Friday, April 16, 2010

SFS: The Gold Rush

San Francisco Symphony
Chaplin: The Gold Rush (1925)
Silent film with live musical accompaniment
Thu, Apr 15, 2010 2:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Donato Cabrera, conductor

Yesterday afternoon at Davies Hall I had the joyous experience of seeing Chaplin's The Gold Rush with the Symphony providing live orchestral accompaniment. The score uses music by Chaplin himself, adapted by Timothy Brock. It's symphonic, with references to popular classics, & supports the mood of the film excellently. It was performed with a light touch by a reduced orchestra. Judging by the sounds effects written into the score, the orchestra was often way behind the film, though.

Davies Hall was very full, & I did not see any empty seats in the orchestra level. Spontaneous applause broke out after the climactic cliff-hanging sequence, & there was even rhythmic clapping when Charlie & Big Jim McKay appear at the end of the film strutting around as millionaires to the tune of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." A woman seated behind me read all the intertitles to her little boy. He started laughing right at the 1st gag, when a bear follows Charlie along a narrow cliff path.

I attended the pre-concert lecture given by silent film evangelist Stephen Salmons. He gave us relevant background about the film's premiere, Chaplin's early life & his start in the movie industry. He emphasized that we were going to see the movie as it was intended, in a large audience with live music, an experience he called "live cinema." He declared that Gold Rush "is not an old movie." He ended with a plug for the SF Silent Film Festival coming up in July, one of my favorite movie events.

Conductor Donato Cabrera dropped his baton as he strode up to the podium, & someone in the front row had to hand it back up to him. A very hands-on Charlie Chaplin impersonator worked his way through the crowd before the show. Only 2 more performances, & I imagine that tickets are going fast.

I heard that at the Saturday matinee Charlie Chaplin came on stage to hand the baton to Maestro Cabrera. He also stuck around after the performance to take pictures with patrons.

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