All my performances are improvised.
These are some of my favourite experiences playing for pictures over the last year or two...
Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds is one of my favourite cinemas. Built in 1914, it's a cosy, single screen auditorium with original gas lighting and thanks to its excellent manager and projection team it still has 35mm and 16mm projection alongside digital. I've played Walter Forde's comedy Would You Believe It here (as part of Leeds International Film Festival), as well as the Houdini thriller The Grim Game, Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box, Lois Weber's Shoes and (possibly my favourite silent of all time) the great Lillian Gish/Victor Seastrom drama, The Wind.
In October 2016 I played for the first time at the National Centre for Early Music in York. Situated in a beautiful old church, NCEM is home to York Early Music Festival and presents a year-round programme of concerts. For Hallowe'en, I played a score to Carl Dreyer's chilling Vampyr - which was especially enjoyable to do on the beautiful Bosendorfer concert grand piano.
Fritz Lang is a favourite, and I hope to play all his films at some point. I've done Metropolis a few times now, and each performance is an adventure. In 2016 I played it at Hebden Bridge Picture House and with Hull Independent Cinema at Hull Truck. I'm hoping for some more Fritz Lang in 2017...
There's so much great silent film comedy to get to know. It's much more tiring to play than dramas - the intricacy of a Buster Keaton film, the precision and energy of Harold Lloyd and the balletic, lighter-than-air elegance of Chaplin all demand a mental focus which makes a three hour tragic melodrama seem comparatively like a walk in the park. I've played Buster Keaton's Navigator and Harold Lloyd's Safety Last! a few times each - and there's something new to notice every time. In November 2016 I joined forces with ace percussionist Trevor Bartlett to play for Harold Lloyd's final silent, Speedy. Paired with Laurel and Hardy's Battle of the Century, this was one of two shows we did for the 30th Leeds International Film Festival at the gorgeous City Varieties music hall in Leeds. We also did Beatrice Lillie's only silent film, Exit Smiling (a masterpiece), paired with Buster's My Wife's Relations. I've also played Keaton's Cops, One Week & The Boat, Charlie Chase's Mighty Like a Moose, and Chaplin's Easy Street, The Rink, The Pawnshop, The Count, The Adventurer, The Floorwalker, The Fireman, One AM, The Cure and The Immigrant.
Another favourite cinema is Sheffield's oldest working cinema, Abbeydale Picture House. In it's day, it was the most luxurious cinema in the city. It opened at Christmas in 1920 with a film called The Call of the Road. A slightly melancholic and rather touching melodrama, it starred Victor McLaglan in his very first film role. In 2015, to celebrate the cinema's first film screening since the doors were shut in the early 1970s, The Call of the Road was screened in 35mm. It's no masterpiece, but it was a wonderful afternoon and it's one of the most memorable experiences I've had playing films. I was back at the Picture House a few months later for a Hallowe'en Nosferatu - two performances and an audience of almost a thousand! I'm looking forward to returning to this wonderful, atmospheric cinema in 2017.
In October 2016 I was honoured to take part in the masterclasses for silent film pianists at the world's most prestigious festival of silent cinema, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, in Pordenone, Italy. Working alongside another pianist - the superb Meg Morley - it was a week of discoveries and experimentation. Meg and I each played a few films in the festival programme - some Al Christie comedies and two episodes of a terrific, blackly comic serial, Who's Guilty?
Other films I've enjoyed playing over the last year....Anthony Asquith's brooding, beautiful Shooting Stars, Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro, Paul Leni's unusual and strangely gripping Waxworks, Ernst Lubitsch's early comedy I Don't Want to Be a Man, Hitchcock's Blackmail and the first dinosaur movie, The Lost World.