Sat, Mar 18|
Alfred Hitchcock's BLACKMAIL! Pipe Organ Musical Score by Dennis James
Join us for an unforgettable film-concert experience! Our evening begins with Lois Weber's groundbreaking thriller: SUSPENSE! (1913), followed by Alfred Hitchcock's early masterpiece: BLACKMAIL! (1929) featuring a phenomenal live soundtrack performed on the 1916 Estey Pipe Organ by Dennis James.
Time & Location
Mar 18, 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St, Brattleboro, VT 05301, USA
About the Event
Join us for an unforgetable film-concert experience in our Sanctuary! Hitchcock's early masterpiece: BLACKMAIL! featuring a phenomenal live soundtrack performed on our Historic 1916 Estey pipe organ by one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists, Dennis James! Tonight's program begins with Lois Weber's groundbreaking short SUSPENSE! (1913).
SUSPENSE! (1913, 10 minutes). Lois Weber was an early film pioneer and the first American woman to direct a full-length feature film in 1913, and one of the first to own her own film studio. Infused with the conviction that film could change culture, she directed over 135 films about controversial subject matters such as capital punishment, police violence, birth control, and poverty. In SUSPENSE!, Weber combines closeups, off-kilter angles, split screen, mirrors, inventive point-of-view shots, bold compositions and other devices to create a disturbing and stylish short film. It’s a powerful showcase for the numerous filmmaking techniques that were available in 1913 but rarely employed simultaneously and with such skill.
"In BLACKMAIL! (1929, 76 minutes), Alfred Hitchcock’s final silent film, guilt spreads like a virus across London, from criminal to accomplice, and as it travels, it subsumes the city itself. By the end of this film, even London’s most respectable neighbourhoods and institutions will have been transformed by a rippling crimewave."-Silent London
Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) is a leading example of a commercially successful film director who never lost his taste for innovation and experimentation. Yet, his impressive body of work remains extremely personal and unified in its vision of a precarious universe. During Hitchcock’s youthful years in Germany, he was exposed to the working methods of German Expressionist auteur F. W. Murnau (then filming The Last Laugh) and savored the sophisticated technical facilities at the pioneering Ufa Studio. In Hitchcock's early films this influence is apparent, for the chase sequence at the British Museum in Blackmail!, he used Eugen Schüfftan’s mirror effect, which he had observed at Ufa when Schüfftan was doing special effects for Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen. In Blackmail!, key Hitchcock themes such as moral ambiguity and transference of guilt emerge, as well as several stylistic trademarks recognizable in his later, more famous films... Keep a vigilant eye out for Alfred's first on-screen cameo!
About the Live Musical Score on Our Historic Estey Pipe Organ:
Dennis James began formal organ training at the age of 12. He began performing for silent films in 1969 and began working with symphony orchestras in 1971. For over 40 years, the renowned organist has played a pivotal role in the international revival of silent films paired with live music. He has been resident organist at various venues including the El Capitan in Hollywood and Paramount Theatre in Seattle, where he specialized in period-authentic music. Along with organ, James plays the Franklin glass armonica and the theremin. In the 1980s, James toured with silent stars Lillian Gish and Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, providing musical accompaniment. His research and experiences have led him to develop performance practices utilizing the surviving musical source materials from the silent film era with unwavering commitment to stylistic integrity in performance. His production company, Silent Film Concerts have amassed one of the largest private libraries of authentic silent film music in existence today, acquired via film musicians, film music collectors and from historic theatres throughout the world. It includes complete original film scores plus hundreds of published generic silent film music compositions that are used to create historically accurate new musical scores where the originals do not survive. The resulting accompaniment performances are presented as historical recreations faithful to scoring practices of the period of each individual film’s original release. This will be the 3rd appearance by Dennis James at Epsilon Spires, Dennis has previously performed live soundtracks for Nosferatu, and Phantom of the Opera on our Sanctuary organ.
“Silent films are a rare and precious art form of tremendous historical importance, and the art of live musical accompaniment to a silent film is a discipline of equally important historic value. Dennis James is both a musician of tremendous artistic scope and range, and a scholar who strives to preserve and restore this unique 20th century musical practice. To witness a contemporary audience experience the beauty and power of silent film through the overwhelming symphonic dynamism that Dennis James unleashes with unerring skill on the theatre organ is an absolute revelation. He’s a national treasure.” — Stephen Salmons, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Admission for one to Alfred Hitchcock's BLACKMAIL! w/Pipe Organ Soundtrack by Dennis James. Refreshments will be provided. Please choose your seating with respect for others and let us know if you require special arrangements. $2 from every ticket goes directly towards the historic preservation of the venue. Thank you for your support! Enjoy the program!
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General Admission Tickets for this event are $20. Thanks to a generous grant from the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation, subsidized tickets are available for those who self-identify as experiencing financial hardship. In order to make this program accessible for all, we are offering tickets by sliding scale. Taking equity and inclusion into account, please pay what you can to help support the artists and venue.
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