Sonic Silents with the Kate Lissauer Trio, Marnhull and touring

Kate_Lissauer_PRESSBUFFALO Gals founder and fiddler extraordinaire Kate Lissauer has recently discovered the silent films of Frank Borzage, made almost a century ago.

She, with John Whelan and Jason Titley, have worked on three of the earliest short silents by the man who directed 100 films and won two Oscars, composing new music and authentic songs of the time.

The show, Sonic Silents, was first performed at Bath Film Festival, and is brought to Dorset by Artsreach, for performances at Marnhull and Buckland Newton ahead of projected dates in the coming year.

If the response of the packed Marnhull Village Hall on 28th November was anything to do by, the show will be a great hit with village audiences.

It appeals to film buffs, Western fans, lovers of American country music and anyone who loves live performance over formulaic television shows.

Kate was born in Maryland and was a champion fiddler by the time she reached 20, also learning the skills of clawhammer and three finger banjo picking and guitar playing, as well as singing the songs she loved.

One of the most interesting things about this music is how you can hear both the stories and the tunes you knew as a child learning English folk songs (… those were the days!)

The two films shown at Marnhull were The Pilgrim, made in 1916, and The Pitch o’Chance, made a year earlier.

revs pilgrimThe first starts as a man walks down a dusty road with his lame donkey, and before long is embroiled in a love triangle, knifes a man in a saloon, and leaves without the girl.

The second is about a gambler who will bet on anything, until his skills take him up against the local big man, with his unfortunate woman as the stake.

Borzage was particularly known for the intensity of his stories about love, mostly unrequited, and while there are moments of sheer ham, there are also delicate and poignant performances from these silent stars (including the director.)

It’s fashionable to provide live musical accompaniments for silent movies, but this is a bit different, using country and mountain music to great effect, by some of the UK’s leading exponents of the genre. Kate Lissauer’s expressive voice provides plangent vocals, occasionally soaring into falsetto, but underlining the hardness of life and love for the early cowboys in the very Wild West.

See it Sonic Silents at Buckland Newton on Saturday 29th November, or look out for it on the Artsreach circuit in 2015.



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