Performed with pianist Marta Aznavoorian, “Chaplin’s Smile” will stream live on October 17th and 18th as part of the North Shore Chamber Music Festival, in Chicago. Reserve your online ticket now.
How did you come up with the idea for the “Chaplin’s Smile” project?
About four years ago, I was doing research on Hollywood composers and composers that have written for film. I stumbled upon Smile. I heard the song a million times but it never occurred to me to find out who wrote it. I scrolled down to credits and to my big surprise saw the name of Charlie Chaplin. Surely, I thought, he probably used the song in one of his films, but who is the composer? After a bit more digging through the web, I discovered that Chaplin was in fact the composer behind “Smile” and later on found out that he has written most of the music for his films, including hundreds of beautiful songs, 13 of which I decided to arrange.
Most people know Charlie Chaplin as the filmmaker and actor. Few know his incredible qualities as a composer. For you, what’s special about Chaplin’s music?
Chaplin’s was a multifaceted, multitalented individual whose many talents included being an amateur violinist, cellist (holding both in his right hand!), pianist, composer, and even conductor!
I find Chaplin’s music to be very sincere, “heart on sleeve” approach. Much like the person, his music is charming, warm, nostalgic and tragic. It has almost Mozartean grace and he had such a tremendous knack for a beautiful melody like the songs from Modern Times, Limelight, The Great Dictator and The Kid.
When preparing this project you met with Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter. Can you tell us about this experience?
I was fortunate to have a mutual friend that upon learning about my project suggested that I get in touch with Chaplin’s granddaughter Kiera Chaplin.
Kiera became very curious about my project and agreed to open a few shows in NY and Los Angeles. We have since become very close friends and occasionally she shares the role of the narrator with me as we did at Chaplin’s Manor in Vevey, Switzerland in February of this year. Which coincidentally happened to be one of my last performances before Covid. She also makes a cameo appearance in my directorial debut of the music video “Smile” also starring my dear friends Joshua Bell and Marta Aznavoorian.
What do you hope your listeners will take away with them?
What sets Chaplin apart from many other great comedians, actors and directors of the same era, is his uncanny ability to be relevant no matter when one discovers him.
As a kid, I watched Chaplin’s films obsessively without even knowing that he was such a prolific composer. The multimedia show focuses not only on his musical talents, but also on his influences which include encounters with Debussy, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky. His love for Verdi, Puccini, Tchaikovsky and Brahms.
I also will narrate stories from Chaplin’s “My Autobiography” and the media presentation will include clips and photographs from his films.
If people want to tune into your performance of ‘CHARLIE CHAPLIN’s Smile’, how can they do so?
The shows take place at Chicago’s beautiful salon PianoForte on October 17th at 7:30pm CDT and October 18th at 2PM CDT. We are all thrilled that both performances have been sold out, but we are hoping that people will tune in and support the show by purchasing streaming tickets at : nscmf.org.