This weekend I hop across the pond to London, where I'll make my U.K. debut as a silent film accompanist.
I'd say "European" debut, but I'm not quite sure if Britain is still included in that category.
Well, Europe or not—the show is Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennington Bioscope, a venue within London's Cinema Museum where silent films are regularly screened.
Screenings are free and open to the public, but one apparently needs an invitation to attend. For more info, visit www.kenningtonbioscope.com.
And the film I'm accompanying is...'Salt for Svanetia' (1930), a Soviet propaganda film about how a remote mountain village benefits from the wonders of Stalinist socialism!
People laugh when I describe this film, but it's actually an important film in terms of how it uses the then-new medium of cinema to communicate a powerful message.
I'm not sure how much of my usual fan base will make it to London this week, but the Kennington Bioscope screenings are well known in the vintage film community.
No less a figure than Kevin Brownlow often participates in the programming. And now...me!
But I must thank Amran Vance and everyone in London's silent film scene for the invitation to sit in at the Bioscope, which has its own roster of regular accompanists.
In fact, someone else (not sure who) will handle the first half of the evening, which is highlighted by a cut-down three-reel version of 'Tales of 1001 Nights' (1921), a British adaptation of the Scheherazade story.
The edition survives only in the obsolete 9.5mm film gauge, and that's what we'll be seeing.
For me, the only worry is that the screening is in the evening of my first day in London, so I have to be smart about managing the inevitable jet lag after an overnight trans-Atlantic flight.
But if jet lag ultimately claims me before the opening titles of 'Salt for Svanetia,' it's comforting to know there's no shortage of accompaniment talent at the Bioscope.
Speaking of air travel and accompaniment: the same thing happens on the way back to Boston on Sunday, Feb. 12.
We're supposed to arrive mid-afternoon. And that evening at 7 p.m., I'm scheduled to accompany Buster Keaton's 'Seven Chances' (1925) in a Valentine's Day screening at the Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville, Mass. More info about that screening in the press release posted below.
So after we land and (I hope) clear customs and immigration, I'll stay in Boston (instead of heading to N.H.), where I'll have dinner at my favorite Peruvian restaurant, Macchu Chicken in Union Square. And then I'll head over for the Buster show at the Aeronaut, where my keyboard and sound gear (and suit jacket, too!) are already packed away in a storage area.
I actually went down last night to drop my stuff at the Aeronaut, which was in the midst of a big Super Bowl party. At the time I came through, the Pats were down 21-0 and everyone was looking kinda glum. Would have loved to see the place about two hours later!
I drove down to Somerville following a really nifty screening of '7th Heaven' (1927) at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H.
I say 'nifty' no only because the music came together quite effectively, I thought, but also because of some sheet music!
Diane was the name of Janet Gaynor's character in the film, and also this woman's name. (I can't recall if she had been named in connection with the character, but I think that's the case.)
At the time, Diane asked if it was possible to program '7th Heaven' at the Town Hall Theatre, and for me to use the sheet music in accompanying it.
Why? Because, I recall, her parents often spoke of the film when she was a girl. That was a long time ago, and her parents were now long gone, and she'd never had a chance to see it.
Well, we aim to please! I put '7th Heaven' on the schedule as our "pre-Valentine's day tear-jerker." I also Rapée's sheet music on my piano, where I started getting it in my head and under my fingers.
So yesterday, in introducing the film to the Super Bowl-reduced audience, I mentioned all this, but didn't see the woman who had given me the music.
That is, until she raised her hand, which was right under my nose: turns out she was sitting in the front, directly behind me!
As I mentioned, I thought the screening went well overall. So did she, evidently—afterwards, she came up and gave me a big, prolonged hug!
Speaking of prolonged hugs, here's the press release for our Valentine's Day screening of Buster Keaton's 'Seven Chances' (1925) on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co. in Somerville, Mass. See you there. And XO!
MONDAY, FEB. 6, 2017 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Buster Keaton comedy 'Seven Chances' (1925) on Sunday, Feb. 12 at Aeronaut Brewery
Valentine's Day celebration features classic silent film romantic farce with live music
SOMERVILLE, Mass.—When words aren't enough, why not let a silent movie do the talking?
That's the idea behind a Valentine's Day silent film program on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville.
'Seven Chances' (1925), a classic Buster Keaton romantic comedy, will be shown with live music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.
The program includes a Keaton comedy short preceding 'Seven Chances,' one of Keaton's classic full-length feature comedies.
Admission is $10 per person. Tickets are available online at www.eventbrite.com; search on "Aeronaut Brewery."
Acclaimed for their originality and clever visual gags, Keaton's films remain popular crowd-pleasers today.
Keaton never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of "the Great Stone Face." But his comedies rocked Hollywood's silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s.
In 'Seven Chances,' adapted from a stage play, the story finds Buster about to inherit $7 million if he's married by 7 p.m. on his 27th birthday—which is that very day!
Buster's hurried attempts to tie the knot go awry, but then a newspaper story changes the game, creating an avalanche of would-be brides who chase Buster as he searches for his one true love before the deadline.
'Seven Chances' was the first screen adaptation of the now-familiar story, since used in movies ranging from the Three Stooges in 'Brideless Groom' (1947) to Gary Sinyor's 'The Bachelor' (1999) starring Chris O'Donnell and Renee Zellwinger.
The screening is part of the Aeronaut's commitment to give local artists and audiences a chance to connect in the brewery's performance space.
"We envision our pre-Valentine's Day event as a throwback to the days when people celebrated by getting together as a community," said Christine Platzek of Aeronaut, a craft brewery that opened in 2014.
Just as beer aficionados appreciate a good hand-crafted brew, movie-goers are rediscovering the joys of silent cinema presented as it was intended: on a big screen, with live music, and with an audience.
"If you can put all the original elements together, the films of early Hollywood still come to life," said Rapsis, a silent film accompanist who performs frequently at the Aeronaut. "These are the films that caused people to first fall in love with the movies."
Buster Keaton stands today as one of the silent screen's great clowns. Some critics regard Keaton as the best of all; Roger Ebert wrote in 2002 that "in an extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, (Keaton) worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies."
As a performer, Keaton was uniquely suited to the demands of silent comedy. Born in 1895, he made his stage debut as a toddler, joining his family's knockabout vaudeville act and learning to take falls and do acrobatic stunts at an early age.
A remarkable pantomime artist, Keaton naturally used his whole body to communicate emotions from sadness to surprise. And in an era with no post-production special effects, Keaton's acrobatic talents enabled him to perform all his own stunts, including some spectacular examples in 'Seven Chances.'
"We felt a vintage silent film program with live music would be a great way to create Valentine's Day memories," Platzek said. "We encourage everyone to join us, whether you're on a date or on your own. We'll all end up laughing together!"
'Seven Chances' (1925) starring Buster Keaton will be shown on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission is $10 per person. Tickets are available online at www.eventbrite.com; search on "Aeronaut Brewery." For more info about Aeronaut Brewing, visit www.aeronautbrewing.com. For more information about the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.
Below are the links to the Facebook page and EventBrite page: