Like nearly everything else these days, Summerland Music Society looks a bit different this year. Late last spring, it became clear that our usual venue would not be available for indoor events in July due to repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our only option for presenting concerts this summer was to locate another venue. Fortunately, the historic Park Theater in downtown Glens Falls graciously agreed to host Summerland for a two performance “mini-season” beginning on July 8.
Silent films with live accompaniment have long been a staple of Summerland’s programming. Since 2012, pianist Cary Brown has provided spontaneously improvised scores for our screenings of silent classics. We began by presenting two of Charlie Chaplin’s masterpieces, The Kid (1921) and City Lights (1931). Over the years, our repertoire expanded to include Buster Keaton’s celebrated stunts in Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock’s early silent thriller The Lodger (1927), and Greta Garbo’s unparalleled glamour in The Mysterious Lady (1928), among others.
As it turns out, the Park Theater is the perfect venue for revisiting films from Hollywood’s silent golden age. The building originally opened in 1911 as a theater that presented both vaudeville shows and moving pictures, a novelty at the time. After the movie house closed in 1935, the space was used for various purposes including printing the Post-Star newspaper. It was purchased by Elizabeth Miller in 2014 and reopened in 2018 after extensive renovations.
Buster Keaton is both the director and star of Sherlock Jr. (1924), a film widely regarded as one of his best. It features Keaton’s trademark deadpan humor and dangerous stunts, including one which caused him a serious neck injury. At the film’s heart is an ordinary movie projectionist who aspires to become a famous and successful detective. The story culminates in a whimsical and technically daring dream sequence. Keaton’s fantasy is finally realized when he magically steps inside a film.
While watching Sherlock Jr. at the Park Theater this Thursday, I’ll imagine what it was like for Glens Falls residents in 1924. I’ll be enjoying Buster Keaton’s fantastic stunts with accompaniment by a live pianist at the keyboard, just as audiences did nearly one hundred years ago.
Reserve your table here for Sherlock Jr. with Cary Brown, piano at the Park Theater on July 8.