Birmingham City Council

Silent movie music gems

After almost 100 years, animators bring to life silent movie music gems

A raging bull, a trip through the bog that is said to have inspired Tolkien and a host of exceptional animations have, as part of a nationwide competition, brought to life a unique collection of century-old silent movie scores that will be performed by a live orchestra and experienced by an audience of theatre goers on Friday 20 April.

Animators across the UK were asked, as part of a Silent Movies Animation Challenge, to create an original piece of work to accompany a number of century-old silent movie scores that were recorded by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The scores form part of the city’s world-class archive and special collections, and were uncovered by staff from Birmingham City Council’s Library and Archive Services while preparing for the move to the new Library of Birmingham (opening in September 2013). From a wealth of creatively exciting entrants, four finalists were chosen to have their work screened, accompanied by CBSO as part of the Friday Night Classics: Classic Chaplin night.

The winning entrant with his ‘Street Act’, Gareth Hirst, is in his third year studying animation at Birmingham City University and looked to the masters of silent movies for his inspiration. He said: “My intentions for ‘Street Act’ were to combine the most prominent aspects of the influential masters of physical comedy into a single animation. Laurel and Hardy were particularly influential in ‘Street Act’, specifically in how a relationship between two characters can work as a comedy duo.”

Street Act by Gareth Hirst

Gareth, who is to be joined for the premiere of his animation by fellow finalists; Kane Rose, from Erdington, Birmingham, Amelia Burr from West Yorkshire (Hebden Bridge) and living in Birmingham and Charlotte Jackson from Barnoldswick, Lancashire, wins an Introduction to Final Cut Pro X course at Birmingham City University’s NTI Birmingham and a money-can’t-buy placement at the award winning animation studio, The CharacterShop, in Birmingham.

Cottage Love by Charlie Jackson

Raging Bull by Amelia Burr

Stephen Maddock, CBSO chief executive, said: “These ‘iconic’ pieces of music hold a special place in Birmingham’s rich cultural heritage. We’ve been privileged to record some of these treasures from the Birmingham City Council Library & Archive Services collection which may not have been heard by a live audience for decades. Then, to see the work that these talented individuals have put into bringing the music to life, really is a testement to the creative talent that is out there. Congratulations to Gareth and all of the finalists who have given back a sense of purpose to a rich portion of our cultural heritage.”

Brian Gambles, Director of the Library of Birmingham project, said: “These rare scores were rediscovered last year during ongoing preparations for the move to the Library of Birmingham in 2013. This is quite possibly one of the largest and most important collections of silent movie scores in the UK. It’s thrilling to think that we’re bringing this slice of cinematic history to life through the recordings and also through working with animators who are creating a future legacy for this work.”

As part of this partnership between the CBSO, Birmingham City Council’s Library & Archive Services and Animation Forum West Midlands, animators were invited to create a short animation that included the word Birmingham or an image of the city. The judges included local award-winning animation experts CharacterShop’s Andy Guest, The Brothers McLeod’s Myles McLeod and Dice Production’s Louis Hudson plus Skillset’s Saint John Walker & Rebecca Davies. The work of the four finalists will shortly be available on the CBSO website www.cbso.co.uk.

The CBSO’s Friday Night Classics: Classic Chaplin takes place on Friday 20 April 2012, 7.30pm, at Symphony Hall. Tickets can be bought in person at the Symphony Hall box office, by phone on 0121 7890 333, or online at www.thsh.co.uk

Silent Movie Scores