(6.14) The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) returns to the Avon Cinema for their second silent film concert this Thursday. The award-winning group will perform their original score to the 1928 silent classic The Man Who Laughs.
The Berklee College of Music in Boston is home to a world-renowned undergraduate program in film scoring. The student orchestra performs new silent film scores written by a cadre of senior film scoring students.
The BSFO first performed at the Avon last January and just blew everyone away. The concert that evening included a fantastic original score for the 1925 film Battleship Potemkin. I can’t say enough about this talented group, and musician friends of mine in attendance were stunned at the quality of the musicianship of the players as well as the multiple conductors who deftly moved in and out tag team style.
For this show there had been some concern that the newly reconfigured orchestra might not fit into the Avon. In January, it had been necessary to remove three rows of seats down front, and it was a tight fit. But for this score the BSFO had added a double bass! BSFO director, Alison Plante, updated me by email: This orchestra comprises 12 musicians and 7 conductors — and that does include the double bass — and again the three rows of seats will come out. (Big thanks to the Dulgarian Brothers for bringing this unique entertainment to the people of Providence. I’ll bet there are many scraped knuckles dealing with those seats. This is really above and beyond.)
Called “visually dazzling” by Leonard Maltin, and “one of the final treasures of German silent Expressionism” by Roger Ebert, The Man Who Laughs (1928) is an emotionally powerful melodrama directed by Paul Leni. Based on the Victor Hugo novel, the film’s central character was later to become the inspiration for The Joker!
I thought he looked familiar. The film itself is a 4K digital restoration from Universal Pictures.