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Boston Sunday Globe Feature Article

Accompaniment adds new life to Orpheus

By Leslie Brokaw
March 5, 2006

''Your heart rate as a conductor really changes," says Jane Ring Frank, artistic director of the choral group Boston Secession, of conducting a live soundtrack to a film. ''You have to keep a steady pace, hit your marks, and once in a while you get a beautiful, magical moment."

It's rare for live music to partner with movies these days, and when it's done it's often to silent films. The Cambridge-based Alloy Orchestra, for instance, has accompanied 36 silent movies during its 14 years, and brought its live soundtrack for the Lon Chaney version of ''Phantom of the Opera" to Mexico just this past week. (Alloy Orchestra director Ken Winokur also has a company called Box 5 that restores and releases classic silent films with new musical scores.)

Boston Secession has a different brand of live soundtracking, which it will present with director Jean Cocteau's 1950 ''Orpheus" at the Somerville Theatre next Friday and Saturday. ''We blend the film's sound with live sound," says Ring Frank. With ''Orpheus," that means sometimes taking out Georges Auric's original soundtrack entirely to fold in the voices of the chorus. Ring Frank and Robert Fink, a musicologist at the University of California at Los Angeles, pulled the music from Claudio Monteverdi's and Christoph Willibald Gluck's operas about Orpheus and works from 10 other artists ranging from Francis Poulenc to Philip Glass.?''We watched the DVD over and over with a stopwatch," says Ring Frank, and they used the stopwatch and a metronome at rehearsals.?

This is Boston Secession's fifth movie project; it has also accompanied ''Wings of Desire," ''The Seventh Seal," ''The Blue Angel," and ''Like Water for Chocolate." Ring Frank says one of her favorite moments was during a performance with Wim Wenders's ''Wings." ''We were singing a Kurt Weill song, in French, for a scene with the French woman, Marion. There's a moment when the movie goes from black and white into color, and there was a pause in the music right then. It had never lined up before -- it was sheer luck of timing."

Copyright Boston Globe 2006

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