Sometimes in life, the original is still the best. It’s no secret that silent movies are making a comeback with film buffs, and the North Texas Chapter of the American Theater Organ Society is serving up an Oscar winner on Saturday, February 1, at the McKinney Performing Arts Center on the square in downtown McKinney.
The 1927 classic Wings was the first movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture when the Oscars originated in 1929. Even in today’s world of digital magic, the aerial combat scenes in this movie are considered stellar by a whole new generation of critics who have re-discovered this film classic. Add the thundering notes of a theatrical pipe organ and the experience is unforgettable.
The interest in silent films was always present in the film community, but the accolades for this film in particular were re-kindled two years ago when a new silent film, The Artist, took a lot of people by surprise by winning the Academy’s most coveted prize of Best Picture. In honor of that achievement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences threw a two night gala event in Hollywood with internationally known theater organist Clark Wilson playing an original score for the silent World War One classic. The black tie events were standing room only with all of Hollywood’s “A” list in attendance. The Academy was so impressed, it issued a statement favoring the use of the Theater Organ for the presentation of all silent films.
Fortunately, the North Texas area is home to one of only two remaining such public instruments in the entire state of Texas. Since its installation in 2006, the original 1926 Wurlitzer Theater Pipe Organ has been used for everything from weddings, to soundtracks for stage productions by the McKinney Repertory Theater, to concerts and silent movies. The North Texas Chapter presents several programs a year, and this presentation of Wings will kick off the 2014 season.
Handling the musical score for the program will be a man who is no stranger to the Dallas area arts scene. Dr. Bill Hanson served as principal organist for the First Baptist Church in Dallas for 14 years. He spent an additional 6 years playing for the Prestonwood Baptist Church. He is well-versed in theatrical as well as liturgical music, and has played concerts in such diverse locations as the Morton Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas to the Royal Albert Hall in London, England.
Adult tickets for the event are $12 in advance, or $14 at the door. Kids’ tickets are priced at $5 in advance, or $7 at the door. Seniors over 65 are admitted free, but tickets are required. Reservations can be made by calling the MPAC box office at (214) 544-4630.
Story by Mike Tarzis