As part of their 2017-2018 season, the Redfern Arts Center saw the return of Alloy Orchestra on Thursday, Jan. 25.
According to the program, Alloy Orchestra, a three-man musical ensemble, writes and performs “live accompaniment to classic silent films.”
Their latest performance at the Redfern accompanied The Black Pirate, a 1926 film written by and starring Douglas Fairbanks, and directed by Albert Parker.
Deciding to have fun with the theme of the film, the Redfern got its employees in the spirit of things, having them dress up in full pirate attire.
The event also had a photo-costume contest, a touch which audience member Mary Anne Culinen said she thought was a lot of fun, “It sort of went all in on the theme that added a lot too.”
However, for orchestra member Roger C. Miller, keyboard player in Alloy Orchestra, the most fun was to be had performing. Miller has played in LA Orchestra, and has a background in writing music.
“I’ve written music that’s been in New England Conservatory in which I’ve been a member of the Chamber Ensemble,” he said.
Miller said performing for a silent film is all about precision, “We start when the title shows up, we go through all the battles and when the ship is in the distance we play the final theme, that’s my perspective on it. Once you get going, you’re just hanging on for dear life. You know the scenes are gonna come up, you’re watching the cues… we’re always listening to each other,” he said. “And sometimes we’re playing a little fast and I look up — I’m the keyboard player so I control the harmony more — If we’re a little ahead of the cues I put in a little cadence to let those guys know that I’m gonna wait a little bit before we end it, and then I end it, and then one of them says, ‘okay now we’re here.’ We start a beat and then we follow it perpetually.”
Even with the seemingly daunting task of keeping in perfect time with the film, Miller said, “we’ve done it for twenty-five years so it’s not hard really… but some films are harder than others.”
Even when struggling, or throughout the hassles of travel and the monotony of staying in one place for too long, “The minute you start playing you go, ‘Ah, that’s why I do this,’” he said.
The three members of the Alloy Orchestra all have equal say in leadership, dividing the writing of their music equally and working together to create a score that matches the film, he said.
Members of the audience appreciate the end result of Alloy’s hard work, audience member Stanley Hutchings said, “they perfectly fit all of the tempo of the scenes, so it really was quite good.”
Culinen also appreciated the experience of a live orchestra that suited the movie so well, “I enjoyed all the different instruments and how they worked together, it really added a lot to the feeling of the movie… I will come back,” she said.
Emma Mehegan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org