Out & About: Kotzschmar friends to show vampire movie

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Back in 1922, silent movies were sweeping the nation and the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ was only 10 years old. This Friday, Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ will recreate those halcyon days of yore with the screening of “Nosferatu,” a vampire movie with an organ accompaniment.

The DaPonte String Quartet is launching its 2015-2016 season with a Nov. 5 concert in a new Portland venue. Titled “Enemies of the State,” the program will feature musicians who have run afoul of the ruling authorities in several countries.

Jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter is an artist of many partners and projects. In his latest effort, he’s fronting an eponymous trio that has recorded a new CD. The three jazzmen are touring in support of the album, and they motor into One Longfellow Square on Nov. 4.


Halloween is coming up this weekend, so Count Dracula and vampires are much in vogue. This famous horror story will be the subject of an interesting presentation this Friday.

The basic tale of the bloodthirsty Count Dracula, a nobleman from 19th-century Transylvania, was first introduced in 1897 via a gothic novel penned by Irish writer Bram Stoker, but most people know it best through its many cinematic adaptations.

The earliest was a 1922 silent film that will be screened this Friday in Portland, accompanied by suitably eerie music played on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ.

The event is a production of the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ, the nonprofit support group that helps fund the massive instrument and creates a series of concerts and other programs throughout the year.

The movie is titled “Nosferatu,” a synonym for vampire, and it was filmed in Germany. The curious choice of title is due to the fact that the producers hadn’t obtained the rights to use the “Dracula” novel or character, although the film’s evil protagonist and plot are otherwise nearly identical.

Silent movies of the period were normally screened with a musical accompaniment. “Nosferatu” was originally accompanied by a complete orchestral score written by German composer Hans Erdmann (in fact the movie is subtitled “Symphony of Horror”), but nearly all of it has been lost.

On Friday FOKO has engaged renowned organist Tom Trenney to play the Kotzschmar, improvising on the fly from the fragments that remain from Erdmann’s score. The film’s dark dramatic style provides plenty of opportunity for creative interpretation.

“Nosferatu’s creepiness certainly inspires a unique kind of improvisation,” according to Trenney. “There is a lot of eeriness and queasiness in the harmony and the motivic material. It should be a great partner for the Kotzschmar.”

Known for his improvisations on hymns, submitted themes, silent films, scripture, poetry and artwork, Trenney was the first organist to be awarded First Prize and Audience Prize at the American Guild of Organists’ 2006 national improvisation competition.

He has performed on all the great organs of the U.S. and has visited Portland several times before at FOKO’s behest, most recently five years ago.

The screening of “Nosferatu” with Kotzschmar accompaniment is slated for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. A masquerade and costume contest will begin at 6 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

DaPonte String Quartet

The horrors of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany will be indirectly experienced on the first program of the DaPonte String Quartet’s 2015-2016 concert season. Titled “Enemies of the State,” two of the three works on the program were written by composers who fell afoul of their respective governments.

Erwin Schulhof was a Czech composer who was born into a German Jewish family. He died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942.

Schulhof’s String Quartet No. 1 was part of a much larger collection that dates from 1924, during his most productive period. Although written nearly two decades before he was arrested by the Nazis, DSQ violinist Ferdinand Liva maintains that No. 1 has an eerily prescient foreboding, describing it “like a ticking time bomb that foreshadows his own death some years later.”

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his String Quartet in C Minor in 1960, and it was famously dedicated to “victims of fascism and war.” He might have added “and communism” to the dedication except for the fact that he was a Russian composer working for the Soviet Union’s official cultural agency. In times past he had run afoul of Stalin several times and had been forced to recant and apologize for heretical views.

This quartet prominently contains a Jewish theme, one of several that Shostakovich inserted into his music during his long career. Shostakovich was highly critical of the Soviet Union’s anti-Semitism.

The sunniest piece of music on the program is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s String Quartet in A Major. Mozart lived during the Age of Enlightenment in Vienna, Austria, and most of his patrons were European royals and noblemen. DSQ cellist Myles Jordan has described the composer as “a radical leftist,” and speculates that his premature death at age 35 was assassination by poison.

For the 2015-2015 season, its 24th, the DSQ has a new venue for its Portland concerts: the Maine Jewish Museum at the foot of Munjoy Hill. Built around 1920 as the Etz Chaim Synagogue, it has been restored as a testament to Maine’s immigrant Jewish community.

Catch the DaPonte String Quartet’s “Enemies of the State” concert at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Maine Jewish Museum, 267 Congress St. in Portland. Call 529-4555.

Charlie Hunter Trio

Charlie Hunter is an unusual jazz guitarist who likes unconventional approaches to music. For starters he normally plays an eight-string guitar – two more than the conventional instrument.

Second, he likes unusual combinations of instruments. For this latest project, an album titled “Let the Bells Ring On,” he has chosen trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and drummer Bobby Previte as his sidemen. Dubbed the Charlie Hunter Trio, this intriguing ensemble visits Portland next week.

Hunter is a virtuoso of his instrument. Critic Sean Westergaard, writing for AllMusic.com, explains: “Charlie Hunter is the undisputed king of the eight-string guitar, maintaining funky basslines while simultaneously playing leads or comping, and his technique is mind-boggling. But Hunter is about much more than technique: He’s an agile improviser with an ear for great tone, and always has excellent players alongside him in order to make great music, not to show off.”

Catch the Charlie Hunter Trio at 8 p.m. Nov. 4 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Cal 761-1757.

Tom Trenney is a keyboard artist who will accompany a screening of the silent film “Nosferatu” this Friday in a presentation by the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.