Just a few words from Jeff Rapsis to mark the birth of a blog about the ongoing adventure of providing live music for silent film screenings. Local film archivist Dave Stevenson of Manchester, N.H. and I have been doing live screenings in southern New Hampshire (and occasionally elsewhere) for the past several years now, and it's about time we ramped up our communication efforts to include a blog. We'll use it to post notes about upcoming screenings, take your comments and suggestions, and discuss the process of reviving silent cinema.
About us: Dave is a long-time film collector and scholar of early cinema. He and his wife Ali re-issue a wide range of films through their company, Looser Than Loose vintage entertainment. Check out their offerings at www.looserthanloose.com. And me (Jeff Rapsis), I'm a long-time silent film fan who began doing live music for screenings several years ago, using piano or a Korg digital workstation that can reproduce a full orchestral texture and a lot of other sounds, too. (Still working on my theater organ skills.)
For Palm Sunday (March 28), we staged a screening of Cecil B. DeMille's great cast-of-thousands" epic "King of Kings" (1927) at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre, where we run a monthly silent film series. Turnout was good: the house was about half-filled—pretty good for a drama on a fairly nice Sunday afternoon. This was a great film for music, as it lends itself to big gestures and has a number of sequences that are fun to build by starting small and then layering on the intensity. The themes included a stepped fanfare that s keys unexpectedly, allowing me to cycle through three keys before hitting "home" again; and a six-note up-and-down melody that came in handy to signify something evil going on. Surprisingly, a little snatch of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus (the rising octaves on the words 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords') kept coming up unexpectedly, and turned into a great way to punctuate some phrases. Sometimes that happens.
I was also able to use what I call my "Jesus" fanfare, which I came up with several months ago in anticipation of possibly using brass players for this screening (didn't happen), but which has since already shown up in other performances, including being used as an overture at the Kansas Silent Film Festival in Topeka, Kansas this past February.
All for now. Still working on getting a Web site posted at www.jeffrapsis.com and other things are planned, too. As they say in the organ business, stay tuned!