News Column

Not So Silent Cinema tour honors Buster Keaton's artistry

September 22, 2013


Sept. 22--The late Roger Ebert called movie actor Buster Keaton "the greatest of the silent clowns."

Keaton, who often directed his own movies, died in 1966 at age 70. His penchant for maintaining a deadpan expression while performing dangerous physical stunts earned him the nickname "The Great Stone Face."

The Not So Silent Cinema tour, which will visit Hollins University and the Lyric Theatre this week, intends to call attention to the amazing artistry found in those old silent films. The brainchild of New York pianist and composer Brendan Cooney, the project involves live scores composed to accompany classic silent movies.

The tour will perform a soundtrack mixing bluegrass, old time, blues and jazz to accompany six short films Keaton made from 1920 to 1922 -- "One Week," "The Goat," "The High Sign," "The Haunted House," "The Electric House" and "Cops."

"Keaton's films are perfect for this kind of project," Cooney wrote in an email. "His athleticism, comic timing and surreal plots still resonate with modern audiences. We frequently play to non-stop laughter for an entire show. There is a musical sense of timing to the gags and the build-up of tension in scenes which naturally lends itself to musical accompaniment."

Cooney will perform his own tunes as part of the New River Ensemble, which also features New York clarinetist Martha Hyde and Blacksburg cellist Lisa Liske-Doorandish .

Despite having New River in the name and a Blacksburg musician in the lineup, the ensemble isn't actually based in the New River Valley. The trio first met at an Ohio summer program.

The free Hollins performance takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Talmadge Recital Hall. For more information, call 362-6511 or visit

The show at the Lyric Theatre takes place at 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $8 to $10. For more information, call 951-4771 or visit

Music on the Corner

English pianist Martin Jones has performed at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and Carnegie Hall in New York, and that was when his career was just beginning.

This week, Roanoke will have a chance to hear this master musician play free of charge.

Jones is making a North American tour stop at St. John's Episcopal Church at the corner of Jefferson Street and Elm Avenue in southwest Roanoke. His recital at 6 p.m. Friday kicks off the church's 2013-14 "Music on the Corner" season.

He'll play works by Debussy, Mendelssohn, and Gershwin. He'll also play four compositions by his friend Bruce Mahin , director of the Radford University Center for Music Technology.

Though the concert is free, donations are accepted. For more information, call 343-9341 or visit

Inside Out sticks around

The Inside Out 11M project that took place Sept. 13 in downtown Roanoke ultimately had close to 400 people take part. The goal of the project had been to post 300 large portraits on the Heironimus building at Jefferson Street and Church Avenue. Though anyone could get in line to have their photo taken, the project's intent was to raise awareness of immigration reform issues.

River Laker, director of Silver Seas PR, who helped bring the project to Roanoke, said the excess portraits would be posted on the face of 16 West Marketplace, adjacent to Heironimus on Church Avenue. Laker said that if the weather cooperates, the temporary installation will stay up through the weekend of the CityWorks (X)po conference Oct. 3 to 5.

On the Arts blog

Christiansburg actress Sarah Wylie's Open Air Shakespeare NRV theater company is holding a fundraiser on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to rent props and costumes for their upcoming production of "Hamlet." Their goal is to raise $3,000 by Sept. 29. To learn more visit


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