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Bringing sounds to silence
By AJOYA LONG Special to The Herald-Mail Sep 2, 2018
At 3 years old, Dave Calendine’s gift of music was shown through his use of a player piano.
“I grew up with a player piano and I just always loved the music and so I just started playing along with the player mechanism and then I just started branching off of playing things, on my own without the piano player part,” Calendine said.
As he got older, he took an interest in the organ at his church.
“I was just fascinated that you can have so many different sounds from one instrument, you could play with your feet, you had multiple keyboards that each had a different sound on them that you could change, and so I was just fascinated by that, and then when I heard the theater organ when I was 16. I did the best with what I had to do and what I had to get my hands on and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Calendine said.
Now living in Detroit, Calendine is a resident organist and organ curator for Detroit’s Fox Theatre.
He has played for the Radio City Musical Hall Christmas Spectacular and serves as chairman of the American Theatre Organ Society.
Calendine will perform the music for the screening of the 1923 silent film, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hagerstown.
“The movie, compared to now, is very (PG) rated, but it also gives a great showing of just how movies get done back then. The special effects that are used during this movie are, of the time. The movie was made back in the ’20s was very ground breaking, and compared to what we’re used to today — where we have all these computers — they had nothing back then,” Calendine said. “We’re used to the modern-day version. The latest one I know was the animated feature that Disney did with all the music and this is a completely different take on the same exact story.”
To get a feel for the movie, Calendine will watch the film a few times before the show and from there he is able to create themes for the characters to use as his base.
“So it is not quite impromptu but there is a lot of impromptu stuff that comes up as well. But I also make a cue sheet that helps me remind me of what is about to come up on the screen so that I can be prepared to provide the proper accompaniment,” Calendine said.
He also practices using his Allen organ that was made for him about 25 years ago and with several other theater organs in Detroit that he can access.
His love for music will always begin with the organ, his favorite musical instrument.
“The organ is the king of instruments because you can do so much more with them. You have everything from nice, soft strings to a full organ that just really, it’s just a very powerful instrument that is unlike no other. You have full resources, thousands of pipes that you’re in as you get to play and it can really be a moving experience when it’s played because it’s so massive,” Calendine said.
Calendine wants the film to be the focus of the show and not so much on his performance.
“Because I’m not the feature star of this event, the movie is, I’m just accompanying it,” he said.
There is one main goal that Calendine want to achieve during the screening.
“My goal as an accompaniment for a silent movie is to actually make you forget that I’m there. I want you to watch the movie and I want my music to be accordingly. I don’t want to overplay the movie because the organ is actually the accompaniment to the film. I want them to enjoy the film, I want them to be drawn into the film and into the story and almost forget that I’m there,” he said.
If you go…
WHAT: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
WHEN: Preshow musical selections begin at 7:30; showtime at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7
WHERE: St. John’s Episcopal Church, 101 S. Prospect St., Hagerstown
COST: A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the St. John’s Music Series
CONTACT: Call Father John at 541-659-8151
Announcements of upcoming theatrical silent film exhibitions.
I used to live in Hagerstown, Maryland, and that was the church I attended. It has a beautiful old pipe organ.