Sunday, May 6, 2012

Did I tell you about the time the keyboard fell on me?

Well, it happened this past Friday night (May 4, 2012) during a screening of 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) at the Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H.

See, there's a lot of action, horse-riding and otherwise, in 'Zorro,' which leads to long series of repeated notes in the way I accompany. And while doing it, I hadn't noticed that my synthesizer keyboard had been gradually shifting towards me, until suddenly it tipped off its X-stand and onto my lap!

This was right in the middle of an action scene, and the show must go on. So I kept the right hand going while using the left hand and knee to push the keyboard back on the stand. It worked, and no one in the audience seemed to have noticed.

So much for the glamorous world of the performing arts. But overall, it was a good screening: a sold-out house (in the theater's small screening room) and enough interest for us to be talking about screening the sequel, 'Don Q, Son of Zorro' (1925) later this month as a follow-up. We'll see...

I do want to say what a joy it was to do music for a film that elicited such a strong audience response. Sometimes you do a film and yes, the audience just sits there. Other times, the reaction is immediate and immense. At 'Zorro,' the energy started from the moment Fairbanks flashed his knowing smile during his first 'Zorro' appearance, and it never let up.

And then Saturday night (May 5) brought me back to Brandon (Vt.) Town Hall, where I accompanied 'Metropolis' (1927) to open this year's summer silent film series. (We do one each month through Halloween.) I try to keep the Brandon programs heavy on comedy, as it's a summertime fun series, but I thought the May screening was a good chance to show something a more dramatic.

'Metropolis' certainly filled the bill; many of the 40 or so who showed up had never seen it, and many seemed stunned by it afterwards. (In a good way.) Lots of great conversations before and afterwards, and also a tour of the recently renovated bathrooms, the latest milestone in the continuing effort to renovate Brandon Town Hall. It's amusing that the work isn't quite finished yet, so there are rows of toilets with no partitions installed between them yet. For now, privacy is overrated.

I had an especially interesting conversation with a woman who looks after a young man from Burlington, Vt. who suffers from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She had called me before the show to find out if Brandon Town Hall was accessible to all, and I was pleased to tell her that yes, an elevator had been installed as part of the renovations. (It sounded like I knew what I was talking about.)

During intermission, I got a chance to meet them both in person. I was interested to see how the young man, who has limited motor control of his facial features, is able to communicate in part through use of a picture frame with letters on both sides. He points to letter with his eyes, which allows him to spell out words.

He really seemed to be enjoying the movie, and we had a brief chat about how silent films are sometimes a lot more accessible and enjoyable for people who suffer from a range of conditions that limit their ability to watch contemporary movies. I see a lot of this at screenings I do, and perhaps there's something there. I would love to find out if there's been any research done or if anyone else works in this field. If you do, tell me!

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