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INSIDE THE PERIMETER: Fox to host silent film screening with organist

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Seated at an organ, Clark Wilson's job is to provide live soundtracks to silent films, trailing his fingers over the organ keys to manipulate an audiences' emotions as the story unfolds silently on screen.

"You're taking action and turning it into music through your fingers," he said.

The resident organist at the Ohio Theatre for the past 19 years and a renowned talent in that respect, Wilson will provide the musical accompaniment for a special screening of the 1927 silent film "The General" at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday, playing the venue's Mighty "Mo" organ. The screening is presented by the American Theatre Organ Society and Turner Classic Movies in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the theater organ.

Wilson will perform a score he penned about a decade ago specifically for "The General" as the original score for the silent film was lost over time. Wilson's score will feature southern styles of music befitting the time period in which the action is set -- 1862 -- or the time period in which the film was created.

"There's a school of thought that it was very, very improper to use music that didn't come along until 40 years after the picture was made," Wilson said.

It's a school of thought to which he subscribes, along with the idea that a theater organist should never call attention to himself.

"That is the cardinal sin in accompanying silent films," Wilson said. "The film is the star and if you do your job as the accompanist correctly, you will disappear behind that picture and maybe people will tell you after the picture, 'We forgot you were playing,' and that's the ultimate compliment."

Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. screening of "The General" on Tuesday are $8. For more information on the event, call 800-745-3000 or visit www.foxtheatre.org.