Catalina Island

Catalina Island Museum Silent Film Benefit to Feature the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will provide the musical accompaniment for both films from the stage of the Avalon Casino Theatre. (© Steve Friedman, 2015)
Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will provide the musical accompaniment for both films from the stage of the Avalon Casino Theatre. © Steve Friedman, 2015

May 16, 2016, AVALON, CATALINA ISLAND – The Catalina Island Museum Silent Film Benefit, May 21, presents a unique opportunity to view two silent comedy classics in the historic Avalon Casino Theatre. The films, “One Week” starring Buster Keaton the “Great Stone Face,” and the all-American boy next door, Harold Lloyd in “The Kid Brother” will feature musical accompaniment by the highly acclaimed Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The Catalina Island Museum recently sat down with Rodney Sauer, founder of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, to discuss the group’s upcoming performance. An excerpt is included below. What is the function of the score for a silent film? The score is telling the emotional story of the film. Silent film acting is a different style, sort of balanced between acting and ballet. The best actors can convey a mood or an emotion with a remarkably subtle change in expression, or even just a gesture. You’ll notice this particularly with Harold Lloyd in “The Kid Brother.” It’s the job of the music to push that emotional feeling along. If you watch this movie in silence, or with an incompatible score, it really doesn’t work as well. Silent filmmakers knew the importance of music, and how it could take a good film and make it either an excellent or a terrible one. For the screening of “One Week,” you are debuting a newly compiled score to accompany the recently restored version of the film that we are screening. Is that correct? If so, please tell us more about this. The Buster Keaton short films were widely popular, and distributed all over the world. But the surviving prints are often incomplete or damaged. We will be showing a version of “One Week” that was restored by Lobster Films, using the best surviving parts of the best surviving prints. This film is part of Lobster Films’ project to restore all of Buster Keaton’s silent short films. We recorded several scores for the project, though “One Week” is not one of them. So this new “alternate score” from Mont Alto will only be heard at live performances, and this is our premiere! Mont Alto was formed in 1989. Each member is very talented and has enjoyed individual success. How were the members selected? There’s been some turnover through the years, but the current roster has been stable for about a decade. These are all excellent classical players, excellent sight-readers, excellent chamber players, and people with a real love for this lost repertoire. We also get along together well, socially and musically. I have never played with better, more dedicated musicians in any ensemble, and I really enjoy my time in the pit with these folks. This style of music is a conversation between the five of us. As a group, you have performed at some of the most prestigious silent film festivals in the country. Is there a favorite performance or event that stands out in your mind? We love playing at the Castro Theater as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival: the large and enthusiastic audience, the historic architecture, and the high-quality projection combine to create a really wonderful experience. We recently have appeared twice at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood for the Turner Classic Movies festival, and that also is a beautiful historic theater that suits our playing very well. I know that we’ll enjoy the Avalon Theatre! It was designed precisely for what we do. The 29th Annual Catalina Island Museum Silent Film Benefit takes place at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, in the historic Avalon Casino Theatre. Live the full experience of the “Roaring Twenties” and come in period dress! Prizes will be awarded to the best-dressed individual, best-dressed couple and best character from each film. Tickets are $25 for members of the museum and $28 for general admission and will be available at the door. Please call 310-510-2414, visit the museum in person, or go to the Silent Film event page at www.CatalinaMuseum.org. Members Pre-Performance Talk Join us for the Members Pre-Performance Talk, prior to the Silent Film Benefit on Saturday, May 21, from 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the Avalon Casino Theatre. Dr. Michael De Marsche, Executive Director of the museum, will present an insiders’ view of the museum’s new home, the Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building. Just one month before the Grand Opening Celebration, De Marsche will share insights into the building’s architecture and the exciting exhibitions, events and programs planned. Become a member today and join us! The Catalina Island Museum is Avalon’s sole institution devoted to art, culture and history. The museum, its digital theater and store are currently located on the ground floor of Avalon’s historic Casino and are open seven days a week, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, the museum may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or at its website: CatalinaMuseum.org.