New Hampshire's stellar silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis was to have accompanied two silent movies for us tom'w (3/22). But, of course, now he's not coming. Adding insult to injury, Jeff was going to play for two rarely revived gems -- Raymond Griffith's hilarious Civil War comedy HAND'S UP! and Ernst Lubitsch's seminal romantic comedy THE MARRIAGE CIRCLE -- that were going to be projected from restored 35mm prints belonging to the Museum of Modern Art film archive. We will try to reschedule one or both of these movies next time Jeff rolls through the region, and when we do, please buy tickets. Silent movies with live accompaniment are some of the best and best received events we present, and Jeff Rapsis is a terrific musician and delightful commentator on the films he plays for.• Feb. 29, 2020: Excerpt of review of Kansas Silent Film Festival by Bruce Calvert posted on Nitrateville.com:
Pianist Jeff Rapsis’ score made their goodbye scene where the prince is called back home twice as heartbreaking.• Jan. 25, 2020: Forum comment on the Ohio Sci Fi message board about screening of 'Aelita, Queen of Mars' (1924) at Case Western Reserve University Film Society's annual 30-Hour Science Fiction Marathon Jan. 17-18, 2020:
Jeff Rapsis warned us before the performance that we should go for the images because if we tried to follow the story it would not go well.• Oct. 26, 2019: Comment by Elizabeth Simpson, on accompaniment for 'Faust' shown on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 at Brandon Town Hall in Brandon, Vt.:
Then Jeff played an outstanding accompaniment to the movie on his instrument.
What he does goes far beyond simple organ music, achieving swells, crescendos and special effects that are art forms in themselves. He is playing at the Columbus (& Boston) Marathons this year. Do not miss him.
Sending our sincere thanks for another wonderful season of silent movies at the Brandon Town Hall. Last night's performance of Faust was a remarkable event which we thoroughly enjoyed. So happy to hear that you are going to do the Mark Of Zorro next year. Have a good safe winter; we'll see you in the spring.• May 19, 2019: Comment by L.D. Writer on Twitter, on accompaniment for short comedy films shown on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Niles, Calif.:
Jeff Rapsis was incredible by the way. Easily some of the best silent film accompaniment I've ever enjoyed. Thanks for flying out West!• April 25, 2019: Comment by Molly Ryan, programs manager for the Harvard Art Museums, on accompaniment for Bauhaus experimental films screened on April 18, 2019 at the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass.:
Thank you so much for bringing our films to life last week. Your compositions were a perfect fit and timing was impeccable.• March 18, 2019: From review by Paul Joyce on ithankyouarthur.blogspot.com of 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927) screened on March 13, 2019 at the Kennington Bioscope, London, U.K.:
Jeff Rapsis brought a confident narrative-driven dynamism to his accompaniment, different from UK players or just a man with his own style? The top players go world-wide and so this is music without boundaries and here he was perhaps more influenced by the film’s origins as much as he was last year when playing for Salt for Svanetia (1930). He gave it his all and came good on his stated aim of recreating the tone and collective response to this wonderfully funny and slightly scary film!• Feb. 17, 2019: From review of 'Frau im Mond' (1929) shown as part of the 44th annual Boston Sci-Fi Marathon at the Somerville Theatre in Arlington, Mass.:
"It certainly doesn't hurt that this presentation was accompanied by organist Jeff Rapsis, who always adds something to a silent film but who was clearly working from a place of special excitement here, never flagging despite this movie being nearly three hours long without an intermission. It was an energetic score that kept things moving during the long opening and kicked it up a notch or two when things got bigger."• Feb. 2, 2018: Comments by guitarist Paul Bielatowicz posted on Facebook after a silent film program at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Mass.:
"Last week I had the honour of opening a show for Jeff Rapsis. I was blown away by his incredible silent movie accompaniment to a 1920’s version of The Wizard of Oz. Jeff is a true master of his art - 100% improvised soundtracks, sometimes performing them without having seen the movie before. Here’s a link to his latest blog, in which he was kind enough to mention our performance. If you’re unfamiliar with his work I encourage you to check him out, he’s a true master of his art and a fascinating guy."• May 2, 2017: Comments by Marlena Phillips posted on Facebook after 'Our Gang' program at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre:
"Ever been to a silent movie with a live musician playing? We tried our first one, a set of Little Rascals comedies, made before films had sound, and were pleasantly surprised at how awesome it was! A shout out to Jeff Rapsis, whose musical interpretation throughout seemed like part of the film, and quite frankly, MADE the experience exciting, keeping us engaged and laughing to the end. We expected repetitive ragtime style music on an old piano, and instead heard a full orchestra with creative sound effects, created on the fly, as Jeff watched and interpreted the film in real time. To kiddos considering careers in music, here's a cool and unusual opportunity, and to adults who love nostalgia, this is worth trying!"• Feb. 10, 2017: Review of 'Salt for Svanetia' (1930) accompanied at the Kennington Bioscope, London:
"The Bioscope welcomed a guest accompanist Jeff Rapsis who had flown in from Boston in the morning. There was little sign of jet lag as he worked the keys with expert ease throughout helping to underscore the scale and wonders of the visuals whilst tracking the cock-eyed narrative moods. There’s something special about the relationship between live music and film…• December, 2016: Comments from Zachary Camenker, blogger, in his 2016 Entertainment Review:
Given the recent death of silent film historian David Shepard it was good to have one of his fellow countrymen playing and one who knew him personally. Mr Shepard was passionate about live screenings and, as Amran Vance reminded us in his moving tribute, helped preserve many of the films we have been lucky enough to see at the Bioscope. Another one of those relationships that go way beyond the bounds of the less than exceptional."
"Last but certainly not least are three films that were true experiences and treats. After moving to Concord, I found a local newsman named Jeff Rapsis who moonlights as a leading silent film accompanist and musician. Mr. Rapsis delighted me to an experience at the Red River Theatre in September during their unique Art House Theatre Day when he accompanied the excellent 1927 film Sunrise. It was when I learned that he improvises each performance that I knew I had found a true gem. Mr. Rapsis’ investment in his craft is nothing short of brilliant and his work is more than admirable. Sunrise, a film I had enjoyed before, was the perfect one to start with, as it showed me that yes, silent movies we see on TCM and at home are great, but seeing them with live accompaniment as they were meant to be seen is the real deal.• Dec. 5, 2016: Comments from Caroline Hollister, President of the Board of Trustees of the Park Theatre in Jaffrey, N.H., where I presented a silent film show at their annual meeting on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016:
So I visited Mr. Rapsis again at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, a classic movie house in a quaint New England downtown and building, to see him play the 1925 Phantom of the Opera. This one was a true adventure as he took us back to 1925 when audiences reacted with fear to the scary music and scenery of the film. Another enjoyable experience and fun exploration of a new venue.
The final time I saw Mr. Rapsis play was for a special event at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire in Londonderry. The film was the 1927 Best Picture winner and aviation classic, Wings, starring the “It” girl Clara Bow. This was one of the single best viewing experiences I’ve ever had. Not only was I in good company with my parents, but also surrounded by veterans, former pilots, and aviation enthusiasts in a wonderful part of the museum with artifacts and plane parts. It felt especially appropriate to be there and Mr. Rapsis’ score was again brilliant. He played for two and a half hours straight with no intermission and took us on an epic flight journey through a film that everyone must see if they want to understand where cinema began and how it evolved. Without Wings, there would never have been what we see in cinema today. Plus I won an original poster that now proudly hangs in my apartment! The same can be said of all silent movies, but this was one just special and so priceless. Mr. Rapsis was an excellent cruise director and can be found at http://silentfilmlivemusic.blogspot.com/. He plays throughout the country, but especially in NH and MA. Check him out!"
"What a wonderful, exciting and interesting program you gave to us all - standing room only, too. ... All of us have heard glowing reports from so many who came - using words like "great," "stimulating," "perfect," "terrific" - and it truly was! What I particularly appreciated as your articulate explanations and introductions to the concept and the movies themselves. This was the way the Theatre in Jaffrey began. I look forward to a long and happy association with you and am so grateful to you. Thank you for sharing your talent, for you kindness and generosity, and, most of all, for your support and encouragement."• Aug. 20, 2016: Comments from audience member Julie Zellat after a screening of 'Metropolis' (1927) at the Ludlow Town Auditorium in Ludlow, Vt.:
"We are in Vermont this August and the town we are in (Ludlow) has a silent movie festival in August. We recently saw Metropolis. Part of what made this viewing so wonderful was the accompanist who had also composed an original score for this movie. The recurring theme that he created was beautiful, the intensity of his playing to match the drama in the movie, his ability to play flawlessly throughout the 2 1/2 hours of the movie—all of this really enhanced our experience of Metropolis."• July 10, 2016: Comments by Oscar Goff posted on Boston Hassle regarding W.C. Fields silent film program at the Somerville (Mass.) Theatre:
"These movies were never meant to be watched in the comfort of your own home; they were meant to be watched in a theater full of whooping strangers with a live musical accompaniment. Fortunately, the Somerville Theatre’s monthly Silents Please series serves to rectify that by returning these movies to their original context: affordable, Sunday afternoon matinees, surrounded by real people, in a theater old enough to have shown them the first time around. The music is provided by Jeff Rapsis, who improvises themes on the keyboard while watching the films. I caught Rapsis last month scoring Douglas Fairbanks’ Don Q Son of Zorro at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine, and it was easily one of the most idyllic moviegoing experiences of my life. Rapsis is, in short, a local treasure."• July 10, 2016: Comments from audience member Ken Krause after a program of W.C. Fields silent films at the Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass.:
"Jeff, thanks for keeping alive this genre and for introducing it to new audiences, and especially for Sunday’s program. I’d never seen a W.C. Fields silent film and came away very impressed with his work and also a sense that the silent film portion of his career is very overlooked and underappreciated."• March 20, 2016: Comments from Amber Bertin of Northeast Historic Film after 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) at the Alamo Theater, Bucksport, Maine:
"Everyone had a fantastic time and really enjoyed your accompaniment. Over the past few days, I've heard nothing but praise for the screening and for you, in particular. We couldn't be happier with the response and we couldn't have done it without you, so thank you very much for sharing your talents with us and with our audience."• Dec. 12, 2015: Comments from Bob Rogoff after 'Passing Fancy' (1933) at the Cleveland Cinematheque, Cleveland, Ohio:
"Thank you for stopping in Cleveland. I so enjoyed your Saturday night performance at the showing of 'Passing Fancy.' It was a total thrill, from credits to closing. I was distracted looking for the other musicians, waiting for you to take a break, and waiting for a repeat. Just non-stop enjoyment, wonderful music accompanied by a film, a treat. Again, thanks for stopping here and please come again."• Nov. 22, 2015: Comments from Linda Norris after 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (1921) at the Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass.:
"It was truly fabulous! ... I am so very glad that I got to see it and loved every second of it. As usual, your music fit right in and really helped to keep my mind involved with the story line."• Oct. 30, 2015: Comments from Adolphe Bernotas after 'The Lodger' (1927) at Red River Theatres, Concord, N.H.:
"Can't tell you enough how much my wife and I enjoy the silent films, your dedication to promote them, your matchless music to accompany them and your introductions to what we are about to see. ... Thanks again for your unselfish work to preserve this unique art form."• April 5, 2015: Comments from Raquel Stecher, who blogs at From Out of the Past, after 'The Ten Commandments' (1923) at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Mass.:
"As always Jeff Rapsis did a fine job with the musical accompaniment. I'm not sure how he can keep his energy up through longer films but he does. I love tapping my feet to the music and am always excited to hear the dramatic music he plays during climactic scenes."• April 4, 2015: Comments shared after a Buster Keaton program at the Blazing Star Grange Hall in Danbury, N.H.:
"The morning-after conversation at both the United and South Danbury churches was all about the wonderful time everyone had, and how much everyone -- young to old -- enjoyed the movies and the music. Return engagements are eagerly anticipated, by popular demand." Linda also said that during "the "joys and concerns" part of both church services today, people mentioned how much it meant, and helped, that the community could come together at the Grange and have such a happy time."• Feb. 27, 2015: Comments from Jim Rhodes, co-founder of the Kansas Silent Film Festival, following the 19th Annual event at Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas:
"Your piano accompaniments were great, and especially for 'Little Church Around The Corner' which was my favorite: emotional, nuanced, rooted in reality, and just plain simple and true. You are definitely a major reason why our festival is so successful. Again, many thanks for sharing your talents."• Feb. 15, 2015: Comments on message board following performance of 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1920) at the 40th Annual Boston Sci-Fi Marathon at the Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass.
"I've spoken with Jeff Rapsis several times, including right after his performance for CALIGARI on Sunday, and each time I've complimented him by noting that there are times in his gigs in which I forget that someone is playing along to the film. He manages to combine a somewhat traditional accompaniment style with enough interesting flourishes so as to create a completely immersive experience. Bravo to him, as always."
"Jeff Rapsis? What is to say? You are FANTASTIC!"• Nov. 14, 2014: Comments from Jay Seaver, movie reviewer and blogger, after a screening of Fritz Lang's 'The Moving Image' (1921) at the Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, Mass.:
"I noticed at the start of 'The Moving Image' that accompanist Jeff Rapsis was stalking two keyboards, playing treble notes on the piano with his left hand and bass on the organ with his right. Now, maybe my brother and others who are really good at playing instruments can correct a misconception from someone who couldn't play a tambourine, but that has to mess with your head, right? At the very least, it seems like it would take a level of concentration that you practice all your life to not need."• Oct. 30, 2014: Comments from Rosie Homer, audience member for a screening of 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925) at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H.:
"I wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed the Phantom movie and the way you enhanced the experience with your introduction and music.• Oct. 25, 2014: Comments from John Bates, audience member for a screening of 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925) at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine:
The first, last and only silent movie I'd ever seen prior to last night was some old Charlie Chaplin movie on a small black and white TV, 45+ yrs ago. I pretty much decided that they weren't for me and never cared to watch one again.
Embarrassed and sad to admit, the only thing I knew about the Phantom of the Opera movie prior to last night was the title. I had NO idea of the plot, actors, history or outcome. I only went because my friend and I have been trying to open our minds to 'new' things, and the price was in our budget!
First of all, for an audience like me, your enthusiastic introduction was not only invaluable, but also infectious! Your obvious joy and love of what you do was wonderful to be near!
I L-O-V-E-D the movie! Not knowing the plot, it was suspenseful the entire way thru and not at all predictable. Your insightful use of music definitely added to the terror and suspense. The movie held my attention as well as made me hold my breath scene after scene.
The scene settings were spectacular and amazing. I truly expected the whole movie to be 'flat.' Everything astounded me, from the dark ramp heading to the black pools; the fabulous theatre; the contrast between Eric's bed and the one he built for Christine; even the enormous statues on top of the building!
I had NO idea that a 1925 film could offer so much depth and variety! I was completely blown away by the technicolor scenes that allowed Eric's FABULOUS red devil costume to show it's full and flowing terror. It actually, truly, scared me!
Now that I am an instant convert, I think that everyone must go to see these movies in the large screen venue with live music!
The movie really did, as you say, have a power and effect on my friend Paula and I. I must admit that on the drive to the theatre we had pre-agreed to discretely sneak out mid-way if it got too boring and our heads began to nod.
We sure were surprised at how completely it engaged us. Throughout the whole movie I could hear my friend gasping or laughing, as was I.
On the drive home we had fun practicing moving our eyes in big wide circles and gripping our hands together at our bosoms. Probably because of the live music, we both had the sense that we didn't just see a movie, but rather a stage production.
What a surprise to find this so close to home instead of Concord or Boston!
Thank you so much for sharing your passions and bringing them to people like me and my friend Paula. We had a great time!
"I was among the audience appreciating your improvisational genius the other night in Ogunquit during 'Phantom of the Opera.'• Oct. 20, 2014: From a review by Sarah Liebowitz, writer for "The Clock," the student newspaper at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, N.H., after a screening of 'Chicago' (1927) at the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center:
You are an amazing talent. I felt a relative of mine hovering, a man I never met, Frank Lybolt, who was a Hammond organ player at a big movie palace in Baltimore. An enthusiast restored the instrument when the theater was torn down and Frank was called in to give it one last workout.
Truly, people who like yourself and cousin Frank have an affinity for the art of matching sound and image are a rare and exceptional breed."
"The 1927 film adaption Chicago started to play, and the world around the screen disappeared. The audience forgot about the man sitting at the keyboard, and instead of being a separate entity, the music became a part of the action on the screen. It set the mood and enhanced emotion, becoming an extension of the on-screen world."• Aug. 17, 2014: Comments by David Pendleton, programmer at the Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, Mass., after a screening of 'Frau im Mond' (1929):
"...I thought you did a truly outstanding job with WOMAN IN THE MOON. And I agree that...while it's a long film, it didn't seem slow to me either. In fact, a film that is often dismissed as dull struck me as entertaining and even moving—I think in part because we didn't play it too fast (which makes everything seem comic, if not silly) but due mostly to your remarkable music."• July 17, 2014: Blog post by Jay Seaver after a screening of 'Orphans of the Storm' (1921) on Sunday, July 13:
"The music was the other big difference. I'm made the point of how seeing silents in a theater can be different every time because you get a different soundtrack, but this really drove it home. Jeff was great, as always, working "La Marsaillaise" into the score for French Revolution-set Orphans of the Storm fairly often and just generally doing a great job of tracking how D.W. Griffith brought a surprisingly light touch to a heavy story for two plus hours. It's an endurance test."• Feb. 9, 2014: Note from Judy Landry, program coordinator of the Campton (N.H.) Historical Society, after a screening of 'Steamboat Bill, Jr.' (1928) on Saturday, Feb. 8:
"What a great night! You really put on a good show and the live music was just incredible! Heard lots of good feedback. Thanks again and hope to see you in the future. ... I heard the local minister mentioned you in his sermon yesterday because he enjoyed the show so much!"• Oct. 14, 2013: Blog post from Raquelle Stecher after a screening of 'Safety Last' (1923) at the Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass. on Sunday, Oct. 5:
"Jeff's performances are always top-notch and you are guaranteed to have a good time. ... Jeff improvises his music paying close attention to what's happening on the screen and how the live audience is reacting to the film. He's a marvel, passionate about what he does and his performances are growing in popularity. I commend the Somerville Theatre for taking a chance and hosting these events."• Oct. 12, 2013: Analysis posted on the 'Nitrate Diva' blog following a screening of Mary Pickford's 'Sparrows' (1926) at Keene State College on Friday, Oct. 11::
"It was inspiring to savor the audience’s vibrant reactions to the film. Some of us even hissed and booed the vile Mr. Grimes and his nasty family. Unfortunately, the DVD print projected was not a good one, but accompanist Jeff Rapsis more than compensated for this by creating a delightfully suspenseful score. Having seen the film on DVD with a recorded score, I admired how Rapsis delicately underplayed the maudlin aspects of the film, instead highlighting its rich blend of poignant humor and tense action, all graced with glimmers of tenderness. I also have no idea how Rapsis managed, at certain key moments, to ring a bell WHILE playing his keyboard, but somehow he did."• June 17, 2013: Marvin Wilkenfeld, comment posted on the Web site of the Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass. following a screening of Chaplin's 'The Kid' (1921) on Sunday, June 16:
"Thank you for the wonderful time yesterday afternoon at the screening of 'The Kid.' I loved the experience and especially being a part of the very responsive crowd that laughed and applauded, and of course Jeff Rapsis’ amazing accompaniment. He is a virtuoso that helped to bring the experience of seeing a film classic of over 90 years old come to life."• June 9, 2013: Ian Judge, manager of the Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass., quoted in the Boston Globe:
"The great thing about Jeff is his enthusiasm and knowledge. There are plenty of musicians that could interpret a silent film, but Jeff has the deepest appreciation of the actual film, where it sits in film history, and how it’s projected. He also speaks to the audience and gives an intro that’s better than anything on Turner Classics. He’s definitely more than the average bear."• May 11, 2013: From the Boston Globe:
"New Hampshire’s Jeff Rapsis is considered one of the nation’s top silent film musicians."• April, 2013: Facebook comment from Sandy Conley about upcoming silent film series at Somerville (Mass.) Theatre:
"I've seen some of these "Silent" films when Jeff Rapsis brought them to the Flying Monkey in Plymouth, N.H. Found it hard to believe that so much music was from just one man...but I saw it with my own eyes."• Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013: Blog post on 'The American Spectator' from audience member Aaron Goldstein after a screening of Harold Lloyd's 'Girl Shy' (1924) at the Somerville Theater just outside of Boston, Mass.:
"Accompanying the movie was an organist from New Hampshire named Jeff Rapsis. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a movie with a live organist.• Monday, Feb. 11, 2013: Comments from Rebecca Mitchell, student at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H. enrolled in a film history course taught by director Bill Millios, after seeing 'Metropolis' with live music:
At first, I thought it would be a distraction. But Rapsis was so good I thought his music was part of the original soundtrack. When I told him this after the show he told me that it is what strived for in his performances.
Amazingly, the music is largely improvised. He explained that if he tried to score the movie he was concentrating too much on the notes and not enough on the movie and the audience’s reaction to it."
"And thank you for inviting Jeff Rapsis to come in and play live music for "Metropolis"; I've been interested in learning about the history of silent films, but this was the first time I've ever seen a feature-length silent film and I was completely blown away!• January, 2013: Comments from attendee Greg Swain after a New Year's Eve screening of Fritz Lang's 'Woman in the Moon' at Red River Theatres, Concord, N.H:
I think I was more wrapped up in "Metropolis" than I have ever been with any movie I've seen before; I think the live music really pulled me into the movie and helped draw me into the film's world. Thanks again!"
"Judy and I wanted to thank you for the wonderful evening at Red River last night! That was my first time with a bigger screen and live music. It won't be my last!• July, 2012: Comments from attendee Carol Rugh after the 18th annual convention of the Sons of the Desert, the International Laurel & Hardy Appreciation Society, held Thursday, July 19 through Sunday, July 22 in Manchester, N.H.:
The music added so much to the experience. Thank you for investing the time, energy and last night the sweat to bring us the silents the way they were to be originally enjoyed.
We signed up for the email updates and look forward to seeing you again in the near future!"
"Thank you for your stunning film accompaniment during the Sons convention. I know (because I eavesdropped shamelessly) that everyone who attended was blown away. ... When people asked us how we liked the convention, the first thing we mentioned was the great silent film program with your outstanding accompaniment. It made the convention for us."• June, 2012: A description by Jessica Skwire Routhier of the Saco (Me.) Museum of live accompaniment for the presentation of a 19th century "moving panorama" depicting John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress':
With Jeff’s alternately rollicking, poetic, crashing, and poignant accompaniment—and with his years of experience accompanying silent film revivals–we brought the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress to life again after at least 148 years of silence and stillness.• Monday, March 26, 2012: Write-up from adventure blogger Dan Szczesny, a New Hampshire writer and newspaper colleague who attended screening of 'Noah's Ark' (1928) at Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre on Sunday, March 25:
"Delivering the silence: Nobody speaks for silent films more loudly than Jeff Rapsis, a local musician who has become something on an institution in New England for delivering live accompaniment to films from the great silent era.• Tuesday, March 20, 2012: Blog comment from "Russ," attendee of Cinefest in Syracuse, N.Y. from Thursday, March 14 through Sunday, March 18, where I was one of the on-duty accompanists:
Either on a piano or synthesizer, Jeff free-styles his way through hours of celluloid breathing new life into classics that haven’t been shown, in some case, for decades. We’ve been friends with Jeff for many years and can attest to his passion for making sure some of the most amazing films ever made are not relegated to the dust bin.
On Sunday at Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Jeff was at it again, playing for “Noah’s Ark” a spectacular 1928 epic. If your only experience with silent film is late-night cable, or even TNT Network, do yourself a big favor and attend one of Jeff’s events, many of which are free. There is nothing like live music played well at a silent film event. It will make you fall in love again with the movies."
"You did a great job all weekend. I thought about how hard it must have been to play for the Tillie short. That was REALLY all over the place.• Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012: Nice note from Scott Norwood, film programmer for the 2012 Arisia Science Fiction/Fantasy Convention in Boston, Mass., where Keaton's 'The General' (1927) was screened:
A friend of mine from work came to The Palace on Saturday. She likes older films, but didn't think she would like silents. You helped change her mind with Get Your Man. In addition to enjoyiing the film and your music she was very impressed when she found that you frequently are seeing the film for the first time.
Thanks for all your work this weekend! I hope you play for Cinefest again next year."
"...I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your performance for this year's silent film screening of 'The General.' ... I can honestly say that your performance on Friday was the best that we have had so far for these screenings. We received many positive compliments over the weekend from people who attended the show. Thank you again for your time and for being so easy to work with in the months prior to the screening."• Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011: Here's a nice Q & A article about silent film in The Bedford (N.H.) Journal, a community weekly newspaper in my hometown.
Excerpt from the intro: "Rapsis recently took time away from his 88-key digital synthesizer to answer our questions about his composing process, his favorite performance venue and whether silent films are still relevant in today’s technology-infused world.• Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011: Many thanks to Virginia Prescott and the crew at Word of Mouth, a daily interview show on New Hampshire Public Radio, for inviting me in for this live segment on silent film scoring. Here's an excerpt from their intro:
"Scores for silent films were created live – and the showing at Red River Theatre is no different. Enter Jeff Rapsis– when he isn’t working at The Hippo, he’s recreating orchestral scores for silent classics. He’ll be providing the score for Metropolis as it rings in the New Year."• Friday, Aug. 5, 2011: The folks at WBUR-FM, Boston's big National Public Radio station, were kind enough to put together this on-air segment on silent film scoring in advance of a screening of 'Steamboat Bill Jr.' (1928) at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Mass.
• Sunday, July 10, 2011: Review by Jay Seaver, efilmcritic.com, after a screening of a Buster Keaton program featuring 'Seven Chances' (1925) at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Mass.:
"Good musical accompaniment helps, too - at this particular screening, accompanist Jeff Rapsis manages to twist the traditional bridal march into chase music, interspersing it with a separate theme for perhaps the greatest rocks in cinematic history."(Full review is here on efilmcritic.com.)
• Sunday, June 19, 2011: Comments by audience member Kevin Thornton following a screening of a Buster Keaton's 'The General' (1926) in Brandon, Vt.:
"I want to thank you for a fantastic entertainment experience Saturday night. That was a great film. I was amazed at the stunt work, and, though I've read about Keaton's "dead-pan delivery" many times, I never before understood why he was funny. ...I'm equally impressed by your ability to match the music you're playing to the action onscreen - and to keep it up for more than an hour. There can't be very many skilled practitioners out there of your particular art. It must have gratified you to see the crowd. Word-of-mouth has been very strong. You're absolutely right about the importance of music to these films (beyond the tinkly piano that always accompanies silent film clips in documentaries), and the importance of watching them with a crowd. Going to one of your performances is the next best thing to a time machine; in addition to the entertainment there's a thrill in rediscovering a long-lost experience no one knows about any more. The Twitter crowd doesn't know what they're missing. I look forward to seeing you again next month."• Saturday, June 18, 2011: Comments by British traveler Simon Crabtree following a screening of a Buster Keaton's 'The General' (1926) in Brandon, Vt.:
It was a great atmosphere - the hall was full and everyone laughed out loud or cheered in response to the film. I could now understand why Gary had been so keen that we attend - we enjoyed it way more than we'd hoped we would. But the most impressive part was the soundtrack - as the opening credits rolled the orchestral score burst into life and I had to keep reminding myself that the music was being created live by one man at the front of the hall. And I'd expected it to be a kind of Keystone Cops jangly-piano thing, but it was a much more modern film score that wouldn't have sounded out of place alongside a contemporary thriller, and the guy just kept playing for the duration of the film - I'd have been exhausted after 5 minutes! At the end, Gary and Nancy took us up to the front to introduce us to the one-man orchestra and we promised to send more people over from England for next month's screening.
• Friday, June 17, 2011: Vermont Public Radio's Nina Keck produced a radio piece about silent film music featuring comments and music illustrations by me. Listen to it (or read a transcript) at the Vermont Public Radio Web site.
• Sunday, June 5, 2011: Review by Jay Seaver, efilmcritic.com, after a screening of a Buster Keaton program at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Mass.:
"He was really impressive tonight - his music for the prologue to 'Our Hospitality' was especially terrific, and I'm sure my musical brothers will tell me that playing to fast-paced movies for two hours straight (no break between films), at least partly improvising, is difficult, and he did an excellent job."(Full review is on Jay's movie blog.)
• Sunday, March 27, 2011: From audience member Pat Caisse following screening of 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre:
"I really enjoyed last Sunday's silent film at the Wilton Theater. Lloyd and Zorro had me laughing myself silly. I was wondering if they had stunt men back then. I got a kick out of Fairbanks' agility. You also have great stamina to be able to play for 2 1/2 hours. The whole time was great entertainment. It was nice to see so many people attending. I wonder how many people went home to Plazma TV. Put me on your mailing list please. Good wholesome entertainment is hard to find these days."• Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011: By Blogger "Rhiannonstone" about '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (1916) at the 36th Annual Boston Sci-Fi Marathon at the Somerville Theater, Somerville, Mass.:
"It was a terrible, terrible movie with a crappy non-linear plot, awful dialogue...and the live, improvised musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis was nothing short of amazing."And posted by "LA Connection" on the Science Fiction Message Board:
"Having been to all the silent films at the Marathon with live music, I must add that Jeff Rapsis' accompaniment was the finest and most apropos of them all. Yes, they've all been good and highlights of their respective 'thons...but Mr.Rapsis really nailed it!" (And on another board) "I liked this as a silent film more than some in Boston, but there is no doubt that as an experience with live music it was a treat. And, we got a very good accompanist (Jeff Rapsis). Much would depend on who was hired to do the music."• February, 2011: Featured in New Hampshire Magazine.
• Wednesday, June 23, 2010: By editor Lee J. Kahrs in The Reporter of Brandon, Vt., after a screening of 'When Lincoln Paid' (1913) at Brandon Town Hall:
"The screening was thoroughly enhanced by the live accompaniment of keyboardist Jeff Rapsis, who plays piano behind silent films all over New England."• June 2010: Selected posts on the Wilton Town Hall Theatre's Facebook Wall.
"Rapsis was so good, in fact, that this reporter did not realize during the start of the film that the music being heard was live and not in the film."
" 'Without an audience, the energy that was intended in these films is lost,' Rapsis said in his remarks afterwards. 'And everyone here collectively brought this film to life.' "
"Fantastic venue and Jeff does a great job with the silent classics. Glad to have such a treasure to call our own."
"love the wilton town hall theater.. especially the sunday free silent movies that come at the end of every month. Me and my now husband would come while we were courting as our special monthly anniversary, and it's a great time!"
"I highly recommend the silent movie series with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis. Whenever it's a comedy I try to get there with my 10 yr. old son. It's magical to look over and see him bustin' a gut laughing at 90 year old sight gags!"
"Silent Sunday is the best! Had a great time with Buster Keaton yesterday! Thanks for doing it!"• Monday, May 24, 2010: Comment from student at Great Brook School, Antrim, N.H., on silent film screening at Antrim Town Hall for the school's Extended Learning Program:
"He played the piano so well, I forgot he was there."• Tuesday, April 20, 2010: Comment from Larry Benaquist, professor of film at Keene (N.H.) State College, on music played at the premiere of his restoration of 'When Lincoln Paid' (1913):
"Jeff Rapsis did an amazing job with live accompaniment. The music quadrupled the emotional impact of the movie."• Friday, April 2, 2010: Blog comment from Bill Millios, independent filmmmaker and director of 'Dangerous Crosswinds' (2005), scored by Jeff Rapsis:
"Jeff’s approach is that he just doesn’t want to ’score a film’; instead he’s relentless in creating music that integrates so completely with a film’s plot that the two become inseparable. His enthusiasm towards creative projects is contagious..."• Monday, Feb. 15, 2010: Comment on Wilton Town Hall Theatre silent film screenings posted on yelp.com:
"It's hard to beat the last Sunday of the month free silent movies. Jeff Rapsis of the HippoPress improvises live music to accompany the film."• Monday, Feb. 1, 2010: Blog post from Dave Eisenstadter following a Douglas Fairbanks double feature in Wilton, N.H.:
"Even though the admission is technically free, don't be a piker. Put a donation in the jar and buy some popcorn at the concession stand. At $3 for a large bucket, it's still a deal."
"A double-feature silent movie with live music accompaniment filled the house at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre yesterday. I hadn't heard much about the star of the films, Douglas Fairbanks, except that he was the first ever "action star" of the movies.• October 2009: Rick Broussard, editor of New Hampshire Magazine:
"Seeing a silent film in a theater with a full house and live music is really a unique experience, and a wonderful one. Jeff Rapsis, who works for the Manchester Hippo, comes up with the music off of the top of his head with minimal preparation, and yesterday he played for about two-and-a-half hours. The music enhances the show by adding suspense, comedy, drama, any emotion you can think of. Seeing him in action, I would mourn the loss of such theater musicians, except we have one in our midst."
"After seeing two silent films (with live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis), I'm convinced this is an art form made for the 21st century. ... There's something about the pacing and flow of the silents that, combined with a live audience and an improvisational scoring, distinguishes it from anything else. It's kind of like steampunk cyborg art, half human, half machine but the machine part is sheathed in copper with leather bellows."• October 2009: Noted film film archivist and expert Bruce Lawton after attending four-day 'Mirthquake' silent comedy film festival:
"This guy is quite simply amazing. He can play the pants off ANY film - or series of films - whether he's seen them before or not. His musicianship is peerless. I witnessed him doing his stuff for several days at Mirthquake this year....I can not recommend him highly enough - and do so without reservation."• Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009: Blog post following a screening of 'The Kid' in Wilton, N.H.:
"On Sunday we saw Charlie Chaplin's The Kid at the Wilton Town Hall Theater WITH a live piano player (Jeff Rapsis). It was awesome. The show was put on as a part of the Mirthquake Festival, a truly unique event that should not be missed.• June 30, 2009: Named one of the "Top 10 Monadnock Region Attractions" by the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, Peterborough, N.H.
"First of all, the Wilton Town Hall Theater is amazing. It was built in 1886 for travelling shows and vaudeville performances. In 1912 it was converted into a silent movie house. There are two theaters, a smaller theater and a larger theater. The Kid was playing in the larger of the two theaters, which features: old wooden floors, large comfy seats, a stage and curtains that open to reveal the movie screen - red curtains - sweet! It's absolutely perfect. In this setting, they played 2 shorts from the 1920s followed by The Kid (1921). The music was perfect, Jeff Rapsis did an amazing job. It blended with the movie so perfectly that I forgot there was someone playing live! I was completely engrossed in the story.
"I went to this movie thinking it would be fun in an historical, novel kind of way - but instead it was surprising and amazing and funny. The Kid is the first film to combine drama and comedy. Apparently comedians were not expected to make full length films, so at first, comedy was limited to shorts. Charlie Chaplin changed that; by creating and directing the Kid, he became the first comedian to release a full length feature film. The complexity of the story he told, with no sound and no color, is simply amazing. It speaks to his intelligence and ability. The interactions between Chaplin and The Kid (who later goes on to play Uncle Fester in the Addams Family) are both funny and touching. This movie is so good, that I would go see it again."
"Featured in New Hampshire Magazine, the Wilton Town Hall Theater is one of New Hampshire's best movie theaters, but in addition to the great atmosphere, the time-transporting experience of viewing a silent film accompanied by live music puts the 'class' in 'classic film.'• Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009: Blog post from audience member Mark Mallett following a screening of 'Way Down East' in Wilton, N.H.:
"Jeff Rapsis of the Hippo Press in Manchester plays music on his keyboard to bring the silent films to people the way they were meant to be experienced...in a theater with live accompaniment. Rapsis plays to accentuate funny falls, exciting chases, and tender romances.
"Among the best things about the films, which are played at 4:30 p.m. the last Sunday of every month, is that they are free, supported only by donations."
"...seeing a good quality silent film with live original music in a theater full of fans is a real treat. I saw this one at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, NH, as part of their monthly Sunday Silent Classics series. Live original music is composed and performed by Jeff Rapsis, who is greatly responsible for the series. It was a long movie, but the audience was with it all the way: hissing the bad guy and cheering for the good people.
"...This movie is mostly famous for its ice floe sequence near the ending (filmed in and around White River Junction, VT, and perhaps in parts of NH). ... Rapsis’ music really shone during this sequence, building up an excitement that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
A thoroughly enjoyable film, and well worth the wait (for me) to have seen it presented in this way. Those who aren’t comfortable with or adapted to seeing silent films might be a bit put off by the style (and even for an old silent film, the style is a bit strident) – but don’t let that stop you."