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WTAMU Symphony Orchestra to Present Charlie Chaplin

Jan. 27, 2009

CONTACT:    Dr. Mark Bartley, 806-651-2830, mbartley@wtamu.edu
                        Dr. B.J. Brooks, 806-651-2862, bbrooks@wtamu.edu

COPY BY:    Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129, rmcdonald@wtamu.edu

WTAMU Symphony Orchestra to Present Charlie Chaplin's 'The Kid'

Presentation to Premiere Original Score

CANYON, Texas—The West Texas A&M University Symphony Orchestra will combine the magic of live cinema with the premiere of an original score to present Charlie Chaplin’s classic silent film The Kid at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8 in Mary Moody Northen Recital Hall on campus.

The WTAMU Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Mark Bartley, assistant professor of music, will perform the musical score, composed by Dr. B.J. Brooks, assistant professor of music, while the 1921 black-and-white silent film plays on the wide screen.

Films of that era truly were silent, and audiences relied on orchestral pieces to add suspense and drama to the scenes playing before their eyes. Today the cost for silent movie and music rights is often prohibitive and that is what prompted Bartley to visit with Brooks about the possibility of writing a new score for a film.

“We talked about doing it in 2010, which would give me plenty of time,” Brooks said, “but he called me in September to see if I could do it this year.”

That’s all it took. Brooks immediately set to work and in October and 70,000 musical notes later, he had a musical score ready for The Kid.

It took hours of work, mostly at night at home, but Brooks is pleased with the finished product.

“At the first rehearsal, the orchestra played it from beginning to end without stopping. I was impressed and delighted. The orchestra is a very talented group.”

And Bartley is pleased, too.

“He said he could finish the score so we could read through it in late October and be ready to rehearse it in January,” he said. “He pulled it off. To compose with such quality is a rare gift, but to do it with such speed is divine.”

The Kid, Chaplin’s first full-length movie, was the second-highest grossing film in 1921. Chaplin actually wrote the musical score for the film which stars Chaplin as the Tramp and Jackie Coogan as the kid. It tells the story of the love between the Tramp and the abandoned child he takes in as his own.

Brooks watched the film a few times before sitting down to work on the musical score. The viewings helped him decide on a leitmotif approach, which is a Wagnerian style of having each character represented by a theme.

“Once I decided on the approach, I made a list of characters and worked on each of their themes,” Brooks said.

The musical score features three main themes representing the three main characters—the Tramp, the kid and the mother of the abandoned child. The specific music follows each character throughout the film and the movie ends with a big swell of music, which Brooks wrote as a combination of all three themes playing together.

“This is my first orchestral work for film,” Brooks said, “and I hope it spurs other opportunities for writing.”

Bartley will take the production on the road Feb. 10-14. The group will perform The Kid at the Ector Theatre in Odessa on Tuesday, Feb. 10, followed by live-cinema presentations at Midland High School and Abilene Cooper High School before appearing at the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) in San Antonio. At TMEA, Bartley will discuss the benefits and challenges of performing live cinema and demonstrate with clips from three movies: The Kid, Phantom of the Opera and The Iron Mask.

Advance tickets for the WTAMU production are available by calling 806-651-2854. The tickets are priced at $5 for general admission and $3 for students and senior citizens. For more information, call Bartley at 806-651-2830.



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