Wednesday, June 23, 2010

'When Lincoln Paid' in Brandon, Vt. June 19

The recently rediscovered Francis Ford film 'When Lincoln Paid' (1913) made its way to to Brandon, Vermont this past weekend, screened as part of 'Marching Through Brandon,' an event honoring the town's Civil War heritage. Though no actual Civil War battles were fought in the Green Mountain State, Brandon itself was a center of abolitionist activity in the years leading up the conflict, and played a major role in the Underground Railroad. It's also the birthplace of noted 19th century politician Stephen A. Douglas, who later moved to Illinois and is remembered for debating Abraham Lincoln.

The film was screened on Saturday, June 19 in Brandon Town Hall (the Greek-temple-like building at right in the photo), which was recently outfitted with a nifty big screen and back-projection set up, which worked quite well once the aspect ratio for the film was rendered correctly. Larry Benaquist, a professor at Keene (N.H.) State College who organized the restoration, thought the image was too small, and I know what he meant, but it still seemed to work well.

Acoustics were a nice surprise. The town hall has a cavernous two-story interior with wooden floors, providing just enough reverb to make the output from the two speakers I use sound very robust. I love playing in this kind of an environment, as opposed to rooms with low suspended ceilings, fabric on the chairs, and carpeting, which all add up to death for sound.

For this screening, I switched to a "small ensemble" string setting for most of the quiet parts, and it was very effective, especially in contrast to the full-throated battle music. After warming up for a bit, several people in the hall came up and said it sounded too loud, so I adjusted a bit, though also explained that the battle scenes would still be on the noisy side.

We had a good crowd of non-silent-film folks on hand for what was expected to be a novelty, and reaction was tremendous. Nice folks all around, including one woman who raised a lot of interesting questions about the horsemanship on display in the film, which is something that both Larry and I do not have an eye for, but it's apparently very impressive. I even got interviewed by the editor of the local paper!

So even though it's a three-hour haul from my New Hampshire base, it's a great town and a great hall, and I'd love to do some full-scale silent film programs there. We'll see. The proper authorities have been alerted, anyway...

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