Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

LACO newbie

my first silent film

May 23, 2011

On Sunday night, I attended my first Silent Film. No, I don’t mean to say that I’ve never seen a film without sound before, because I have (although not many). What I mean is that before last night, I’ve never been to LACO’s annual Silent Film event. Can you believe it? I’ve been going to LACO concerts for, I don’t know, about 4 or 5 years now, and I’ve been their LACO Newbie blogger for 3 seasons, but in regards to their annual Silent Film benefit, I’m a newbie in every sense of the word. I’ve wanted to go, but have had the bad luck in recent years of being out of town on the big night. This year, I was in town, and I’m so glad I went. Let me share the reasons why.

It can be so easy to underappreciate movie music. Many times, film scores that stand out are the bad ones – overly obnoxious or maudlin, while good ones serve the story and set the mood without being overbearing. Back in the days of silent films, music was a key element, because so many things that we take for granted in films today, like dialogue and sound effects, just didn’t exist. So to go to an event that celebrates film music the way this event does – by performing them live – is really a treat.

LACO screened two Charlie Chaplin films this year: A Dog’s Life and Shoulder Arms. About 10 or 12 LACO musicians joined conductor Timothy Brock in playing the scores while we all watch the films in Royce Hall, and it was splendid. I’ve always thought that staying together and playing in unison must be tough enough as it is, but throw in the added challenge of lining up the music with the action on the screen, and I bet Mr. Brock’s mind was plenty occupied! It’s a high compliment that after a while, I honestly forgot the Orchestra was even there: their full, rich, enthusiastic sound, paired with Chaplin’s top-notch comedy, created an immersing experience that was unlike any other cinematic event I’ve been to.

The evening began with a classic Disney short, Trolley Troubles, which featured a brand-new score by Alexander Rannie, who led a quartet of musicians from the piano. It was during these five or six minutes that I really gained an appreciation for timing in music – Rannie cleverly scored every punchline and sound effect, and created a couple lovely recurring themes, and it was all executed perfectly. You’d think this score had been played countless times, but the performance on Sunday night was actually the world premiere!

Hopefully, many of you out there checking out this blog on your computers were right there in Royce Hall with me last night, and if you weren’t, well, you can always clear your calendar for next year. LACO has already announced that next year, for their Silent Film, they’ll be presenting two Harold Lloyd comedies, High and Dizzy and Kid Brother, so keep May 20, 2012 clear!

This marks my final blog for the season, and I just wanted to thank everyone at LACO for another great season, and a big thank you to everyone out there for reading! Have a lovely summer!

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