Brown Memorial is pleased to present a screening of the 1928 silent film, “Steamboat Bill, Jr.,” starring Buster Keaton, on Friday, November 11, 7:30 p.m., in the sanctuary.
During the film, Michael Britt, Brown Memorial’s minister of music, will perform live, improvised organ accompaniment on Brown’s historic 1931 Skinner organ. This event is a unique opportunity to view a silent film just as audiences did in the early 20th Century when theater houses used pipe organs to provide musical accompaniment as a more affordable alternative to paying a full orchestra.
Michael, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Organ Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, is among the few organists in the region who specializes in theater organ and silent film accompaniment. He regularly accompanies silent film viewings at Brown for the Tiffany Series and Artscape, and is invited to perform in theaters nationwide. In addition to leading the music program at Brown, Michael is also the house organist at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, Md., which houses Maryland’s only theater organ (a Wurlitzer) in its original installation, and holds an ongoing silent film series.
Michael describes his approach to playing theater organ: “The important thing to remember as a silent film accompanist is not to dominate the film. The music is there to musically support the actions on the screen and not to be a distraction. The highest compliment I can receive is when someone says that after five minutes, ‘We forgot you were there playing!’”
Admission to this event is by suggested donation at the door – $15 for adults, $10 for students/seniors, and $25 for families. All proceeds will benefit Brown Memorial’s Capital Fund, which is supporting renovations to the church’s historic facility.
In addition to the November 11 program, Britt will present a second program to benefit the Capital Fund on Friday, March 10, 7:30 p.m., with the screening of the 1921 silent film “The Three Musketeers,” with Douglas Fairbanks.