Charlie Chaplin’s silent movie comes to life with the Barhydt Organ, Sept. 20 at the Sondheim

Written by Theresa Rose on September 20, 2016



Fairfield, Iowa –Experience the thrill of a live, improvised silent film accompaniment just as moviegoers would have in the 1920’s with CHARLIE CHAPLIN’S 1925 comedic masterpiece “THE GOLD RUSH” featuring accompaniment by organist JASON ROBERTS, Tuesday, September 20 at 7:30 p.m. The Barhydt Organ silent movie tradition continues with what is acclaimed as one of the best and most influential films ever produced.
Charles Chaplin made The Gold Rush out of the most unlikely sources for comedy. The first idea came to him when he was viewing some stereoscope pictures of the 1896 Klondike gold rush, and was particularly struck by the image of an endless line of prospectors snaking up the Chilkoot Pass, the gateway to the gold fields. At the same time he happened to read a book about the Donner Party Disaster of 1846, when a party of immigrants, snowbound in the Sierra Nevada, were reduced to eating their own moccasins and the corpses of their dead comrades.
Chaplin – proving his belief that tragedy and ridicule are never far apart – set out to transform these tales of privation and horror into a comedy. He decided that his familiar tramp figure should become a gold prospector, joining the mass of brave optimists to face all the hazards of cold, starvation, solitude, and the occasional incursion of a grizzly bear.
The idea took shape much more quickly than was usual for Chaplin: this was the only one of his great silent comedies which he began to shoot with the story fully worked out. Only two months after the premiere of his previous film, A Woman of Paris he had already sent a scenario (provisionally titled The Lucky Strike) for copyright, and set his studio to work on building sets. Perhaps his activity was stimulated by the public’s disappointment with “A Woman of Paris” a dramatic film in which Chaplin himself appeared only fleetingly, as an extra.
The Gold Rush abounds with now-classic comedy scenes. The historic horrors of the starving 19th century pioneers inspired the sequence in which Charlie and his partner Big Jim (Mack Swain) are snowbound and ravenous. Charlie cooks and eats his boot, with all the airs of a gourmet. In the eyes of the delirious Big Jim, he is transformed into a chicken – a triumph both for the cameramen who had to effect the elaborate trick work entirely in the camera; and for Chaplin who magically becomes a bird. For one shot another actor took a turn in the chicken costume, but it was unusable: no-one else had Chaplin’s gift for metamorphosis.
The lone prospector’s dream of hosting a New Year dinner for the beautiful dance-hall girl provides the opportunity for another famous Chaplin set-piece the dance of the rolls. The gag had been done before, by Chaplin’s one-time co-star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in The Rough House (1917) ; but Chaplin gives unique personality to the dancing legs created out of forks and rolls. When the film was first shown audiences were so thrilled by the scene that some theatres were obliged to stop the film, roll it back and perform an encore.

The Barhydt Organ Music Spotlight Series is pleased to welcome back organist Jason Roberts, who performed to the movie “The Wind” last year.  Roberts is the Associate Music Director at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City. He began his musical career as a chorister at St. George’s Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia; and is a graduate of Rice University, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and the Manhattan School of Music.
Roberts is winner of the 2008 American Guild of Organists National Competition in Organ Improvisation and the 2007 Albert Schweitzer Organ Competition USA, and he has been a finalist at competitions in St. Albans, England and Haarlem, The Netherlands. Jason spend several years as Organist/Choirmaster at St. James’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, Connecticut, USA before moving to New York in 2014. He serves on the faculty at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and keeps an active recital schedule.
The Sondheim Organ Spotlight Series is a partnership between the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center and the Fairfield Concert Association. The Fairfield Concert Association members are admitted with proof of membership. No ticket is required for Concert Association members. The Barhydt Organ Music Series is pleased to welcome back organist Jason Roberts
Tickets to Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush” are $15 for adults and $5 for youth and students and are available at the Ticket Office, 641-472-2787 and online, The youth and student tickets are only available at the Ticket Office. Season tickets for the Organ Music Spotlight Series are available at 15% only $11.25 for all four organ concerts.


About the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center
Opened in 2007, the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center is a gathering place designed to showcase a world of art, culture and community pride in the heart of downtown. The beautiful facility, featuring the Sondheim Theater, promises a rich and diverse 2016-17 Artist Series: Living It Live at the Sondheim. Now in its seventh year, the Artist Series is about the It’s about national touring Broadway shows; Grammy award-winning music icons; witnessing captivating trapeze artists and spins of acrobats leaving us all in awe; and music that provides the soundtrack of life. The Fairfield Arts & Convention Center is excited to continue the tradition of welcoming national touring performances to the Sondheim stage that amaze, entertain and inspire. The complex is a place where friends meet in great fellowship and joyous occasions. The Center features an exposition hall, flexible meeting space, an elegant conference room and art galleries which all provide a sophisticated backdrop for meetings, weddings and special events.