On Saturday night, veteran Memphis musician Alex Greene and an ensemble of jazz and symphony musicians will perform alongside a screening of a silent film masterpiece by Buster Keaton at The Grove at the Germantown Performing Arts Center .
The film is “The Cameraman” (1928), a comedy about a news photographer that more or less marks the culmination of one of the most extraordinary creative journeys in film history, when Keaton, in the face of stone and the rubber limbs has starred in “Sherlock Jr.”, “Seven Chances”, “The General” and other feature films which demonstrate that digital effects are less advantageous than imagination and ingenuity when it is about staging memorable and seemingly death-defying burlesque stunts.
The whole is a little more difficult to explain. It consists of 12 musicians led by Greene, the keyboardist who composed the original score which the group will perform to accompany the ancient action of “The Cameraman”.
Skilled in avant-garde as well as pop and rock-and-roll (Greene is a member of the famous rock band Reigning Sound), the musicians of the evening will include members of Greene’s jazz-oriented Rolling Head Orchestra, mingled to the moonlight of the Blueshift Ensemble’s Memphis Symphony. The only resident outside is Kate Tayler Hunt, a resident of Florence historically linked to Memphis, the city in Alabama that was the birthplace of WC Handy and Sam Phillips.
Horns, woodwinds, percussion, and acoustic and electric stringed instruments (including a steel pedal guitar) will be presented by Greene’s musicians, who sort of represent Memphis’s Who’s Who session players, at the both in the studio and on stage. But Hunt will play a theremin, a weird and frightening device – associated with the screen with flying saucers and hypnotic trances – which is controlled via “oscillators” and intact antennas, much like wizards or witches at Hogwarts. conjure spells out of thin air. waving their hands.
If the theremin is generally unrelated to comedy, the instrument will reinforce the “sense of mystery” that is an undercurrent of Keaton’s film, Greene said: “The mystery of photography and the mystery of l ‘love”.
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Silent films + Memphis musicians
Featured in the outdoor setting of The Grove, where GPAC has scheduled most of its events since the 2020 coronavirus shutdowns, “The Cameraman” – included in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, which recognizes works that are ” culturally, historically or aesthetically significant “- is a new addition to Grove’s intermittent film program that consists primarily of covers of” classic “music-themed films, presented on a state-of-the-art high definition screen . (“Sister Act” screened at 7pm on Friday July 9, with “School of Rock” scheduled for July 16 and “Grease” for July 23.)
But “The Cameraman” event is also a kind of a cross-town sequel to the pre-pandemic Memphis silent film and musician series of screenings at the Crosstown Theater at Crosstown Concourse.
Specifically, the event follows Green’s contribution to the series in January 2020, when he and the ensemble he would assemble for “The Cameraman” performed his original score for “Aelita: Queen of Mars”, a 1924 Soviet science fiction film.
“It was a very delicate proposition, but it was a great success,” said Greene, 56. “In terms of assistance, it was better than expected. But artistically the 12 players in the group were very happy with the way we carried it. We had very precise cues and distinct pieces of music that were triggered by events on screen, and we hit all of our benchmarks.
“So we were congratulating ourselves and the folks at Crosstown Arts were very happy and we wanted to do it again, but then of course COVID-19 happened, and it was all put aside.”
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In recent months, however, with the vaccine available, Greene has started to think about making another silent film score, even though the Crosstown film schedule remains on hiatus. Greene and GPAC Executive Director Paul Chandler decided the film should be a comedy, to match The Grove’s family atmosphere and provide a cheerful experience for audiences weary of the lockdown.
The score “Aelita” was strange, grand and dramatic, in keeping with the themes of the history of interplanetary travel and revolutionary politics. For “The Cameraman,” Greene said, he took inspiration from jazz music that would have been contemporary when Keaton and co-director Edward Sedgwick made their film.
Greene said: “It was the height of the jazz era, when Duke Ellington was hitting his beat, so I decided to steer him more in an Ellington direction.”
Additionally, Greene stated that his composition “Cameraman” eschews the elbow-in-rib notation that is typical of sheet music written for burlesque comedies and cartoons. “I decided that the music would be the right man, and we would let Buster generate the laughs.”
‘The Cameraman’ by Buster Keaton accompanied by Alex Greene & the Rolling Head Orchestra & guest musicians
Saturday July 10.
Doors: 6.30 p.m. Film and music: 7.30 p.m.
Food provided by Fuel food truck.
Admission: $ 15.