130 Years of Chaplin: Silent Movies Made Musical with the Mighty Wurlitzer | Thu., May 9 | Music Hall Ballroom

CAA_130 Years of Chaplin logo

Featuring acclaimed theatre organist Clark Wilson and
guest emcee, Carmon DeLeone, Music Director of the Cincinnati Ballet

CINCINNATI, OH – The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall (SPMH) is pleased to announce the return of its popular Silent Film Concert Series with 130 Years of Chaplin: Silent Movies Made Musical with the Mighty Wurlitzerat  Cincinnati’s Music Hall Ballroom on Thursday, May 9, 2019 at 10:30 AM and 7:00 PM. This popular Spring organ concert is the perfect Thursday Throwback for the entire family! 

Tickets are on sale now at www.CincinnatiArts.org, (513) 621-ARTS [2787], and the Aronoff Center and Music Hall Ticket Offices. For groups of ten or more, call (513) 977-4157.

There’s nothing quite like the unique sound of the Albee Theater’s Mighty Wurlitzer − an orchestra and more all in one organ! 130 Years of Chaplin: Silent Movies Made Musical with the Mighty Wurlitzer will feature acclaimed theater organist Clark Wilson and will be emceed by Cincinnati Ballet Music Director, Carmon DeLeone. Wilson will bring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan to life in The Kid, widely considered one of the greatest films of the silent film era. Chaplin wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this 1921 comedy/drama, which has stood the test of time much like Cincinnati’s beloved Cincinnati Music Hall and the Mighty Wurlitzer!

Charlie Chaplin
Charles Chaplin was born on April 16, 1889 to two music hall musicians and was an actor by the age of eight. After his parents’ separation, he spent much of his youth in and out of work houses during times of his mother’s instability. Chaplin opened a window into his life through his films and found a way to weave comedy into the drama of living. An icon of the early Hollywood era of film making, he is widely known for his independent films and music composition, which he continued for many years.  He is survived by nine children, and though he is often remembered for the tiny mustache under his bowler hat, his contributions to the world of film are irrefutable.

The Kid is regarded as one of his best efforts and revealed to many the seriousness of his talents. In 2011, the film was preserved in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, which states that The Kid is “an artful melding of touching drama, social commentary, and inventive comedy,” and goes on to say that Chaplin “sustained his artistry beyond the length of his usual short subjects and could deftly elicit a variety of emotions from his audiences by skillfully blending slapstick and pathos.”  Jeffrey Vance, Chaplin biographer, wrote that “The Kid (1921) is one of Charles Chaplin’s finest achievements and remains universally beloved by critics and audiences alike. The film is a perfect blend of comedy and drama and is arguably Chaplin’s most personal and autobiographical work.”

The Mighty Wurlitzer
The Mighty Wurlitzer was installed in the ornate Albee Theater on Fountain Square in December 1927 – one of only 2,200 theatre organs produced at that time to accompany silent feature films.  When talkies took over in 1929, the theatre organ was mainly silenced.  The Albee organ was donated to the Emery Theater in 1969 (where it played for movies and other events) and was partially rebuilt by the Ohio Valley Organ Club. It was removed from the Emery in 1999 and put into storage.

The leadership at SPMH thought the historic Music Hall Ballroom would be an ideal location for the instrument, and in June 2007, Ronald F. Wehmeier, Inc., Pipe Organ Service in Cincinnati was contacted to completely rebuild and install the Wurlitzer. A donor foundation funded the entire project in the amount of $1.41 million. Only a small number of Wurlitzers of this size still exist, and Cincinnati (the home of the Wurlitzer Company) is one of the few cities in the country to have an instrument of this quality.

The Wurlitzer was expanded in tonal colors and effects, from 19 ranks of pipes to 31 ranks (a rank is made up of 61 pipes, and represents orchestral sounds, such as trumpets, flutes, tubas, strings, etc.).  A full array of percussion effects is also present – xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, chimes, and even a large Steinway grand – all playable from the giant three keyboard and pedal console, decorated in 22-karat gold leaf.  Wind for the pipes is provided by a 15 HP high pressure turbine, the electrical switching is controlled by computer, and pipes range in size from 16 feet to the size of a pencil.  In addition, the Wurlitzer is now fully computerized, so that it can be played without an organist through a digital input system.

Clark Wilson
Clark Wilson is one of the most prominent and recognized scorers of silent photoplays in America today. He works exclusively with the Organ in developing accurate and historic musical accompaniments as they were performed in major picture palaces during the heyday of the silent film.

Clark was personally influenced by, and subsequently became close friends with, Chicago area organist John Muri, who was an original master of picture accompaniment and practiced his art well into the 1980s. His (and Wilson’s) historic style was that of utilizing fine music as a basis for developing a score of musical value. If the original score is no longer extant, a new one is prepared from the organist’s library and is normally transferred to a cue sheet – somewhat of a “road map” of suggested themes and notated screen actions which keep the organist fully on course. The development of themes in serious pictures is obtained exclusively in this way, and it must be considered the truest way to properly underscore screen action. Nothing is left to chance and wholesale improvisation is not relied upon. Further, the musical style of the time remains intact; no attempt is made to distract from the picture by using themes or styles that entered the musical scene years later. Most important of all, the film remains the focus and star of the performance.

Wilson began his scoring career in 1980 and has successfully toured North America with hundreds of film presentations at schools and universities, performing art centers, theatres, film festivals, and conventions. His work has led to performances for UCLA; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where, in addition to other pictures, he has re-premiered Wings for Paramount Studios’ 100th Anniversary; the Chautauqua Institution; Cinequest and San Francisco film festivals; the Los Angeles Conservancy; the Packard Foundation’s Stanford Theatre film series; the Atlanta premier of the restored Metropolis; and annual presentations at the Atlanta Fox Theatre, and for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Society at the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ. He is the organist of choice for many of the American Theatre Organ Society’s international convention silent film presentations, and he has scored pictures for Kino International for public DVD release. His performances have received the highest marks from colleagues and professionals, one commenting that his was “the finest use of a theatre pipe organ that I have ever heard.”

Clark has been organ conservator and Resident Organist at the Ohio Theatre for the Columbus Associate for the Performing Arts since 1992 and is responsible for all music during the annual classic movie series, which also features one or more major silent films each season. In addition, he has led courses in theatre organ styling and silent film accompaniment at the Indiana University School of Music. He has now developed curriculum and has been appointed to the organ faculty at the University of Oklahoma’s Organ Department, where he teaches applied theatre organ lessons, silent film scoring, and the history of the American theatre organ, the first such program to exist since 1929. In addition to several articles published in Theatre Organ magazine, he has recently authored an article on film scoring for The American Organist magazine, periodical of the American Guild of Organists.

Wilson has been named in numerous Who’s Who and Men of Achievement editions and was presented with the ATOS Organist of the Year award in 1998. An acclaimed organ technician and consultant, he has also been professionally involved with over 200 pipe organ installations to date and has earned the ATOS Technician of Merit award, the only person to receive both ATOS distinctions.

Carmon DeLeone
Carmon DeLeone, Music Director of Cincinnati Ballet and Conductor Laureate of the Illinois Philharmon­ic Orchestra and the Middletown Symphony, has served as Conductor and Host of the Family Concert Series at New York’s Carnegie Hall and has conducted frequent performances in Europe with the Luxembourg Philharmonic. He has com­posed many original scores for the Ballet. His best-known work, Peter Pan, is performed nationally and overseas. As Assistant Conductor, and later Resident Conductor, of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, DeLeone served on its staff with Music Directors Max Rudolf, Thomas Schippers, Walter Susskind, and Erich Kunzel. He was also selected by Mae­stro Erich Leinsdorf to participate in an intensive master conducting seminar at Lincoln Center. He possesses a wide range of musical interests and is experienced in both the classics and jazz, whether leading his own “Studio Big Band” from the drum set or playing the French horn in both idioms. Maestro DeLeone made his New York conducting debut with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at City Center and his Carnegie Hall debut with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. DeLeone is a recipient of the Post-Corbett Award and most recently was awarded the esteemed MacDowell Medal by the Cincinnati MacDowell Society.

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