Hillsdale, MI: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1923)

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Hillsdale, MI: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1923)

PostFri Jan 20, 2017 9:19 pm


Program includes silent film with organ music
Posted at 12:00 PM

By Nancy Hastings

HILLSDALE - The first of the 2017 Community Concert Series at the Hillsdale First United Methodist Church will feature a silent movie screening with live pipe organ accompaniment Sunday.

A screening of the silent movie "The 10 Commandments" will be shown at 4 p.m., at the church, at 45 N. Manning St. Admission is free. A reception will follow the program.

Music Director John Ourensma said the screening will include live pipe organ accompaniment in the style common in the days of silent movies. Guest artist John Schwandt, from the University of Oklahoma, is a master of the art form of live silent film accompaniment and returns to Hillsdale after his acclaimed performance presenting "The King of Kings" last year. He will perform his own music on the pipe organ to accompany the silent film.

"This unique event may be appreciated on several levels," Ourensma said. "There's the spiritual nature of the great story of Moses, the Exodus, and the giving of the Ten Commandments, and also the fascinating art of black and white silent movies with the experimentation of early forms of color filming. All of this is further enhanced by the amazing and creative skill required for an organist to play live accompaniment to the movie on the pipe organ."

The 1923 version of "The Ten Commandments" was produced and directed by Hollywood's legendary Cecil B. DeMille.

"It's the first of DeMille's biblical trilogy of films," Ourensma said, "followed in 1927 by 'The King of Kings' which we screened with Dr. Schwandt in our concert series last year." The DeMille trilogy of films was completed in 1932 with "The Sign of the Cross."

"The Ten Commandments" was a box office sensation upon its release and was acclaimed for its grandiose and high-tech scenes including the dramatic parting of the Red Sea and the carving of the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, Ourensma added.

"The filming required literally thousands of extras for the crowd scenes, scores of animals of various kinds, as well as film sets of heroic proportions," he said. "While the film begins with the story of the Exodus and the Ten Commandments, it transitions into a 1923-era story of two brothers living by the lessons of the commandments - one following them, the other not so much."

In researching the film for inclusion in the concert series, Ourensma learned that the topic of the film was based on the winning submission to a contest in which the public suggested ideas for DeMille's next film. The winner was a gentleman from Lansing, who included the comment that "you cannot break the Ten Commandments - they will break you."

For further information call 437-3681.

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