Double Bill of Silent Films at PAC Accompanied by Live New Scores
By Jim Walker
Classic Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd silent films will take on new vigor and emotion as the Valencia Symphony Orchestra accompanies them with live performances of new scores – at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. The double bill, live-to-picture event features two of the comedic giants of the silent era in Chaplin’s “The Adventurer” and Lloyd’s “The Freshman,” and piggybacks on the VSO’s acclaimed live-to-picture “Nosferatu” performance at the PAC last October.
“The Adventurer” (1917) tells the story of an escaped convict who finds favor with a wealthy family after he saves their daughter from drowning. The film is the most popular of the “Mutuals” (Chaplin wrote, produced, directed and starred in 12 films for the Mutual Film Corporation), and it begins and ends with a chase. It is said to be the fastest-paced film of the series, and, although slapstick, it takes that to amazing levels through Chaplin’s balletic grace.
André Assaiante, Music Director and Board Chair of the Valencia Symphony Orchestra, noted that “The Adventurer” will feature a brand new original score written by Wani Han, Victor Kong, Joy Ngiaw and himself, and performed by 13 members of the VSO. “It will be a world premiere!” he said.
Harold Lloyd’s “The Freshman” (1925) is the story of a college freshman, Harold Lamb, trying to become popular by joining the college’s football team. Lamb incorporates Lloyd’s “glasses character” in the film, and 2017 marks 100 years since the first appearance of that character – which was Lloyd’s most memorable comic persona and the star of his greatest shorts and features.
Considered by many as the first “sports movie,” “The Freshman” was Lloyd’s biggest moneymaker. It will be accompanied by a new score from the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, performed by the VSO.
Formed in 2015, the Valencia Symphony Orchestra is André Assaiante’s brainchild, and he said, “The mission of the orchestra is to bring music to the widest audience at the highest level of performance. And we also have a relationship with the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra.”
Regarding live-to-picture events, Assaiante said the “Nosferatu” show for Halloween in 2016 was the premiere performance by the VSO, and he added, “It was a critical success and had audience members asking for more.”
Assaiante said that he is a big proponent of the re-score. “As much as we love the original music, if you can find it, the fact is that for most films prior to the ’20s there were no permanent cue sheets. We have a respect for the original cue sheets, but if the studios and music directors had the tools that we now have for synchronizing, composing, arranging and recording, they would have created customized cues, reflecting exactly what the director really wanted instead of recycling existing songs and hoping for the best. That’s why it’s so much fun.” And he added, “Conducting is a blast, especially with top quality musicians, such as we have. And this show is fun for the whole family.”
Assaiante said that savvy audience members will take note of a lot of things. “I’m going to spend a few minutes before the show comparing the two films. Chaplin was the consummate director of Charlie Chaplin, a mime. It is more like legitimate theater. In contrast, Lloyd used big ensemble casts, tracking shots, pans, etc. The two films are drastically different. The actors are very different. Chapin is very precise, while Lloyd is purposefully sloppy. At the end, when he gets the girl or whatever, you get the feeling you ARE Harold Lloyd. Their comedic styles are very different, as are their cinematography, action, sets and story lines.”
In terms of the music that will be performed, Assaiante said the Lloyd film will have more of a full orchestral sound, while the Chaplin film will be a little bit more boutique, although at the end it gets quite raucous. “We chose this Chaplin film because it has a broader array of moods and situations that the orchestra will portray.”
In summation, Assaiante said, “Most people have never seen this sort of combination of film and music. It may sound odd but it’s extremely entertaining and fulfilling. After the first few moments go by you will almost forget there’s an orchestra there – except when you realize that we can see you.”
Tickets, at $20, $25 and $30, are available by calling the SCPAC box office at 661-362-5304 or by visiting CanyonsPac. The Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons is located at 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91355.