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Live Orchestra accompanies silent film at the Ross Theatre

Performance from the Alloy Orchestra
The Alloy Orchestra accompanying the silent film "Gallery of Monsters"

The Alloy Orchestra accompanied a silent film being shown at the Ross Theatre on the UNL campus Thursday night. 

The film, Gallery of Monsters, is a 1924 Spanish silent film about the life of a young couple who run away from home and eventually join the circus. The two get married and have a son; however, their love is tested by the circus master, who continuously pursues the young woman. 

The Alloy Orchestra accompanied the film by performing music that flowed with the tone of the film. The Alloy Orchestra is made up of three men. Ken Winokur, the director, and performer of percussion and the clarinet. Terry Donahue, who performs percussion, the musical saw, and the accordion, and Roger C. Miller, who performs the keyboard. 

Since 1991, the Alloy Orchestra has been traveling the United States, performing accompaniment for various silent films. 

“The reason why we can afford to bring the Alloy Orchestra here is because of all of you who are members of the friends of the Ross,” said Danny Lee Ladely, director of the Ross Theater. 

The music follows the atmosphere of the film and offers an extra layer of emotion and dialogue that the film lacks. 

The film opens with a light-hearted beat as we are introduced to the main characters, Riquet and Ralda. They fall in love and decide to ask Ralda’s father for his permission to get married. The scene between the father and the couple is where we first hear the music change. The orchestra switches from a light-hearted tone to heavily featuring the bass drum. The dark tones match the atmosphere of the scene, as we learn that the father denies the couple’s request. 

“It is almost like you can hear the voices and feel the emotions of the characters without actually hearing them,” said one audience member. 

There is a clear distinction between the characters and the music that accompanies them. 

Riquett and Ralda are accompanied by sweet piano tones and accordion in the background. The father is accompanied by dark bass drum rolls and sudden pauses. Later in the film, we meet the master of the circus, who is accompanied by distorted piano and bass drum rolls. 

As the film progresses and we are shown the couple with the circus, the orchestra changes its sound to resemble a marching beat. Each character is given a unique voice as the orchestra changes their sound.

“It feels like each character has their signature sound, almost like their unique personality,” said one audience member. 

The climax of the film shows clips of Riquett’s performance as a clown in combination with the master of the circus pursuing Ralda. As an audience, we hear a mash-up of upbeat circus music with the desperate low tones of Ralda trying to escape the circus master. 

The orchestra circles back to the beginning of their performance as the film draws to a close. Riquett and Ralda, with help from the other circus members, sneak out of the circus grounds to escape the master. 

The movie ends with Riquett and Ralda riding off together, foreshadowing the life that lies before them. 

The Alloy Orchestra ends the performance with smiles on their faces and the sound of applause in the background. This performance is certainly one that will not be easily forgotten.