http://www.eptrail.com/entertainment/ci ... rovisation
Local pianist finds fun in improvisation
By Daniel West
Estes Park Trail-Gazette
Posted:Thu Jul 06 06:22:25 MDT 2017
This week marks the beginning of the annual Silent Film Festival at the Historic Park Theatre, but what you may not realize is the silent films aren't really silent - they're accompanied by music.
For the fourth year in a row, providing that music, played live as it would have been during the silent film era, is local pianist Scott Wilseck. Wilseck, who splits his time between Estes Park and Chicago, said he has been practicing for the performances since February.
"It's a lot more work and a lot more fun than I expected," Wilseck said. "The original scores are copyrighted to I have to find a song to fit the mood of the scene."
Wilseck will watch each film five or six times before he's decided on the 25 or so songs that will accompany the film. Even after he's decided on the songs, Wilseck said each performance will be different since he doesn't use sheet music.
"I'm not using music so there is improvisation each time I play," Wilseck said. "I don't play the same song the same way every time."
Wilseck said he liked the improvisational aspect of playing piano, which he was able to develop while playing with country western bands, starting in the 1980s. He befriended Dick Haughey, who led a country western band at the time and began playing with him.
The band was a very improvisational act launching from song to song with out giving the performers much warning.
"They wouldn't even tell you what song they were going to be playing," Wilseck said. "They'd just start playing and you had to just play along."
Since then Wilseck has accompanied a wide variety of acts including local band the Riverside Ramblers and local musician Vic Anderson. He got involved with the Silent Film Festival four years ago after an organizer heard him playing an open mic night in Allenspark.
For the first year since he started accompanying the films the format of the festival is changing. What used to be a four night festival will now be a weekly feature, showing films every Friday at 5 p.m. in July and August. Wilseck will continue to open each show with a half hour of music before the films start.
Wilseck said he has a catalog of hundreds of songs he can play by ear during those half hour sessions, or when he plays at the Estes Park Farmers Market, which he does a couple times a year.
"I love improvising and playing by ear," Wilseck said. "I don't memorize the songs. There is something more than memory there. It's like whistling. You don't memorize the tune, you just start whistling."
Wilseck said he's excited for this year's expanded silent film schedule, which will feature a different silent film star each night. Friday's films will show three Buster Keaton films and there will be nights showing Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chase and Fatty Arbuckle films, among others.
Everything related to researching, scoring and performing music with silent film.