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Category: Projects

Cecil Hepworth and the Silent Film Industry

Surrey Brass spent several years commissioning and performing music for the silent films of Cecil Hepworth was a pioneering film maker who lived and worked in Walton on Thames at the turn of the 20th Century.

The Concept

 

The Music

John Hughes and Rob Davies have both written fine accompanying sound tracks for many films, some of which are listed below.

Most of the commissions were underwritten by the RC Sherriff Trust, for which we remain grateful.

At one concert in 2004, reactions in the hall proved that the five films dating from 1899 to 1915 were just as fresh and entertaining today as they were with the original audience, but this time accompanied by wonderful brand new scores composed by local composer John Hughes and premiered by Surrey Brass, who were directed by Tom Hammond. This "innovative and entertaining brass ensemble" perfectly captured both the spirit and whimsicality of "The Dog Outwits the Kidnappers" and the moody magnificence of "Burnham Beeches". The movies featured either Hepworth himself (as the dastardly villain seizing his young daughter Elizabeth only to be outwitted by the family dog, Blair - who undoubtedly stole the show!) or renowned actresses of the silent movie era Chrissie White and Alma Taylor, both of whom lived in or around Walton. Many of the scenes were shot in the locality and places such as Church Square, Shepperton were still recognisable today, adding to the considerable local interest. The pre-concert talk by Simon Brown, the eminent early film expert from the British Film Institute, gave a fascinating insight into the life and times of Cecil Hepworth and his film company. The show was particularly appreciated by VIP guest Valerie Williamson, Hepworth's daughter, who had not seen any the films before and particularly liked "Burnham Beeches".  

The Films

You can learn more about Hepworth and his films here.

The Venue

Surrey Brass has often performed live music accompanying Hepworth films at the Walton Playhouse. The Playhouse is the last surviving building from Cecil Hepworth's film studios which flourished in Walton on Thames between 1986 and 1924. Formerly the Hepworth studio electricity generating house, using diesel generators taken from captured German WW1 submarines, it was bought and turned into the home for the local amateur dramatic society and is now operated by Elmbridge Council.


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