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Organist to bring silent movies to life
By Patrick Shuster
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
KITTANNING -- When most people go to the movies, it's to see the latest blockbuster with the best special effects and the hottest Hollywood stars.
But those looking to enjoy a different type of movie experience need look no further than to an unexpected and nearby venue: St. John's Lutheran Church in Kittanning.The church will hold its second silent movie night this Friday.
The movies being shown are "The Rink," a 1916 Charlie Chaplin film in which Chaplin is a waiter at a restaurant and shows off his roller-skating prowess, and "The Black Pirate," a 1926 film starring Douglas Fairbanks, which is billed as being one of the only silent movies filmed in color.
The idea for movie night came as a result of two men's passion for movies and music and the art of combining the two into something for the community.
"Silent movies aren't something that you get the chance to see anymore," said church member Jeff Boarts. "Many people have never seen one and this event will help spread this type of entertainment to a wider audience."
Boarts said the first movie night drew 70 to 80 people to the church, and is hoping to draw and even bigger crowd this year.
Eric Cook, former organist and choir director at St. John's, will be providing live organ music to go along with the films. That's something that was done when the movies were first released in the early 1900s.
"It's a challenge to synchronize the music to the movie," Cook said. "There isn't sheet music that goes along with the movies and you just play along."
Cook, now the organist and choir director at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Kittanning, said that once the movies are chosen, he takes time to research the time period and the movie's plot and has to pick music he thinks will go well with the film's action.
"I end up with a combination of sheet music from various sources, and I end up having to watch the movies over and over to be able to match things up," he said. "The final version ends up as a mix of prepared music and some improvisation."
To add to the difficulty of playing live music with a movie, Cook will be using a TV monitor to view the movies as they play.
"The organ sits to the side and behind the screen, so I can't just sit and look at the screen to play," he said.
The movies will be shown in the church on a 12-foot by 20-foot screen using a DVD projector. And of course, no movie screening would be complete without popcorn, which will be available during the event.
The movie night is free to the public and donations will not be accepted.
"We just feel the church is part of the community, and we wanted to have a night where people can come and just enjoy themselves," Boarts said.
The church is at 218 N. Jefferson Street, Kittanning. The first movie will begin at 7 p.m. For information, contact the church at 724-548-2051.
Patrick Shuster can be reached at pshuster(at)tribweb(dot)com or 724-543-1303, ext. 237.
Announcements of upcoming theatrical silent film exhibitions.