Friday, May 10, 2019

Best of New England, according to Yankee...
plus 'Safety Last' on Saturday, 5/11 in Brandon, Vt.

Hey, that's me in Yankee Magazine's recent "best of" listings!

Thrilled to be recognized by Yankee Magazine, even if they didn't get around to actually mentioning my name.

Still — glad to see this distinction bestowed upon the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H., where I've accompanied silent films every month for 12 years and counting.

Next up for me: opening night on Saturday, May 11 for this year's silent film series in Brandon, Vt.

Leading off the monthly line-up is Harold Lloyd's thrill comedy 'Safety Last' (1923). Showtime is 7 p.m., and admission is free, although donations are accepted.

Lots more info on the screening and this series in the press release, which I've pasted in below.

For now, I want to state for the record that this evening's screening of 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H. was fabulous!

We enjoyed a bigger-than-normal turnout of about 60 people, not one of whom had seen the film before. Nice!

Response was strong throughout — you could tell the audience was fully engaged by the nearly continuous reactions, which fed on themselves as they traced the story's arc. It's great when that happens!

And the score fell together very effectively. I brought strong material to start, I thought, and the film's leisurely pace gave ample time to develop it.

I even managed to hit all the sound effects cues: door bell, "dingy" bell, police whistles. So it was a very satisfying evening!

Not even the guy who publicly complained that the warm-up music was too loud was able to throw me off my game.

Really — I wasn't one minute into my "Welcome to the Flying Monkey" remarks when he raised his hand. I should have known.

"You know, these movies were shown with piano music," the guy groused. "What you're doing is TOO LOUD. You need to turn it down!"

This caught me off guard. I could tell that besides the issue of volume, he was clearly expecting a simple acoustic piano texture, and here I was with my digital synthesizer working with a full orchestra texture.

Like other accompanists, I work hard to create music that fits a film's atmosphere, captures a scene's emotional temperature, and supports the story.

So what do you say to a guy who is expecting piano music, and is publicly carping about the music before you've even started the adventure of accompanying it?

I tried being diplomatic, but he interrupted, repeating his complaint that the music was TOO LOUD.

But then he overstepped.

"Let's take a vote right now. How many people think the music is too loud?"

At that point, a good portion of the audience moaned and essentially shut him down. So that was that.

Fortunately, the negative energy didn't derail my efforts to score 'Sherlock Holmes.' In fact, it may have served to sharpen my game.

Maybe I should bring this guy with me for every screening.

And on second thought...naaaah.

Hope to see you Saturday night for 'Safety Last.' Remember to drive carefully!

* * *

From 'Safety Last' (1923): the shot seen 'round the world.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Silent film classic 'Safety Last' on Saturday, May 11 in Brandon, Vt.

Thrill comedy climaxed by Harold Lloyd's iconic building climb; with live music at Town Hall

BRANDON, Vt.—It's an image so powerful, people who've never seen the movie still instantly recognize it.

The vision of Harold Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock, from the climax of his silent comedy 'Safety Last,' (1923), has emerged as a symbol of the "anything goes" spirit of early Hollywood and the magic of the movies.

See how Harold gets into his high-altitude predicament in a screening of 'Safety Last,' one of Lloyd's most popular films, on Saturday, May 11 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall, Route 7, Brandon, Vt.

Admission is free; donations are encouraged, with all proceeds support ongoing restoration of the Town Hall, which dates from 1860 and is being brought up to modern standards as funds allow.

Over the years, silent film donations have helped support projects including disabled access to the 19th century building; renovating the bathrooms; and restoring the structure's original slate roof.

'Safety Last' marks the opening of the 2019 Brandon silent film series. The screening is sponsored by local residents Tracey Holden and Kirk Thomas.

The story of 'Safety Last' follows young go-getter Lloyd to the big city, where he hopes to make his mark in business and send for his small town sweetheart. His career at a downtown department store stalls, however, until he gets a chance to pitch a surefire publicity idea—hire a human fly to climb the building's exterior.

However, when the human fly has a last-minute run-in with the law, Harold is forced to make the climb himself, floor by floor, with his sweetheart looking on. The result is an extended sequence blending comedy and terror designed to hold viewers spellbound.

Lloyd, along with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, is regarded as one of the silent screen's three great clowns. Lloyd's character, a young go-getter ready to struggle to win the day, proved hugely popular in the 1920s. While Chaplin and Keaton were always favored by the critics, Lloyd's films reigned as the top-grossing comedies throughout the period.

'Safety Last' launches the ninth season of monthly silent film screenings in Brandon, bringing fans a taste of movie-going when motion pictures were a brand new art form.

"Put the whole experience back together, and you can see why people first fell in love with the movies," said Rapsis, a practitioner of the nearly lost art of silent film accompaniment.

Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra, creating a traditional "movie score" sound.

"Seeing 'Safety Last' with an audience is one of the great thrill rides of the cinema of any era, silent or sound," Rapsis said. "Harold's iconic building climb, filmed without trick photography, continues to provoke audience responses nearly 100 years after film was first released."

Harold hangs in there.

Tributes to the clock-hanging scene have appeared in several contemporary films, most recently in Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' (2011), which includes clips from 'Safety Last.'


"Impossible to watch without undergoing visitations of vertigo, Safety Last's climactic sequence is all it's reputed to be.”
—TV Guide

"Harold Lloyd manages to make the characters sympathetic enough to carry the audience's concern on his journey of crazy stunts and mishaps. One of the best of this era."
—David Parkinson, Empire Magazine

"The climb has both comic and dramatic weight because it is both a thrilling exercise in physical humor and a thematically rich evocation of the pressures men feel to succeed, lest they be viewed as less than a man."
—James Kendrick, Q Network Film Desk

Other films in this year's Brandon Town Hall silent film series include:

• Saturday, June 15, 7 p.m.: 'Chicago' (1927) starring Phyllis Haver. The original big screen adaptation of the notorious Jazz Age tabloid scandal, based on real events. Dancer Roxie Hart is accused of murder! Is she innocent or headed for the slammer? Later made into the popular Broadway musical. Screening sponsored by Nancy and Gary Meffe.

• Saturday, July 13, 7 p.m.: 'Woman in the Moon' (1929) directed by Fritz Lang. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, a grand sci-fi adventure epic about the first rocket ship to the moon. The final silent feature from German filmmaker Fritz Lang (director of 'Metropolis'), 'Woman in the Moon' laid the groundwork for all outer space movies to come. Ponder a vision of the future as imagined by one of yesterday's great moviemakers. Screening sponsored by Pam and Steve Douglass.

• Saturday, Aug. 10, 7 p.m.: 'Our Hospitality' (1923) starring Buster Keaton. Classic comedy/drama about a long-running family feud. Filled with great gags and a timeless story that culminates in a dramatic river rescue where Buster nearly lost his life for real! Screening sponsored by Bill and Kathy Mathis, in memory Of Maxine Thurston.

• Saturday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m.: 'The Beloved Rogue' (1926) starring John Barrymore. Epic costume adventure based on the life of 15th century French poet Fran├žois Villon. Wrongly banished from the Royal Court and sentenced to death, can the patriotic poet save France from an evil plot and while he's at it, win the hand of his noble beloved? Screening sponsored by Donald and Dolores Furnari, Sally Wood, Edward Loedding and Dorothy Leysath, and Connie Kenna.

• Friday, Oct. 25, 7 p.m.: 'Faust' (1926), directed by F.W. Murnau. Emil Jannings stars in this terrifying version of the classic tale. A visual tour de force, full of creepy characters and frightening images. Our annual 'Chiller Theatre' presentation for Halloween! Screening sponsored by Jan Coolidge and Nancy and Gary Meffe.

See Harold Lloyd's iconic thrill comedy 'Safety Last' (1923), to be shown on Saturday, May 11 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall, Route 7, Brandon, Vt. The program is free and open to the public. Free will donations are encouraged. For more information, visit For more about the music, visit

For more information about the music, visit

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