Silent film, but theater organ will steal the show

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times An electric theater band organ is wheeled into place at Peoples Bank Theatre Wednesday in preparation to accompany the silent film classic “The Electric House” this Friday.

Horns, whistles, cymbals and strings will ring through Peoples Bank Theatre Friday, all from one machine.

“It has all kinds of tricks,”said Jim Caporale as his theater organ was wheeled into place in the pit below the stage Wednesday. “Bells, gongs and sirens, it’s more whimsical than a church organ.”

Jim and Sylvi Caporale, owners of American Flags and Poles on Front Street in Marietta, are sponsoring a free showing of the Buster Keaton classic comedy “The Electric House” and are gathering band organs and monkey organs to join in Friday’s festivities with the theater organ.

The pair’s business was flooded with volunteers in February in preparation for high waters downtown.

“The whole purpose of Friday is to thank the community for coming out to help with the flood,” said Jim.

The film is a silent black and white production, which will be accompanied by renowned theater organist David Callendine.

“David will just play with it all, he’s wonderful,” said Sylvi as Jeff Kirk fine-tuned the sound and speakers of the organ Wednesday.

“This organ will set the mood, just like imagine watching “Jaws” without John Williams,” added Kirk as he switched from piccolo to trumpets to police sirens. “The different colors of stops mean different things to the organist in the low light as the movie plays. The reds are the reeds, whites flutes and yellow strings.”

Debbie and Neil Smith, of Chillicothe, watched the setup Wednesday to get the lay of the land before they bring down their band organ Friday for the event.

“When it was originally built it was to provide music for a merry-go-round. It’s 96 years old, 8 feet wide and 7 feet high,”said Neil, who is proud of his band organ which plays off of a paper music roll.

Jim’s monkey organ, more specifically called a trumpet organ, will also be on display and playing Friday night.

“It just puts a smile on your face, you feel the music and you meet the most wonderful people,” he said.

Friday will begin with an opening thanking the community for their support of the downtown during high waters, then the 27-minute film will run. Then, following an intermission, Callendine will play well-known theater tunes from Broadway and conclude the night with a tribute to first responders and the U.S. armed forces.

Chuck Swaney, theater manager, said originally when the Putnam Street location showed silent movies, it had the full pipes running through the walls of the theater and had movies projected from above the balcony seats.

“That’s still up here,” he said, showing where the film was put into the vintage machines. “Silent movies were all the rage and you could really feel the music through the floors as the organist played to the film.

“It’s a different sensation than the giant soundscapes from Hollywood blockbusters.”

If you go:

¯ What: Silent Film and live band organ performance.

¯ Buster Keaton’s “The Electric House.”

¯ Post-intermission tribute to Broadway.

¯ When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

¯ Where: Peoples Bank Theatre.

¯ Who: All are welcome to attend this free event.

Source: Peoples Bank Theatre and Jim and Sylvi Caporale.