The VCS Radio Conservatory recently utilized Flicker Alley’s A Trip to the Moon. What is the VCS Radio Conservatory, you ask?
The VCS Radio Conservatory is the arts and broadcasting department at Vacaville Christian Schools. It’s a music studies program! The conservatory encompasses the VCS Radio Symphony; with the symphony’s film scoring program, students from 4th grade-12th grade can compose their own music for silent films and then perform their music in a live feature performance alongside the film. It started in 2007 with their premiere of the restored version of Metropolis.
The director, Ralph Martin, who founded the program in 1985, is in his 32nd year as director of the school’s VCS Radio Conservatory and conductor of the VCS Radio Symphony Orchestra. He’s centered a major part of his students’ studies around film scoring, synchronization and performance–especially early silent cinema.
Martin informed us that it takes the students about seven weeks of study and rehearsal before performance. Composition for a film can take up to 12 weeks and generally overlaps the rehearsal schedules. The study and rehearsal time depends on many factors; length of the film is one consideration. Silent movies require almost constant music; much more than modern sound films. A two-hour feature requires two hours of scoring. A few of the films the students have performed were about two and a half hours in length!
Another factor is the film’s scoring needs. Some feature films still have their original scores and parts available. However, much of the silent films’ music has been lost or badly damaged over the decades. These scores have to be reconstructed, taking more time to prepare. Films that lack original scores altogether take the longest time. For these, the students compose a completely new musical work. Aside from many film shorts, the students have composed complete original film scores for two silent features — Peter Pan (1924) and Murnau’s Sunrise (1927).
The Lost World – (1925 / 2018 adaptation) will be their third feature-length score composition. The students have already started creating the motifs and themes for this project, which will be performed this summer.
Recently the students performed, Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, composing their own scores to play onstage.
Here are some of the other featured projects the students have completed between 2007 and 2017:
Silent feature-length films
Fritz Lang’s: Metropolis — (using the 2002 restoration version) – with the original Gottfried Huppertz 1927 orchestra score
William Wellman’s: Wings – orchestra score by Carl Davis
Lotta Reiniger’s: The Adventures of Prince Achmed – with the original Wolfgang Zeller 1926 score
Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights—with Charlie Chaplin’s original score – (with sound F/X separation)
Harold Lloyd’s: Safety Last! – orchestra score by Carl Davis
James Barrie’s: Peter Pan – with our own student composed original orchestra score
Douglas Fairbank’s: The Thief of Baghdad–orchestra score by Carl Davis
Charlie Chaplin’s: Modern Times--Chaplin’s original score with (sound effects separation and Chaplin’s singing voice)
Fritz Lang’s: – Metropolis (2010 restoration with additional footage) (Gottfried Huppertz 1927 orchestra score)
Charlie Chaplin’s: Gold Rush – Chaplin’s original score
F. W. Murnau’s: Sunrise – with student-composed score
Thomas Edison’s: The Land Beyond the Sunset with student score based on Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition
William O’Conner’s: Moonland — student composed jazz score
Essanay’s new silent short: Broncho Billy and the Bandit’s Secret — student composed orchestra score
Art Clokey’s first claymation short: Gumbasia — student restored jazz score
Live score for animated film shorts with sound and dialog separation.
Dave and Max Fleischer’s Superman: The Mad Scientist – with student restored Sammy Timberg’s original 1941 score
Dave and Max Fleischer’s Superman: The Billion Dollar Limited – with student restored Sammy Timberg’s original 1942 score
Seymour Kneitel’s Popeye the Sailor: Tots of Fun – with student orchestrated score based on von Suppe’s Poet and Peasant
Art Clokey’s claymation film pilot: Gumby on the Moon — student composed jazz scores