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Breaking the Silence

A Louisville quintet brings sound to old films.


When the silent film became obsolete in the late ’20s, photoplay music—the classical pieces that accompanied some scenes—was largely forgotten. Eight decades later, the Louisville-based Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra hopes to revive the genre, performing during screenings of classic silent films like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Mark of Zorro. “We’re trying to re-create this art form that’s been lost,” says Rodney Sauer, the quintet’s founder. “The small orchestra sound adds a lot to these movies.”

The troupe relies on Sauer’s collection of roughly 5,000 pieces of authentic photoplay music to compile a unique score that accompanies the drama unfolding on screen. Modern audiences love the music as much as their great-grandparents did. “You play well for a good movie,” says Sauer, “and you’ll get a standing ovation.”

Mont Alto performs during an afternoon screening of The Mark of Zorro. Nov. 15, Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-987-7845.

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