Brandon silent film series with live accompanist returns

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 1:09 PM EDT
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BRANDON, Vt. (WCAX) - A popular silent film series is returning to Brandon starting this weekend. Our Scott Fleishman reports that even though there’s no recorded audio in this genre, these classics are better to be seen and heard for yourself.

The town of Brandon is taking us back in time. A time when in movies, actions truly spoke louder than words. “It’s amazing and it’s a great entertainment factor,” said Dennis Marden, Brandon Town Hall’s president:

Over the next five months, the Brandon Town Hall is hosting seven silent films starting this Saturday with “The Mark of Zoro.”

“Every time we do a screening, there’s rarely an empty seat,” said Jeff Rapsis, the silent movie buff and accompanist behind the series. “I find in the early cinema, there’s a sort of experience that I just don’t get from any other art form.”

Not only does Rapsis travel around New England and the country showing these re-mastered classics, but he also provides the soundtrack in-person. “One hundred years ago this wasn’t anything special. This was how cinema happened. You go to the movie theatre in your local community and live music was part of the experience,” he said.

“You don’t even realize he’s there, because it’s dark and he’s just playing around and he’s just watching the movie like this. All of the sudden, you see, oh he’s playing the piano. Oh, okay,” Marden said.

You don’t need to buy a ticket to check out any of the silent films at the Brandon Town Hall this summer, but donations are encouraged.

“These are the same films that my parents and grandparents undoubtedly watched and I think it’s so neat to be able to go and watch some of the things they saw as the height of entertainment back when they were young,” said Gary Meffe, who along with his wife, Nancy, have been watching the silent films in Brandon since the series started in 2009. They’ve sponsored several of the films including this weekend’s showing.

“Jeff’s depth of knowledge really comes through every time he’s here. Not only in the presentation and the history, but then when he’s playing, it all comes through in his music,” Nancy said.

“The energy and excitement that you get in Brandon is about the best you can find anywhere. There’s a hunger for this that just doesn’t seem to stop,” Rapsis said.

“I noticed that we’re getting younger people in now. Usually, it’s just us old guys who actually remember some of these. They want to see what the history is, they want to see what it was like in those days,” Marden said.

Thanks to this community and one New Englanders passion for performance, this genre of silent cinema isn’t being kept quiet for new generations.

Click here for a full schedule.

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