Buster Keaton was a superstar of the silent film era. (Library of Congress photo)

Quesnel and Wells treated to sight and sound, Keaton and Courtin

Piano man resurrects silent film spirit at Sunset Theatre

With his flair of the threatrical, pianist and all-around performer Patrick Courtin will give Cariboo audiences something new, and yet very old to enjoy, this week.

On Aug. 26 and 27 at the Sunset Theatre in Wells, the British Columbia musician will combine the flash of his piano fingers with the flicker of a movie projector. He will perform a production he calls Courtin vs Keaton in which he combines his musical accompaniment with a trio of short silent films. All are cinematic classics starring Buster Keaton, superstar of the silent film era.

Back then, it was customary for a pianist to set the mood and draw along the audience’s attention while watching these early films, before dialogue or soundtracks could be embedded in the movie strip. Courtin has arranged and composed music to fit with the filmes The Scarecrow (1920), Cops (1922), and One Week (1920) so modern day audiences can scroll back in time to those dramatic days of live performance working in tandem with recorded black-and-white screen action.

“He ranked with Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and W.C. Fields as a comedy king,” said Henry Sutherland of the Los Angeles Times, in Keaton’s tribute article upon his death in 1966. “Tales of his escapades in the gaudy 1920s are Hollywood legends…A sizable segment of Hollywood’s past and of theatrical history died with him.”

The great advantage of silent films is their universal storytelling appeal. With only visuals and the piano to convey the plot, anyone of any language or ethnic background can understand it all. Courtin, who is a veteran of the stage, with the piano sharing his spotlight, brings audiences back to that direct art form, as his music collaborates with the films like dance partners.

Courtin vs Keaton happens Saturday and Sunday nights starting at 8 p.m.

Get advance tickets online on the Sunset Theatre’s website, or at the door while supplies last.

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