approached me and had effused about my “rich musicality”, my “beautiful playing” and about how “excited (he was to hear my) exceptional classical playing and affinity for Ragtime and related styles.”
A subsequent conversation ensued in the weeks ahead and Julian Rice proposed that my trio record a CD of Palm Court music. As arrangements would have to be written for my group, which would take a few months to complete after the repertoire was chosen, Mr. Rice suggested that the Arpin and Wilson Duo record a 2-piano Ragtime CD while the arrangements for the trio were being written. And so it was. The Arpin and Wilson Duo recorded Rags to Riches at the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church for Fanfare Records in late August, 1985.
Recording two glorious takes of each Rag, this album was in the can in no time. Julian commented: Catherine played the Rags as composed by the various Rag composers while John extemporized tastefully around her beautiful, heartfelt playing. The combination of these two talents is exceptional. “This is a dream Piano Duo and there is no doubt that this recording will become a classic!”
Julian Rice, President, Fanfare Records
In 1986 Fanfare Records released a recording called The Gershwin Connection which features various Fanfare recording artists performing a work by Gershwin. For this CD I was asked to record one solo piano Gershwin piece as was John. This opportunity came about unexpectedly with no notice - it was one of those very spontaneous opportunities. So on the heels of the Duo’s Rags to Riches session, I recorded Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me for solo piano. This performance is included on The Gershwin Connection, which was released very shortly after the first release of Rags to Riches.
Rags to Riches
ARPIN & WILSON Duo Pianos
John Arpin & Catherine Wilson
- The Chevy Chase – Fox Trot, J. Hubert (Eubie) Blake
- Ragtime Nightingale, Joseph F. Lamb
- Porto Rico – Rag Intermezzo, Ford T. Dabney
- Gladiolus Rag, Scott Joplin
- Bohemia, Joseph F. Lamb
- Rialto Ripples – Rag, George Gershwin/Will Donaldson
- The Easy Winners – A Ragtime Two Step, Scott Joplin
- Solace – A Mexican Serenade, Scott Joplin
- Pineapple Rag, Scott Joplin
- Sleepy Hollow Rag – Unique Rag Novelty, Clarence Woods
- Toronto Blues, John Arpin
Catherine Wilson’s Ragtime playing is second to none…virtuoso technique and beautiful touch with the right feel and grove combined with a rich musical imagination.
American Ragtime composer, pianist
The greatest selling point of the ensemble was the players’ masterful interpretative style. Whether playing a lyrical ballad, a spirited rag, or a sensuous tango, Ensemble Vivant captured the appropriate style instantly. The sense of ensemble was likewise impeccable, with entrances, articulations and dynamics mirrored precisely … an overwhelming success. The trio was equally at home with traditional classics and original compositions.
New Brunswick, Canada
…Thanks again for a great performance and wonderful program…molti bravi to Ensemble Vivant… please have Ensemble Vivant return very soon!
de Blasiis CMS at the Hyde
Led by a remarkable pianist, Catherine Wilson, Ensemble Vivant boasts a collection of musicians whose abilities and qualifications are second to none… a diversity of beautifully played music and sound (with vibes… Don Thompson, O.C.) from Bach to Piazzolla to Widor… wonderful interpretations… highlight of the Kelowna Community Concert Association series. I had the pleasure of spending time with the group after the concert and they are a fun, humble and inspiring group of musicians… such tremendous mutual talent and respect within the ensemble… Merci Ensemble Vivant!
musician, composer for B.C. Arts