NORWICH – The Chenango County Council of the Arts presents the final show in its 2007/08 performing arts series on Sunday when the swashbuckling silent film classic “The Mark of Zorro” is screened with a live performance of its original, Spanish-flavored score played by Rick Benjamin’s Paragon Orchestra.
Old Spanish California is the setting in which Douglas Fairbanks creates the prototype of the modern adventure hero. Slashing his trademark “Z” on the consciousness (and sometimes the posteriors of the corrupt administration of Governor Alvarado), Zorro leads the way with action and humor to “Justice for All!” “The Mark of Zorro” is full of plot twists and secret passageways, with an appealing blend of romance, comedy and swordplay, as Zorro evades pursuit while fighting all oppressors.
Douglas Fairbanks’ amazing athletic prowess and tremendous enthusiasm made the original movie a great success, leading to a whole series of similar swashbuckler roles for Fairbanks, including “The Three Musketeers”, “Robin Hood”, and “The Thief of Bagdad.” The humor, swordplay and action sequences, and tongue-in-cheek hero as played by Fairbanks bring to mind modern day action heroes Jackie Chan and Bruce Willis.
Rick Benjamin and his orchestra have performed the original scores to silent films for about 20 years. They are the only orchestra touring with the original scores to the films which they accompany – and they play these scores with just the instrumentation intended – the “regulation” theater orchestra of 5 strings, flute, clarinet, two shepherd’s crook cornets, a vintage small bore trombone, and a 1900’s era trap drum set.
The Paragon Orchestra has brought these scores and films to audiences young and old at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, the Ravinia Festival, the Washington Performing Arts Society at Lisner Auditorium, the Brucknerhaus in Linz, Austria, and around New York including the Tilles Center and Lincoln Center. Rick Benjamin and his crew are frequently heard in historic theater and movie palaces such as Cleveland’s Ohio Theater, Chattanooga’s Tivoli and the Rialto in Atlanta.
Rick Benjamin, founder and director of the Paragon Orchestra, leads a multifaceted career as a performer and scholar. Mr.Benjamin is an authority on late 19th and early 20th Century American music and has been recognized as a leading force of the Ragtime Revival. He is curator of the Arthur Prior, Simone Mantia, B.F. Alart, and Frank H. Wells theatre orchestra collections, which total some 10,000 fully-orchestrated selections from the 1890s-1920s.
In addition to his various duties with Paragon Orchestra, Mr.Benjamin has a career as a guest conductor, arranger, and pianist; he has also served as a musical consultant and conductor for motion pictures, radio and television. Mr. Benjamin’s conducting engagements include the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, New Jersey Symphony, the Olympia Symphony in Washington State, the Aalborg Symphony (Denmark) and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. His articles on popular music have appeared in several periodicals and his lecture tours take him to colleges and universities throughout the United States. Mr. Benjamin has completed the reconstruction of the lost orchestrations for Scott Joplin’s opera “Treemonisha” and is continuing work on his book about the music of the ragtime era. Rick Benjamin is a member of the music faculty at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and attended the Julliard School as a scholarship student.
Rick Benjamin’s Paragon Orchestra with “The Mark of Zorro” begins at 3 pm on Sunday, April 27. Local sponsorship of the program is provided by NBT Bank...