Matthew Bason at the Temple Theatre in Meridian, August 27, 2017.
Wings was the featured silent movie. This movie,
from 1927, was the very first Academy Award Winner. Since there was
no sound track, dialog and/or comment had to be presented occasionally
on screen. Unlike many subtitles one sees on modern TV, considerable
attention was given to legibility. Another important accompaniment
was music, and this was provided locally, typically with a theatre
organ, or, in the case of small venues, with a piano. The musicians
were master improvisers, and the better ones, especially with theatre
organs, had many, many short passages - perhaps a hundred or more -
that would be appropriate for a variety of situations: for example,
a police car chasing someone would be accompanied by a frenzied
passage complete with a siren (or, as it used to be pronounced out
in the country, a sireen). These short passages would be organized
in the player's memory in categories that were instantly retrievable.
Even with this simple explanation, it is still an incredible experience
to hear a good theatre organist do this. And so it was with Matthew
Bason (a top British theatre organist) who played without stopping for
90 minutes, and then again after intermission another 90 minutes
including a temporary failure of the computer providing the images on
the screen. And to increase the astonishment, for preparation he had
watched the movie only one time, the day before the performance.
The movie itself dealt with the airwar in World War I, such as it was,
with slow but highly maneuverable biplanes and some lumbering bombers.
By coincidence I had seen - only a day before - the acclaimed
contemporary movie Dunkirk, about an important incident at the start of
World War II, including major air-fights. In my view - perhaps I was
prejudiced - the 1927 movie surpassed the 2017 one (90 years later)
in emotion and realism, even though it lacked audible dialog
(although the attendant plane sounds pretty much blocked the 2017
dialog - but in that environment, who needs dialog?). The plane
crashes were shown in much more detail in 1927.
We are grateful to the Magnolia Chapter of the American Theatre Organ
Society for sponsoring this show, and for vital assistance in
maintaining the Mighty Morton Organ.
Glenn A Gentry