As soon as registration opened for the 2016 World Championship Old-time Piano Playing Contest that takes place in Oxford MS over Memorial Day weekend, the event became truly international. In additional to three US contestants, others hail from Britain, Canada and Mexico.
Two of the internationalists returning to the contest are: Jack Graham, a healthy-fruit-juice entrepreneur from London who returns after a three-year absence to set up his business; and Four Arrows, one of the stars of “The Entertainers”, a documentary about the contest, coming back from Mexico. Anita Malhotra is making her first appearance in the contest and hails from Canada.
After 41 years on Illinois soil, the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest is moving to the University of Mississippi campus (Ole Miss) in Oxford under the direction of Ian Hominick, a member of the university’s music department and a judge on many occasions for the contest.
While the final schedule, selection of judges and guest artists are pending, several obvious changes will have to take place. We can’t get together for the “Tune-Ups” on Thursday like we did for so many years at Sky Harbor in Peoria. So, we’ll pick a restaurant on the historic square, outfit it with a piano and let anyone play who wants. Friday morning, when we usually took a riverboat ride on the Spirit of Peoria, we’ve got a double-decker bus tour scheduled of Oxford’s historic sites, including William Faulkner’s home, and ending with lunch on the square in another of their fine eating establishments, all while being entertained by a well-known piano artist.