Perkins Chapel Wedding Music


BENJAMIN A KOLODZIEJ, Organist 

Welcome to my theatre organ and silent picture page! Although I have been and continue to be a classical organist and church musician, I have enjoyed playing theatre organ for many years, and have within the last several years cultivated my silent picture accompanying skills. Some classical organists accompany silent pictures by inserting their favourite (classic) organ pieces within the narrative. I prefer a more historically-informed (and a more fun and interesting) approach, in which the picture is accompanied by music contemporary with its setting. During the silent era, the organist would often receive a "cue sheet" from the studio with pre-composed themes prescribed for certain scenes. This is a good place for the modern organist to start when developing a score to a film. Nonetheless, many cue sheets are lost, and in some cases the studios simply rehashed themes among movies--resulting in a less than musical performance for us to follow. Nonetheless, I will use original scores when available, but also music contemporary and appropriate to the time, in addition to much original material which I compose. (ie., character leitmotifs, etc.) I enjoy performing silent pictures whenever I can, and a proper theatre organ is not required. I have accompanied silent pictures on electronic organs as well as pipe organs designed along very classical lines. I'm always happy to play silent movies. Do contact me for availability: bkolodzi@smu.edu. To read of my classical organ background, please go here.

To view a compilation of some of my past performances to see what this is all about, please watch here.

One of my favourite books in my personal collection is this first-edition instruction manual for accompanying silent pictures written by George West and Edith Lang.

Moving Picture Repertoire:

Shorts: (usually about 20 minutes)

Cops (1922): A Buster Keaton comedy about a young man who accidentally falls outside of the law and ends up with an entire police force chasing him.

The Playhouse (1921): Set within the context of a variety show, this popular Buster Keaton comedy is the first film to use special effects.

One Week (1920): Buster Keaton and his bride receive a do-it-yourself house in the mail. This comedy features a famous "house-spinning" scene!

 

Features: (between 72-92 minutes)

The Navigator (1924): In this comedy, Buster Keaton, a high-society dilettante, accidentally ends up on a ship bound for a small nation at war.

Steamboat Bill, Jr (1924): Buster Keaton finds himself as an unwitting sailor, caught between his father, an old-style riverboat captain, and a rival captain. The hurricane scene at the end features on of the most famous--and dangerous--scenes in movie history when a house falls down around Keaton, all for comedic effect!

Sherlock, Jr (1924): At 45 minutes, this is Keaton's shortest comedy, and centers around a humble projectionist (Keaton) who undertakes to solve a crime.

The General (1926): Probably Keaton's most famous films, this Civil War-era comedy is based loosely on historical events. In this case, Keaton finds himself a reluctant hero as he strives to recapture his locomotive, The General, from behind enemy lines. It is ranked #18 by the American Film Institute as among best movies ever made.

Phantom of the Opera (1925/29): Based on Gaston Leroux's novel and featuring acclaimed horror actor Lon Cheney, this famous film takes place in Second Empire France, and is notable for its elaborate, beautiful, and authentic sets.

The Parson's Widow (1920): Directed by Carl Theodore Dreyer, this Norwegian dramatic comedy follows the adventures of a young seminary student who is pressured to follow ancient local custom by marrying the widow of the previous pastor of the church to whom he has just been assigned.

The Kid Brother (1927): In this Harold Lloyd comedy, Harold must prove his "toughness" to his family and to his love interest when a nefarious group of strangers enter town.

Speedy (1928): Harold Lloyd's last independent moving picture, this very popular comedy follows an optimistic and likeable fellow as he tries to save an old man's horse and buggy operation in New York City. This film is notable for its candid look at NYC in the 1920s.

The Freshman (1925): In this Harold Lloyd comedy, Harold attempts to gain popularity in college by imitating a popular moving picture star of the era.

Safety Last (1923): In this spoof on the common phrase "safety first," Harold Lloyd undertakes a dangerous but comedic stunt to bring in customers to his new place of employment. This film features one of the most iconic images of the silent film era as Harold dangles precipitously from a clock tower high above Los Angeles! 

Frequently Asked Questions:

1) Do we need copyright permission to view these films? In some cases permission is required and easily obtainable. However, in many cases, the films are long out of copyright. And for those still under copyright, a common video license which most churches and schools maintain cover these films as well.

2) How do we project the moving picture? I have the DVDs. We just need a larger-scale projector and screen, depending on the size of the room. In some cases, the local film club may be interested in helping with authenticity by providing a reel-to-reel projector. This, however, is not necessary and not to be recommended unless someone knows how to use it.

3)  Are people still interested in these films? Aren't they boring? My experience has been that people greatly enjoy them once they have seen one. Children seem to lead the way in laughing and reacting to the events on screen, but even adults have a difficult time holding back! Indeed, the plots are generally fairly predictable (in the sense at least that the good guy always wins), but there are plenty of unexpected comedic moments in the plot as each moving picture develops.

Previous Silent Movie Performances:

St Markus Kirke, Oslo, Norway (2010)

Tyler Street United Methodist Church, Dallas, TX (2011 and 2013)

Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Allen, TX (2013 and 2014) 

Chapel of St John the Divine, Lutheran Home for the Aged, Arlington Heights, IL (2014)

Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Plano, TX (2011-2015

McKinney Performing Arts Center, McKinney, TX (2012)

Allen Civic Auditorium, Allen, TX (2012 and 2014) 

Resurrection Lutheran Church, Plano (2014)

 

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