Organ music tends to drag me down. On a glorious morning in Balboa Park I welcome the din of leaf blowers over that of the organ.
Organs make grave companions.
I have always fervently believed that organs are best left to accompany church choirs, dastardly villains, wax museum monsters and Vincent Price. Not necessarily in that order.
Organs lack versatility.
The deep, resonant tones of the organ tug me into a somber state. Its heavy, melancholy notes sap the very life and vital energy from around me creating a funereal mood.
Changing my tune.
This evening I witnessed a joyous, "thrashing" of the Spreckels Organ. Our musician played with an enthusiasm he credited to his fourteen-year-old self. Dennis James has played the organ alongside silent films at Spreckels for over 2 decades. This man is unquestionably, contagiously passionate about what he does. So much so that his zeal sustained him during 77 continuous minutes of pairing his delightful music to Buster Keaton's silent film, The Cameraman.
I cannot remember the last time I laughed so continuously, so raucously. I felt compelled to stop laughing myself only so that I could enjoy the guffaws and fabulous belly laughter that surrounded me. Here is a hero I truly want to rally behind - a clumsy-yet-amiable human, imperfect and yet perfectly loveable. It almost feels like voyeurism, watching Buster become instantly enamored with Sally, his open admiration and their awkward first date on a Sunday stroll.
Elicits delightful emotions.
I credit Mr. James' sheer delight for warming my heart to the organ's tunes. This man is obviously living his dharma. Together with an audience of several thousand, my emotions rose and fell on cue with Mr. James' precise coaxing.
There is something extraordinarily therapeutic about laughing out loud, uncontrollably at times, in a large crowd. The vibrations of unrestrained laughter resonated within us, surrounding us with positive energy, similar to the chanting of om as the sounds harmonize and become one with everything. I have a colleague, Santosh, who guides a Laughter Yoga workshop (http://www.yogasantosh.com/). Unexpectedly, I believe that I experienced a sampling of the transformational power of this form of yoga tonight.
What is it about the silent film that awakens our inner emotional dialogue?
Silent films embrace simplicity, minimalism. The message is pure and uncomplicated. Transparent. Genuine. It's true that at times the scenes are slightly exaggerated to illustrate the story in the absence of dialogue. But I felt no lack, no shortage, nothing missing from this evening's performance. Only abundant humor and high spirits. Instead it was absolutely perfect. Timeless.
Once again, contrast.
Such stark contrast to the presently noisy, muddy and complex productions created by Hollywood. Usually I would bemoan the crowd's laughter as distracting, a hindrance to hearing all of the dense dialogue necessary to explain the subtle details of the plot.
Not tonight. Here the audience's reactions became the dialogue, a supporting role to the events unfolding on-screen. The laughter mingled with the live organ music to create a spontaneous symphony chronicling our response to the plights and pleasures of our hero and his quest to woo and win the girl. Relying on the audience to truly, openly feel. I left charmed by the experience. I find myself eager to allow the simplicity of laughter and silent movies to infiltrate the rest of my world.
May sheer, authentic joy reverberate throughout your life like an uncontrollable, belly laugh.
In order to illustrate the evening's tone I feel it necessary to share a sample of laughter and organ music mingling. ENJOY!
To learn more about the Spreckels Organ, upcoming events and how to support silent movie night, please visit, http://www.sosorgan.com/.