Berklee Orchestra Wows San Francisco Silent Film Festival with Varieté

By 
Rob Hayes
June 9, 2016
Varieté at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival with the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra
Varieté at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival with the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra
Varieté at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival with the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra
Varieté at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival with the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra
The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) performs live-to-picture at the 2016 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Next, the group will perform its new score to "Varieté" at The Cabot in Beverly, Massachusetts and at the Martha's Vineyard Film Center.
Originally released in the U.S. as "Jealousy" in 1925, "Varieté" tells the story of Boss Huller (played by silent film star Emil Jannings), a former trapeze artist who recounts to his prison warden a sordid tale of love, lust, and murder at the circus.
The new score for "Varieté" was performed, conducted, and written by Berklee students working with Sheldon Mirowitz, an Emmy-nominated film scoring professor at Berklee.
Each student composer takes a turn with the baton, conducting the orchestra through the reel of the film that they worked on; as the film score requires continuity, the project demands the utmost collaboration among the students, who were selected via a highly competitive process.
Tommy Lau
Tommy Lau
Pamela Gentile
Tommy Lau

On Friday, June 3, 2016, the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) performed its new score to E.A. Dupont’s 1925 classic film Varieté for the renowned San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Six Berklee student composers conducted the 12-piece BSFO, passing the baton in a live-to-picture performance that was greeted with an instantaneous, raucous standing ovation from the 1,400 attendees in the sold-out Castro Theatre.

The film—which weaves a tale of circus love, lust, and murder involving trapeze artists—was presented in a gorgeous new restoration, and many heralded the performance as the highlight of the festival, which is the preeminent silent film event in this hemisphere, now in its 21st year.

The festival performance comes in advance of two upcoming BSFO Varieté performances in the vicinity of Berklee’s Boston campus. On Friday, June 17, the group will perform at the Cabot, a grand movie palace in Beverly, Massachusetts that was home to many silent films during the jazz age (get tickets). On Thursday, June 23, the BSFO returns to its most intimate touring venue, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center (get tickets).

The BSFO’s artistic director is Emmy-nominated composer Sheldon Mirowitz, Berklee professor of film scoring, and the international group of Berklee student composers who worked with Mirowitz on the new score are Nathan Drube (U.S.), Larry Hong (U.S.), Kanako Hashiyama (Japan), Austin Matthews (U.S.), Mateo Rodo (Argentina), and Hyunju Yun (South Korea).

Learn more about the BSFO’s creative process: