, Newburyport, MA

June 27, 2013

Play it again, Hamm

As I See It
Jack Garvey

---- — When a playwright called seeking advice for a drama set in an art house cinema, the Screening Room proprietor forwarded one question to “our musicologist.”

That’s a grossly inflated word for a most informal task, or “Much Andrew About Nothing,” as I call it.

The task fell to me because I am a musician — a street-musician for whom a “day job” is actually a night job, which is why I’m a projectionist in the first place.

Before films, we often feature the CDs of local musicians, engaging patrons in conversation, with liner notes available to show.

Meg Rayne has so many friends among Friday night regulars that the scene in the lobby can be mistaken for one anticipating her concert.

Best laugh was the look on Justin Quinn’s face when he finally realized he was hearing himself — quite surprising for someone introduced as “internationally famous from coast to coast” at Glenn’s Cool Bar on any given Sunday.

And I always raise an eyebrow while telling patrons the title of Cheryl Hoenemeyer’s “Crowded Bed.”

Classical music is also well represented in our modest, random, eclectic and pointedly eccentric collection because so many art-house films are period pieces.

This caused my panic attack when we opened “Wings of the Dove.”

Set a century ago, it ran with the lush Cimarosa Oboe Concerto. The music plays until the coming attractions start, so it was off well before the feature began.

Or so I thought. Hearing the oboe again, I bounded back up the steps into the booth looking for a malfunction.

Then I realized: Cimarosa was the soundtrack for the feature’s opening credits. Wish I could claim that great minds think alike here, but this “great mind” sprained a foot because he didn’t believe it himself.

Sometimes a film’s main character is a musician, or the soundtrack highlights a composer. We served “Chicken With Plums,” about a violinist, with Bach violin concerti. “Dangerous Method” about Freud and Jung shined with Rachmaninoff piano psychoti.

We tag directors and actors. The soundtrack for “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?” keeps us on the sunny side during more recent, darker Coen Bros. films. Last year Jeff Bridges released a CD that adds a white Russian flavor to any film he’s in.

Adaptations of Shakespeare are measured with my fellow minstrels from King Richard’s Renaissance Faire who tempest for tips, though I labor to be or not to be Baroque.

Ethnicity and geography are well mapped. “The Descendants,” set in Hawaii, picked Jake Shimabukuro’s ukulele. “I’m So Excited!,” the new film by Spain’s Pedro Almodovar, will strum John Tavano’s guitar Aug. 16 through 29.

And titles: For “The Big Year” we played “The Secret Language of Birds.” I don’t speak bird myself, but I do know that, as Steve Martin’s character insists through clenched teeth: “It’s called birding, not bird watching.”

Yes, I favor flutes: What flautist would not relish having people hear Jean Pierre Rampal, Jethro Tull, Frans Bruggen, Herbie Mann, James Galway, Matt Malloy, Charles Beaulieu, Sarah Bauhan, Roger Ebacher, then do a double take and ask: “Is that you?”

In response, I immediately, invariably change the subject.

We pay tribute: Rampal joined the French resistance, so his jazz albums with pianist Claude Bolling accompany films set in WWII Europe.

When drummer Levon Helm died last year, we played The Band’s boxed set. For “Beasts of the Southern Wild” we timed “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” to be the last song heard.

And an occasional pun, such as The Beatles’ “Help!” with “Sister,” a French film set in an Alpine ski resort.

Finally, we reason with season. Christmas and Klezmer music wage peace in December. Minstrel Tom O’Carroll will “tog go bog e” every St. Patrick’s Day, and cellist Kristen Miller haunts Halloween.

Hope she takes that as intended. I swear I channel her whenever I play Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” That sorcerer’s favorite works so well on the street that I ought to send her royalties.

But not to Grieg ‘cause he’s dead.


Jack Garvey, “Hamm Lynn” at King Richard’s Faire, answers to “To go bog e,” the title of one of O’Carroll’s CDs, is Gaelic for “take it easy.” A new film about Levon Helm, “Ain’t in It for My Health,” plays this Friday and Saturday at Portsmouth’s Music Hall Loft.