By Chip Chandler

One of the classic films of the silent era will come to life in a screening featuring an orchestral score specially written for the West Texas A&M University Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra will give a synchronized performance of a score written by WT’s own Dr. B.J. Brooks with a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” at 7:30 p.m. May 6 in Mary Moody Northen Recital Hall on WT’s Canyon campus.

The student musicians will then take the film on the road for a series of performances: 7:30 p.m. May 10 at the La Rita Theatre, 311 Denrock Ave. in Dalhart; 7:30 p.m. May 11 at the Mesquite Arts Center, 1527 N. Galloway Ave. in Mesquite; and 7 p.m. May 12 in St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 3471 Westheimer Road in Houston.

All concerts are free.

The Dalhart performance is made possible by the Louise C. and Gene F. Rahll Endowment for WT’s Showcase in a Suitcase program.

Since beginning its live cinema series in 2006, the WT Symphony Orchestra has performed soundtracks with other classics from the silent era, including “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Iron Mask,” “The Mark of Zorro” and “City Lights.”

“Silent films were not intended to be heard without music, so prior to the successful production of film with sound in the late 1920s, theaters employed musicians to provide accompaniment,” said Dr. Mark Bartley, director of orchestral activities, the Lilith Brainard Professor of Music and associate director of the School of Music. “Our Live Cinema series allows us to revisit that era with music specifically written for the action on the screen.”

For “The Kid,” Brooks said he watched the film without any soundtrack, improvising themes on the piano as he watched how Chaplin developed the characters, keying in on the moods and feelings that the director wanted to convey.

“This will be the third time our orchestra perform this score, and it’s always a pleasure to hear it again,” Brooks said. “I really don’t remember every detail because I’ve written several hundred pieces since then, so there are always some happy surprises when I hear it being performed again.”

“The Kid” was Chaplin’s first full-length feature film and was a major success, finishing 1921 as the second-highest grossing film of the year and catapulting its young lead, Jackie Coogan, into superstardom.