Old Time Piano Playing Contest closes with Red, White & Blue Farewell Party

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2022

After four days of events and competition, the 45th Old Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival closed with a Red, White & Blue Farewell Party.

Guest artists were invited back to the Old Armory Pavilion one last time to entertain the public with service songs in celebration of the Memorial Day weekend.

Old Time Piano founder Ted Lemen was the introductory pianist for the farewell gathering. After years of venue and city-hopping, Lemen said Oxford is a great place for the contest to make it’s new home.

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“We were very happy to be happy in Oxford for what would’ve been our sixth in a row here after moving down from Peoria, Illinois,” Lemen said.

The contest was brought from Peoria by pianist and University of Mississippi music professor Ian Hominick who wanted to keep the contest and festival alive after talks of permanently ending the contest began.

“In 2015, I found out that they were going to be shutting down mostly because the board members were getting older and they didn’t have enough people to step in,” said Hominick. “Well because I had lived in Chicago and they had asked me to come down and judge the event, I thought it was such a shame because there’s such great talent there. There’s something for little kids, for adults, professionals, amateurs and older people.”

Hominick proposed Oxford as a new home for the contest to the Old Time Piano board members and after some appraising and discussion, the board. The contest took a few years to find its footing, but it had settled down at the University of Mississippi for the 45th Old Time Piano Playing Contest.

“We’ve gotten a good welcome from the University of Mississippi,” said Lemen. “We never thought it would be this nice when we were getting ready to fold our tents.”

Lemen largely credits Hominick for keeping the contest and festival alive and going.

“He’s the grunt down here that has to do all the work like getting the program together and getting the caterer for Saturday Silent Movie luncheon,” he said. “You never know how many things you have to do until you’ve done the first 500 or so and then you realize that ain’t nothing.”

The Old Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival will continue to be in Oxford as long as there are people willing to come see it.

“We found of that people come from Alabama, Texas and all over,” said Lemen. “Maybe it’s a long of a drive, but for four incredible days of music and if you’re a fan of old-timey music like they used to play on the old Lawrence Welk Show, that’s we we do for four days.”