Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chaplin with organ

Went down to St. Thomas' Church, Whitemarsh, after work July 12 for one of the summer carillon concerts. (St. Thomas' has one of only nine carillons in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.) Amy Johansen, from Australia, played a vaeried, hourlong program that included some Gershwin songs; the horpipe from Handel's Water Music, minuets by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven; and even "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which I liked in her arrangement, despite feeling that I outgrew Paul Simon years ago. It was hot, but not overly so, and it was pleasant to sit out on the church grounds, read a book, watch the sun set over the suburban trees, and listen to the bells.

After the recital, everyone moved into the church for a showing of two silent Charlie Chaplin shorts — "Twenty Minutes of Love" and "The Immigrant" — accompanied by Kevin O'Malia on the organ. He brought out a wondeful sound from teh instrumetn that had me wishing he would perform there in recital. (We talked about it afterwards, and he seemed open to the idea. I suggested Nielsen's "Commotio.") I was tickled when he interjected snippets of Charles Ives' "Variations on America" into "The Immigrant," especially at the moment when the ship enters New York Harbor.

I was also happy to see Brother Gerry Molyneaux in attendance. I had took his film course whan I was a spohomore at La Salle, and I hadn't seen him in thirty-five years. Brother Gerry is a Chaplin expert — he wrote his doctoral dissertaion on City Lights — and when I learned about the films, I imformed him by email. He's a little plumper than I remembered, but he looked wonderful for a man who must be approaching eighty. (I was never sure of his age, but he was already celebrating his twenty-fifth anniversary in the brotherhood when I was in school. He's still teaching, too, and has no plans to retire.) He seemed delighted by the entire evening, including the carillon recital and the church setting. He called the organ platying seamless, and he liked O'Malia's get-up — Chaplin-like bowler hat, dark coat, bowtie, and Bermuda shorts. He said it captured Chaplin's comedy dynamic — dignity above the belt, strange things going on below — that I remmeber him talking about years ago. Now that I think about it, I realize he must have been a great teacher, because I remember much of what he said.

Good to see you again, Brother.

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