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The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

The Mont Alto Ragtime and Tango Orchestra was founded as a dance band in 1989 by Rodney Sauer, a resident of Louisville, Colorado. In 1994 the orchestra came across a large collection of ‘photoplay’ music that had been donated to the University of Colorado by the widow of a local theater orchestra director. Never having heard of silent film orchestra music, they were intrigued, and taking their cue from a piece of music titled “Three Themes from Beau Geste,” they rented the film, compiled a score, put on a show and were hooked.

Mont Alto has since compiled scores to over 25 silent films ranging from the well-known (The Kid Brother, The Black Pirate) to the obscure (Assunta Spina, The Magic Clock). They have performed at venues from the Denver International Film Festival to the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. They are regulars at the Buster Keaton Festival in Iola, Kansas, and the Kansas Silent Film Festival, and the Chautauqua Silent Film Festival in Boulder. They have recorded a series of video scores for Kino, Milestone, and Image, including The Birth of a Nation, Cobra, Destiny (Der Müde Tod), The Marriage Circle, Amarilly of Clothesline Alley, and The Battle of the Sexes. They also have several CDs of photoplay music with detailed album notes: Cinema: Silent Film Music by J.S. Zamecnik, and Cinema 2: Destiny.

As a five-piece ensemble, Mont Alto is a very small orchestra; but this was one of the more typical size orchestras in a medium-sized film theater in the mid 1920s. Mont Alto consists of pianist and nominal leader Rodney Sauer, violinist Susan Hall, cellist Kevin Johnson, clarinetist Brian Collins, and has enjoyed a series of cornet players over the years including Rodney Davidson, Caryn Diamond, James Becker, and Cami Kidwell-Dodge.

References: Rodney Sauer.

Website : The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
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