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West A&M University Symphony Orchestra performs score to Charlie Chaplin film

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Orchestra

The West Texas A&M University Orchestra performs alongside “The Kid” at Rudder High School in Bryan on Friday, May 13, 2022.

The West Texas A&M University Symphony Orchestra presented Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” in live cinema at Rudder High School on Friday night with more than 100 attendees in the school’s performing arts center.

The film was featured on a large screen with the orchestra playing the live score to accompany the film. There were 43 members of the 70-member West Texas A&M orchestra who traveled from Canyon to Dalhart, Mesquite, Houston and Bryan to perform the live cinema with conductor Mark Bartley, and composer Benjamin Brooks.

“We have a blast doing our live cinema series since we get to travel around and see a nice crowd,” Bartley said. “This show is so unique. We do a lot of Charlie Chaplin and many others but it is hard to beat Charlie Chaplin. The comedic timing is just incredible.”

Chaplin’s “The Kid” premiered in 1921 and Bartley said even a century later, the orchestra still is seeing a huge response from audiences.

“The movie is still funny because Charlie is universal in his comedy,” Bartley said.

The score was not made to follow a traditional track, Bartley said. Instead it was kept in line with the picture. In order to compose the music for the 70-minute movie, Brooks said he watched the film multiple times.

“The first thing I would do is I would watch the video without any sort of music and figure out what is happening with the characters and how they develop over the course of the show; and then decide, do the characters get different themes or do different events have different sorts of meaning?” he said.

“I would repeat the process and go through the movie, finding out what is happening with the characters and letting the music be the music.”

Brooks said it nice to perform for people again and be around others after the past few years.

“It is interesting going place to place and seeing the different reactions of different crowds and from the various videos that we perform,” he said. “The different crowds give this a different kind of light which is really neat.”

Hien Doan, a sophomore at West Texas A&M, was part of the percussion in the orchestra and played most of the auxiliary instruments, such as tambourine, cymbals, maracas, gunshot sound effects and other accessory sounds.

“It was a great opportunity to play in this live cinema and different than anything we have done before,” he said after the show Friday night. “Traditionally we play concerts, symphonies and other traditional work, but to be able to play something by our own in-house composer, Dr. B.J. Brooks, is a really great honor.”

Doan is majoring in music education and performance, and is excited to keep performing for high school students who are eager to learn music.

“I hope we inspired the young people in the audience,” he said. “It is good music and different; with such a great work I hope we reached out to all of the students here at Rudder High School and I hope we continue to inspire these children.”

A family of four from College Station was among the audience members, and Pat Wenner said the show was amazing and she was happy to enjoy it with her family.

“It was amazing, I really liked it and the story was so good. I enjoyed it very much,” she said.

Her granddaughter, Madison, said she loved watching the film and hearing all of the different sound effects. Madison’s parents, Melissa and Dustin, said they both loved being able to experience something different and unique.

The West Texas A&M Symphony Orchestra has been performing live cinemas since 2006, when it performed “The Phantom of the Opera.”

For more information about the West Texas A&M University Symphony Orchestra, go to wtamu.edu.

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