Monday, June 30, 2008

My 2008 summer of silents begins:

I'm going to try to post as often as I can in July with quick or short impressions of the shows, as well as the recording sessions I have (one for Kino, one for ReelclassicDVD, and a few for AllDay Entertainment).

* * * * * * * *

June 30 – a pretty full day. Had a piano tuning this morning (for The Fantasticks at the Snapple Theatre Center), then a screening at MoMA in the afternoon, and then was piano accompanist for musical comedy improv troupe "M.C. Hammerstein" for their show at The P.I.T. on West 29th Street.

Yesterday evening
(June 29) I was interviewed by telephone by Donna Hill for her silent film podcast which will probably be posted this coming weekend. I'll post a link when the show goes "live". After that, just before going to bed, I sent out an e-blast with my summer schedule:
  • July 2 at 2:30 Norma Talmadge in “Deluxe Annie” - Donnell Media Center (piano)
  • July 6 at 2:00 Max Davidson shorts - Yiddish Book Center, Amherst MA (piano)
  • July 6 at 7:00 Dimitri Kirsanoff films - Bard Summerscape, Annandale-on-Hudson NY (piano)
  • July 7 at 6:00 Buster Keaton’s “The General” - MoMA (piano)
  • July 7 at 8:00 Keaton’s “One Week” & “Sherlock, Jr.” - MoMA (piano)
  • July 9 at 6:00 Harold Lloyd in “The Freshman” - MoMA (theatre organ)
  • July 9 at 8:00 Buster Keaton’s “The General” - MoMA (theatre organ)
  • July 10 at 6:00 Keaton’s “One Week” & “Sherlock, Jr.” - MoMA (theatre organ)
  • July 10 at 8:00 Harold Lloyd in “The Freshman” - MoMA (theatre organ)
  • July 11 at 7:00 “NYC: Vintage Views” - Church of St. Pauls, NYC (pipe organ)
  • July 14 at 6:00 Harold Lloyd in “Safety Last” - MoMA (piano)
  • July 14 at 8:00 Chaplin’s “The Floorwalker” + Langdon’s “Shanghaied Lovers” - MoMA (piano)
  • July 16 at 6:00 Chaplin’s “The Floorwalker” + Langdon’s “Shanghaied Lovers” - MoMA (theatre organ)
  • July 16 at 8:00 Harold Lloyd in “Safety Last” - MoMA (theatre organ)
  • July 17th - 21st 5th annual Slapsticon festival - Arlington VA (piano)
  • July 22nd DVD release of “American Slapstick 2” (10 scores on piano and theatre organ)
  • July 25 at 6:00 Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” - MoMA (theatre organ)
  • July 27 at 6:30 Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” - MoMA (theatre organ)
  • July 28 at 4:00 Carl Th. Dreyer’s “Love One Another” - Berkshire Jewish Film Festival (piano)
  • July 29 at 7:30 Ernst Lubitsch’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan” - Cinema Arts Centre (L.I.) (theatre organ)
  • July 31 at 7:00 Charlie Chaplin shorts program - Church of St. Pauls, NYC (pipe organ)
  • Aug 4 at 6:00 “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” - MoMA (theatre organ)
  • Aug 10 at 7:00 Buster Keaton in “The General” - Hamilton Theatre, Hamilton NY (piano)
  • Aug 17 at 5:00 Buster Keaton’s “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” - Manchester VT (piano)
  • Aug 23 at 8:00 Lon Chaney in “The Phantom of the Opera”, New Marlborough MA (piano)
  • Aug 28 at 7:30 Erich von Stroheim’s “Greed” - Cinema Arts Centre (L.I.) (theatre organ)
  • Sept 4th – 7th 3rd annual “Silent Film Days” (”Stumfilm Dagere”) - Tromsø, Norway (piano)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

historic Mamaroneck Play House - June 22

Every year the town and village of Mamaroneck NY (where Griffith had studios for a few years) holds its annual "Historic Harbor Festival". The entire main drag is taken over by a giant street fair with booths, performers, food from local restaurants, etc. Mam'k's 1920's movie theater, currently owned by Clearview Cinemas, is smack in the middle of this and each year I present a program of short comedies in one of the movie house's four theaters.
I do a program of two comedy shorts 3 times in an afternoon. We bring in a digital piano, rented from Acme Sound (run by high school classmate Peter Denenberg), and show the films on video. I give a little talk and show the films. This year went well, as it always does; before each program I asked how many people had been to the program before in previous years and at each show nearly everyone's hands went up. [This is my fifth year dong this, and I hope someday to find a way to interest the people at the nearby Emelin Theatre to do a silent film program.]
Here are some photos of the marquee and front of the theatre that I took:

Here is a vintage 1915 photo that was on display of Mamaroneck's original movie theater, which was built in the 'teens, and on the right you see what remains of the building, currently Miller's Toys.

Midnite show at MoMA - June 21

On Saturday June 21 at midnight (!) I presented and accompanied a program of silent one-reelers from 1913 at MoMA. The program was part of an innovative education program done by Amir Parsa called "That Year, This Day" in which class participants spent time at the museum from 6pm to 2am in galleries and education classrooms, viewing and discussing the art scene circa June 21, 1913 with Parsa and a number of other historians and presenters. Steven Higgins picked the films and sat down with me a few days ahead of time so we could go over points of interest about where cinema was in 1913 for my talk.

The films chosen were: The Dachsund and the Sausage (Bray), The Ambassador's Daughter (Brabin/Edison), Suspense (Lois Weber/Rex), Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life (Sennett/Keystone) and The Lady and the Mouse (DWG/Biograph). A real well-rounded grouping of films. The Edison was a recent restoration, and the Keystone was a preservation done in the late 1990s from a nitrate collection from the U.K.. The intertitles in the Oldfield short appear to be original release titles; there are more of them than in the video/16mm editions I've seen. These were all 35mm prints, and the class screening was done in one of MoMA's screening rooms; I used the 88-key midi controller MoMA purchased for Miditzer use and ran it into my MacBook, making it a virtual piano. The talk went well, as did the Q&A; the films were a big hit as well.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

They Said it Couldn't Be Done: silent film & High School band

Last night I attended the premiere of my concert band arrangement of my Adventurer score. The score was a big hit, and the evening itself was quite wonderful. My wife and daughter came out to Milford CT early and we were hosted for dinner by Dr. Ralph Barbiero and his lovely wife Marsha before going to Jonathan Law High School for the performance. Paul Marino (conductor) and the JLaw chamber ensemble did a great job on the score, and were either in perfect synch or a little ahead (way better than being behind), and got a huge hand and standing "O" at the end.

The whole evening was a combination spring concert and final report by Dr. Barbiero's AP History students. A couple of kids spoke for a few minutes about an aspect of the silent film era, then the band played a selection, and they went back and forth like this through four pieces before introducing the Chaplin short. One piece was by my high school band director, Carl Strommen, and the piece that preceded the Chaplin segment of the program was Leroy Anderson's The Syncopated Clock. The band sounded great, and they and Mr. Marino were one tight ensemble. There was also a show program, prepared by the AP History students, that had well-researched pages on not only the silent era, but also Chaplin and Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell and Henry Bergman. All in all, very impressive!
Here are some photos from the evening:

L to R: Dr. Ralph Barbiero, me, Paul Marino

Here I am with Janet Garagliano, Principal of the school. This program
would not have happened without her enthusiastic support. She sat in
front of me during the performance and I think was laughing harder
than anyone in the auditorium at the Chaplin film. It's hard to see in
the photo, but Janet is holding a copy of "The Silent Clowns", which
I presented to her and the school with my gratitude.

L to R: Ralph Barbiero, his wife Marsha, me, my daughter Molly,
and my wife Mana; this was probably the first time they'd sat next
to me during a silent film show while hearing one of my scores
(I'm usually at the piano or organ). This show was also the first
time I'd ever heard the "Adventurer" score live in performance.

Here I am with stuntman and Keaton enthusiast Cliff Cronan,
who lives near Milford. Cliff did a presentation on Keaton and
stunting at the Silent Clowns Film Series in December 2006.
The AP History students presented Dr. Barbiero, Mr. Marino
and me with flowers, chocolate and a wonderful thank-you note.

It was a great evening, and I look forward to working with Paul Marino and the Jonathan Law band, Dr. Barbiero and his AP History students as well as Principal Garagliano again.

See you at the silents!

Ben Model
silent film composer/accompanist

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Jonathan Law High School visit & flyer

Visited Jonathan Law High School yesterday, attending a morning rehearsal of the school's chamber ensemble – 20-25 piece concert band – as well as the two AP History classes who are studying the silent film era and making presentations at the concert on June 13. Was impressed with the shape the band was in with the score, and with the amount of homework and prep that conductor Paul Marino had already done. They ran the film on video and played along with it during the rehearsal and actually got ahead of it a few times...which is a much better place to be than behind...and Mr. Marino really knew where the music fit the film. The kids did a great job and I think they're in great shape for a performance that's 10 days away.

Turns out one of the other pieces they'll be playing is "Pacifica" by Carl Strommen...who was my band conductor at Mamaroneck high School.

The AP History students taught by Dr. Ralph Barbiero – whose brainchild this project was – have watched Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Immigrant, Modern Times and the Attenborough biopic Chaplin with Robert Downey, Jr. Their program booklet and powerpoint slide presentation is well researched, and some of the topics the kids covered are things like the life/careers of Edna Purviance, Henry Bergman and Eric Campbell. To print out the flyer for the show to put on your on the image above for an enlarged version.

Have just received my work discs for the 12 comedy shorts I'll be scoring for AllDay's next silent film project and need to get crackin' on these . Should be a great set...more details once David Kalat has officially announced what the project is.

See you at the silents!

Ben Model
silent film accompanist/historian