I just spent the last nine hours at the Charles Templeton Ragtime Festival at Mississippi State University, and I came away with a new attitude regarding the power of music to change your life.
I went in feeling tired and uninspired – and left, flying.
I couldn’t wait to get home and cue up some ragtime on Pandora.
The highlight for me was Frederick Hodges’ (pictured above) presentation on the days of silent film when music gave voice to unspoken emotions and filled in the blanks where voices were unavailable.
The thing I didn’t know was that the music was usually provided by local pianists who were paid peanuts to play the music live while the films were aired on the little screen.
Hodges showed two vintage movies – “The Cure,” a priceless Charlie Chaplin film from 1917 and a Laurel and Hardy film from the 20s called “Wrong Again.” He accompanied each with the appropriate musical scores without any sheet music.
I’ve never laughed so hard or so long – ‘The Cure’ brought tears to my eyes and I came close to rolling on the floor. It was that funny. I’ve never seen anything funnier in my entire life – and I’ve seen a lot of funny stuff. The scene above – I call it the revolving door scene – almost did me in.
The tipsy Chaplin was entering some kind of treatment program to help with his personal prohibition and his steamer truck carried nothing but alcohol. Apparetnly it was a bit controversial at the time.
Daddy and Judy were with me and they were screaming with laughter. A bunch of kids – preschoolish – were sitting in the aisles and I’ve never seen such a show of glee. (Xbox, Sesame Street or whatever game is hot– eat your heart out, a guy who made a movie in 1916 just stole your time.)
I’ve never appreciated Chaplin since he was way before my time, but I’m going to read everything I can about him. I love him more than Elvis in the 50s or Steve McQueen in the 60s.
But most of all I’m grateful to the late Charlie Templeton who amassed a collection of musical instruments and phonographs that the younger generation could never imagine. He decided to share them with us and made our lives richer.