City Lights with The Philadelphia August 14th

Wednesday marks SPAC’s final family night of the season. Programmed is Chaplin’s City Lights a classic film with music created by Charlie Chaplin himself to accompany. Chaplin is known as one of the best actors in silent film, with name recognition among film lovers and non-fans alike. However, he rarely gets attention as a composer. Chaplin wrote the music to many of his films and arguably shaped the comedic film score genre in its earliest days. Although the emphasis is on his legendary acting, music lovers won’t be disappointed in City Lights score.

Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill in City Lights (1931)

The film is a classic romantic comedy. The music moves between light and gaudy, a precarious balance that almost becomes irony. To me, this score is saved largely by its moments of chamber music and soloistic passages. Since the characters were unable to speak, often a single instrument plays a character’s theme, speaking for them in a way. These moments can be intensely beautiful and will, without doubt, give Philadelphia members a chance to shine.

I don’t usually write about SPAC’s movie nights, however this one is definitely outside of their normal box. The music for this film isn’t instantly recognizable (unless you’re a major film buff) like the Harry Potter or Up scores. While for families this might make it a harder sell, I think regular concert-goers will connect with this program. The music, although at times cheesy, is beautiful and complex. There are moments of elegance and charm, expressing the sentiment of the actors who cannot speak for themselves. A suite from the film works well as a stand-alone piece without sounding like a film melody. The element of the film helps to make the work accessible to new audiences and likely young audiences, making this a fitting choice for SPAC’s family night.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

It will be exciting to see how Kensho Watanabe leads the orchestra off the successful heals of his last-minute performances last week. I’m excited to see how he continues his relationship with us audiences here in Saratoga.

It’s also worth noting that there is free Stewart’s Ice Cream before the performance.

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