Showing posts with label Boston. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boston. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror Review

On a chilly evening on the eve of Halloween, scores of people made their way towards Symphony Hall in Boston for a truly spectacular event. F.W. Murnau’s classic horror movie Nosferatu (1922) would be projected on a gigantic screen that hung above the orchestra pit. A new score, created by eight Berklee College of Music students under the supervision of renown professor Sheldon Mirowitz, would be performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra and conducted by legendary Keith Lockhart. It was a magical evening full of fun Halloween costumes and incredible music.

The event started with an introduction by Berklee president Roger H. Brown. He told the audience that Berklee is the only college where you can major in film scoring for your undergraduate degree. The school has worked with the Coolidge Corner Theatre over their years for their Sound of Silents series. The students compose an original score for a silent movie and perform the music live in accompaniment with a screening of a film at theatre (see my review of their performance of Sunrise here). The school graduated into a new relationship with the Boston Pops Orchestra and Keih Lockhart.

If you're from Boston you are well acquainted with the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, something us locals look forward to every Independence Day. Whether your on the Esplanade watching it live or sitting at home watching it on TV, it's not an event to miss. Just watch this clip of the Boston Pops performing the 1812 Overture as fireworks light up the sky. It'll give you goosebumps.

Even thought I've lived in this state all of my life I have never seen the Boston Pops perform live nor have I been inside Symphony Hall. Before the event started, Carlos and I were craning our necks to take in the splendor of the hall's interior. It's an enormous space and according to the BSO's website, “Symphony Hall [is] the first auditorium designed in accordance with scientifically derived acoustical principles.” It's enormous but because of the way it was constructed the music fills the space.

After Brown's speech he introduced Sheldon Mirowitz, professor of film scoring at Berklee who has a long resume of TV and film scoring credits as well as three Emmy nominations. Mirowitz gave a very eloquent speech. He brought up the question: why do we need horror movies? His answer: we need to see our fear to better understand it. This is spot on and exactly why so many of us watch not only horror films but pretty much any film. They help us process reality.

After Mirowtiz's speech it was time for the show. The orchestra tuned up and conductor Keith Lockhart came out. I used to play in a school orchestra when I was much younger (second violin, hey!) so I love watching all of the rituals that go with orchestra performances.

I had high expectations for this event especially having been so moved by Berklee's performance of Sunrise (1927) back in 2010. The Symphony of Horror event did not disappoint.

The beautiful music filled up the massive hall and there was a dramatic moment in the middle that just blew me away. There were all sorts of sound effects to go with the action on screen. The rats crawling, the horse trotting over the fields, the drummer/messenger toward the end and pretty much any shot of Count Orlak was accompanied by some creepy music. The orchestra made good use of their percussion instruments!

There were two guest performers accompanying the Boston Pops. One was Rob Schwimmer who played the Theremin and Michael Bierylo who performed the Moog Synthesizer. The Theremin was the hit of the evening. We overheard several patrons talking about it or mimicking it’s trademark sound as we all exited the hall.

Symphony Hall capacity is 2,700 and the space was almost full. I estimate that there were about 2,500 people there for the event. This is by far the largest classic film event in size I've ever been too. The audience reaction was for the most part very good. We all applauded after each of the five acts, an extra applause for the wonderful dramatic moment in the middle and a standing ovation at the end. This is the longest continuous piece of music the Boston Pops has every performed and there was no intermission so I give them credit for their ability to keep us enthralled with their music. I would have liked more dramatic moments but the music has to match the film's pace and content.

Professor Mirowitz sat a few seats away for most of the piece and I noticed him looking around to take in the audience's reactions to the film and music.

Silent films are often an endurance test of an audience’s patience, suspension of disbelief and their attention. Not everyone could hack it and we did notice some people leaving before the film was over.  The couple sitting next to us grumbled most of the time and left half-way through. It's their loss.

Lots of folks attending the event got into the Halloween spirit and were wearing scary costumes. Even a couple of the ushers dressed up. The audience members ranged widely in age: little kids, teens and young adults all the way to older folks. The whole spectrum. And there were a lot of couples, Carlos and I included.

There is a long tradition of scoring Nosferatu (1922). Most of Hans Erdmann's original score for the film has been lost and the film itself only survives because of sheer luck. All original prints were destroyed because of a copyright dispute; the story is basically Dracula without calling itself Dracula. Copies were eventually found and Nosferatu eventually became the cult classic that it is today. Did Murnau ever think that this film would be presented in such a way almost 100 years after it was made?

I'd be remiss to not point out the excellent work done by the Berklee students who created the score for Nosferatu. Congratulations to Amit May Cohen, Matthew Morris, Elena Nezhelskaya, Emily Joseph, Hyunsoo Nam, Joy Ngiaw, Jungwan Han and Victor Hong! When the eight students took the stage at the end of the event the crowd erupted in applause.

Thank you to the BSO for inviting me to cover this event. Carlos and I had a blast!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#SymphonyofHorror The Boston Pops and the Berklee College of Music team up to give Nosferatu (1922) a new score

What: Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror  #SymphonyofHorror
Where: Symphony Hall in Boston, MA
Who: Keith Lockhart, The Boston Pops and eight student composers from Berklee College of Music
When: October 30th, 2015 at 8 PM (blood drive from 2-7 PM)
How: Tickets available at $37-$47

The Boston area is no stranger to Halloween screenings of F.W. Murnau’s silent horror film Nosferatu (1922). There at least one or two a year held locally with live musical accompaniment. What makes this particular event special? A new score. And not just any new score! One created by eight composers, Berklee College of Music students from all over the world, in collaboration with Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops.

Years ago I attended a screening of Sunrise (1927) at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA. It was a similar to the Nosferatu event. Eight student composers from the Berklee College of Music composed a section of the score, conducted their individual pieces as an orchestra performed the final overall score in accompaniment to Murnau’s classic film. Not only was it one of the best classic film screenings I have ever been to, in my original review I called it “one of the most fantastic experiences of my life.”

Needless to say I have high hopes for Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror! Here are some of the highlights of the event:

1 – Diverse group of student film composers from all over the world.
2 – Score created under the direction of Professor of Film Scoring Sheldon Mirowitz and Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops.
3 – The renowned Boston Pops Orchestra will be performing the score, conducted by Keith Lockhart.
4 – The score was fine-tuned with the Symphony Hall acoustics in mind.
5 – The event will be turned into a short documentary called “The Making of Nosferatu”.
6 – This will be first time the Boston Pops Orchestra has ever accompanied a full-length silent film. It’s also the longest piece they’ve eve performed.
7 – Nosferatu will be screened from a HD digital transfer with 4K Christie projectors. The film is from the best source material from the Murnau estate.
8 – Brigham and Women’s Hospital will be hosting a blood drive from 2-7 PM at Symphony Hall before the event.
9 – Attendees are encouraged to dress up in Halloween costumes.

Below is the full press release of the event with more detail. I will be there to cover this event so expect to hear more from me soon! Follow hashtag #SymphonyofHorror on Twitter too.

There is another great screening of Nosferatu (1922) with my friend Jeff Rapsis who will be accompanying the film at the Somerville Mudflat Studio on October 24th !

From the Boston Pops Press Release:

“Over Halloween weekend, on Friday, October 30, at 8 p.m., the Boston Pops and conductor Keith Lockhart, in collaboration with Berklee College of Music, will bring the classic 1922 silent horror film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror to the Symphony Hall stage, with an entirely new full symphonic score composed by Berklee’s finest student film composers. Nosferatu on Halloween is a groundbreaking, unprecedented collaborative project in which eight of Berklee’s finest student film composers will write a full-length symphonic score, under the direction of Professor of Film Scoring Sheldon Mirowitz, for what is widely considered the greatest silent honor film of all time, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922). The Boston Pops, under the direction of Keith Lockhart, will perform the score live-to-picture the night before Halloween. Tickets for Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, ranging from $37 to $47, are available at or by calling 888-266-1200. Performance starts at 8 p.m.

The eight composers featured in the Nosferatu project are among the very best Film Scoring majors studying at Berklee College of Music today; they are students in college’s Scoring Silent Films course taught by Sheldon Mirowitz (Outside Providence, Missing in America): Amit Cohen (Israel), Wani Han (South Korea), Emily Joseph (United States), Victor Kong (Malaysia), Matthew Morris (Canada), Hyunsoo Nam (South Korea), Elena Nezhelskaya (Russia), and Joy Ngiaw Jing Yi (Malaysia). The student composers have worked closely with their teacher/adviser, Mr. Mirowitz, who began the project by composing the basic themes and superstructure for the work; each student composer then uses these themes to compose the music for the section of the movie they have been assigned (seven sections in all, each about 12-15 minutes in length). This approach—with all the sections (written by eight different composers) sharing the same themes—is how the score has coherence and integrity and comes across as a unified film score.

Video clip highlights of the October 30 performance will be featured on shortly after the performance takes place. In addition, Berklee College of Music is creating a short documentary entitled “The Making of Nosferatu,” which will include excerpts from the rehearsal and performance and will be featured at

Keith Lockhart (Source: Boston Pops)

“Nosferatu is universally acknowledged not only as the greatest silent horror film, but also as one of the most influential films of all time, so creating a new full symphonic score to this iconic cinematic masterpiece is definitely a daunting undertaking,” said Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart. “We at the Boston Pops are excited to embark on this new collaboration with Berklee College of Music and are thrilled that it represents the most significant project in Boston Pops history in the area of presenting student-composed work.

Our hope is to offer a new dimension to the film for fans of Nosferatu and to introduce this amazing motion picture to movie lovers who might not otherwise be aficionados of the silent film genre. The project will also put a spotlight on the special role a film score plays in the silent movie genre--reinforcing how the music conveys not just mood and atmosphere, but supports the entire narrative of the film, making the score feel even more essential than in modern day film. And the timing couldn’t be better … setting the mood for a perfectly fantastic Halloween in 2015.”


The October 30 concert presentation of Nosferatu will present a new take on a relatively recent Boston Pops tradition of presenting movies at Symphony Hall with lush soundtracks performed live by the virtuosic musicians of the Boston Pops Orchestra; this is the first time in the history of the Boston Pops that the orchestra will accompany the presentation of a full-length silent film. The new score to Nosferatu will be the longest, continuous piece of music the Pops has ever performed. It is certainly the most extensive performance of a student-composed work by the Pops in its history. The presentation is part of Berklee’s Signature Series of concerts, in addition to being a featured event on the Boston Pops calendar.

Most major Silent Films had original scores performed live by an orchestra at their premiers, and Nosferatu is not exception—Hans Erdmann's has been lost and what remains now is a modern reconstitution of his score. But, with all Silent Films, the attraction for composers is great to compose new scores for these classic films, and over the decades many composers and musicians have written or improvised their own soundtracks to accompany Nosferatu. Few, however, have harnessed the power of a full symphonic orchestra to accomplish this task, much less augmented it with the signature sounds of classic electronic instruments like the Theremin and the Moog Modular Synthesizer, and brought the whole experience to the concert hall. The film being used for the Boston Pops/Berklee collaboration is a recent, high-definition digital transfer of the best source material, from the Murnau estate. It will be projected by two of the finest 4K Christie projectors available.


Silent film presentation, whether by collaboration with the Boston Pops, or in a performance by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, is the most direct, visceral means of experiencing the power of the film composer’s craft. Silent film is the ultimate challenge for a film composer. A silent film score must, in concert with the actors and staging, convey the narrative and emotional messages of the film. Scoring for silent film exercises and builds the film composer’s skills in a way that exceeds the task of composing for projects that employ dialogue and other sound. These are some of the greatest films of any era, whether sound or silent. The act of composing and performing a new score reinterprets and renews these classics for each succeeding generation. The computer technology employed in composing, and performing them live-to-picture, is completely up-to-the-minute. The only thing old about the art form of silent film music presentation is the date on the film. As a learning exercise, silent films, and Berklee’s Scoring Silent Films course, represent a rigorous and demanding test of those who would compose for film, television, video games, or any other long-form film/video form. It is superb means of explaining and demonstrating to young musicians the film composer’s task, while showing the heft of Berklee’s own film composition program.”

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) Filming Locations ~ Part 3 Cambridge Cemetery

After finding the filming locations in Downtown Boston and Beacon Hill for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968),  Carlos and I headed to Cambridge, MA to find the cemetery from the film. Finding specific locations in cemeteries is more difficult than it seems. I personally have tried to find the graves of the author Henry James (Cambridge, MA) and the actress Thelma Todd (Lawrence, MA) with no luck and even though I had photo and location references from the Find-A-Grave website.

You would figure that cemeteries would not change much over time, with the exception of new headstones, but that's just not the case. Weather causes damage, teenagers vandalize and knock over headstones, many gravestones get replaced, plants and trees grow or are taken down, etc. Also, unless you are looking for something in a small cemetery, most cemeteries are complex labyrinths of stone, pavement and plants and are difficult to navigate if you don't know what you are looking for or don't have some guidance.

I went into this particular project with an open mind. Carlos didn't. He thought he could find the exact spots right away but I knew better! Our first mistake was thinking that the cemetery scenes in the film were shot at Mt. Auburn Cemetery. We went there and good thing Carlos asked someone at the visitor center because we were told the actual filming location was the adjacent Cambridge Cemetery and not Mt. Auburn. IMDb clearly states Cambridge Cemetery so I'm still confused why I thought it was Mt. Auburn to begin with!

The well-organized bank heist in the films ends with a money drop off at a cemetery just outside of the city. The bags of money are deposited in a trash can and shortly afterwards Thomas Crown arrives to pick up the loot. There are several shots of the Cambridge Cemetery, before you get to the drop off location, and I picked this one above because it stood out. The sculpture is of four cannons topped off with cannon balls and what look like graves of veterans surrounding it. I figured this one would be the easiest to find. It took some time but I found it.

And here it is! Notice how all the headstones are gone? They were replaced by flat markers. See what I mean about cemeteries changing over time? This part of the cemetery was a Civil War memorial and the graves were of fallen soldiers. It was very sobering to be there.

What the Civil War memorial looks like from the other side
Then we started looking for the money drop off location. I knew this one would be tricky and that we would need to compare screen shots from the movie with the areas and specific headstones we came across. I made an album on Picasa of my screen shots and accessed them on my iPhone. It helped a lot to have the screen shots on hand to compare with what we were seeing in real life.

This is the spot we were looking for!

This is the one screen shot I was most grateful for because it helped me find the exact location of the drop off. Compare the three tombstones in the foreground of the shot with the ones below.

I tried to line up the shot as close as I could to the original, even trying to get that pointed headstone in the bottom left of my picture. Notice how different the tombstones look 45 years later. That one on the right seems to be sliding off some sort of pedestal. The trashcan where Steve McQueen picks up the trash would have been towards the back.

Here are some more shots of the area.

If you watch the film closely, you'll spot these two headstones, the Skelton above and Nourse below. Kudos to Carlos who took the time to note the names.

We looked for this headstone in particular but couldn't find it. It was supposedly next to the Skelton and Nourse headstones but when we were there that spot was empty. There wasn't even a marker. I'm wondering if this was a fake headstone added for effect. "Blessed are the Pure in Heart" is what you see when Steve McQueen drives away with the bank loot.

You might think it's pretty strange of me to visit a cemetery looking for filming locations and photographing graves. That's actually pretty normal for me. Ever since I was a teenager, I have been fascinated with cemeteries and I did a lot of photography work at many of them.

I hope you enjoyed my little series on the filming locations of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Carlos and I plan to find more locations but we may have to wait a while before we have time to do this kind of research again.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) Filming Locations - Part 1 Downtown Boston

Carlos and I headed to Boston to do some filming location research on The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). It's a project I had in mind for a long time and I hope to do the same for Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) which was also shot in the Boston area.

In The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) recruits several highly trained criminals to do a bank heist. They don't know who hired them and they don't know each other. Only Thomas Crown knows who they are. He figures this is the perfect crime because no one can squeal on anybody else. In the beginning of the film, you see all the criminals arrive in Boston and head to the Boston Mercantile Bank. This part of the film offers lots of glimpses of downtown Boston circa late 1960s.

Boston Common at Park Street

Alas, we couldn't find the exact spot in the Boston Common so we just shot a few pictures of the general area. The phone booths from the movie are long gone.

South Station. Maybe? We were at a loss and couldn't find anything in South Station that looked quite like this.

This is what part of the interior of South Station looks like today.

Faneuil Hall in Boston. 

The surrounding area of the historic Faneuil Hall looks nothing like it did back in 1968. My how things change! The Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market Place area is a popular tourist location. There are lots of shops, restaurants, eateries and live outdoor entertainment.

We think this is the entrance/exit of the Downtown Crossing subway stop (locally known as just a T stop) but we are not sure. Downtown Crossing area has gone through a lot of changes recently. The original Filene's Department Store and Filene's Basement in Boston, there since 1909, is being torn down for condominiums. The building is not part of the movie but important to the area so I thought I'd share it.

This is where we think the above shot from the film was taken but we are not sure. This entrance/exit is right beneath the Filene's building.

Truly the end of an era!

We tried and tried but couldn't quite figure out which streets these were. I think one of them is Washington Street. The actor is clearly walking across more than one street to get to Congress Street where the bank is. Below are a couple streets that could be these above.

We had better luck finding the Boston Mercantile Bank exterior which is on 55 Congress Street. The interior scenes of the bank robbery were filmed elsewhere.

See those dots? I think that is where the old Boston Mercantile Bank sign used to be.

City of Boston Police Department Headquarters. After the bank robbery, you can see an image of a police car driving by and of this building. The building is now a Loews Boston Hotel but they left the old inscription up.

In this scene, the getaway car drives off with all the money. I noted the name of the Snifter Tavern on the right and Googled it. It's no longer around but I found that the address was 237 Congress Street.

This is what the current 237 Congress Street looks like from the other side of the road. Note that the building with the Trade Composition Co. from the film screencap no longer exists. But there is a building in the far distance that is still the same and that and the address of the tavern is how I know I got the right spot.

In this scene, Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway) meets with Boston Police Detective Eddy Malone (Paul Burke) at the Prudential Center. I'll admit that I didn't quite find the spot but this looked similar and was in the same area.

Stay tuned! I have Parts 2 and 3 coming up. We had much more success finding the Beacon Hill and Cemetery locations from the film. We also plan to take a couple more trips to find the other locations we didn't get to the first time.

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