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9 members of the Erie Chamber Orchestra present a groundbreaking recording project featuring music from film legend J.S. Zamecnik. Read more

Erie, PA Classical Music
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This project was successfully funded on January 24, 2014.

9 members of the Erie Chamber Orchestra present a groundbreaking recording project featuring music from film legend J.S. Zamecnik.

Erie, PA Classical Music
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About this project

The Treacherous Knave.  Evil Plotter.  Waterfalls.  Defense of Honor.

Each of these descriptive titles creates an instant reaction inside all of us.  Whether or not we can explain why we feel this way, each of us knows that in our mind's eye, we can picture exactly what legendary film composer John Stepan (J.S.) Zamecnik intended for us to see.  Villains, masked men in capes, picturesque scenes, cowboys, the list goes on and on.  Thus is the genius of this oft-overlooked film composer.  The purpose of this recording project is to shed a new light on the wealth of music contributed by Zamecnik to the fledgling oeuvre that was film composition in the early 20th century.

Take this for example...

You can immediately picture the villain scurrying around, plotting his next treacherous move armed with only dynamite and a simple alarm clock.  This song, the Treacherous Knave, was used predominantly in the black and white Porky Pig cartoon "The Blow Out."  No credit to Zamecnik was given.

Better yet - the Erie Chamber Orchestra (ECO) most likely has the only copy in existence of this actual sheet music with complete parts.

A quick word about the most important part of this project - your support!

Where does my donation go?

The goal of $5000 is the minimum amount necessary to ensure that this project gets off the ground.  This includes both the musician's fees as well as the cost of CD production - all other fees are being handled in-house and are not being passed along to you, the supporter!  Any additional funds raised will be immediately reinvested in the project.  

Back to the project details and our story...

(Read more about Zamecnik here from Wikipedia and here from the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra )

Where did this music come from?

The ECO owns a collection of over 1000 musical selections from the "silent film" era, most of which were donated to our founding conductor Bruce Morton Wright by the Almhagen family orchestra.  This ensemble, led by sisters Juno, Melba and Autumn, was the house ensemble for the old Strand Theatre here in Erie for decades.  Until recently discovered here in the bowels of the university, this one-of-a-kind library was feared lost.  

 What makes this collection extremely unique is that over 99% of this music contains complete orchestra parts.  While typical discoveries of this nature traditionally result in the finding of a few sheets of piano and violin music, we instead stumbled upon a categorized and impeccably organized collection.

Complete parts for most music
Complete parts for most music

 Upon discovery of this music, members of the ECO, myself included, launched a recital series to showcase this treasure trove of music.  The first group consisted of a trio of musicians; Howard Lyon, violin, Ruth Ann Scanzillo, cello/piano and Steve Weiser, marimba (playing the cello parts as well as various percussion instruments).

The first performance of "The Sounds of the Silents"
The first performance of "The Sounds of the Silents"

 The reaction to this first concert was so phenomenal that we immediately created additional performances along with supplementing our ranks with 2 additional musicians; Geoffrey Wands, clarinet, and Ronald Stitt, trombone.  

Ron, Howard and Geoff
Ron, Howard and Geoff

With someone like Zamecnik's resume of film credits (Wings, Redskin, The Covered Wagon, Old Ironsides, Cavalcade, The Terror of Tiny Town, etc...), one would think that his name would be synonymous with the likes of Carl Stalling, John Williams, Max Steiner and Elmer Bernstein.  Instead, he seems to be destined to always float behind the scenes, never fully receiving credit for the expanse of this genius or for the extent of his creativity. 

With your help, we can change this!  Most of this music has not been heard live in 100 years!  

The ECO is prepared to launch an exhaustive recording project to bring the music of Zamecnik back into relevancy for an entire new generation of listeners. Furthermore, by permanently adding Zamecnik's music to the existing pantheon of recorded orchestral music, we guarantee that this national treasure will be kept alive in perpetuity.  

You can make this possible!! 

The first phase of this project will focus on Zamecnik's incredibly powerful descriptive scenes and underscoring.

Take this next video for example...

Again, near perfect descriptive power.  Even more impressive is that our library has countless more titles just like this one:

  • Evil Plotter
  • Defense of Honor
  • Battle Music
  • The Furious Mob
  • Air Flight
  • Egyptia
  • Men of Sparta
  • Remorse
  • Comedy Excitement
  • Stealthy Escape

View the full list of our collection here.  Again, the copies in our possession of this music are most likely the only in existence!

Why nine musicians?

Due to the amazing sound colorations and sonorities that we have created using our smaller, silent movie ensemble, we have chosen to record this music utilizing this unique group.  As you can see and hear in our videos, we are able to bring new life, excitement and innovation to this already powerful and descriptive music.  Our ensemble will include:

Howard Lyon, violin
Howard Lyon, violin
Jennifer Jansen, viola
Jennifer Jansen, viola
David Graham, flute
David Graham, flute
Geoffrey Wands, clarinet
Geoffrey Wands, clarinet
Brian Hannah, trumpet
Brian Hannah, trumpet
Ron Stitt, trombone
Ron Stitt, trombone
Ruth Ann Scanzillo, piano/cello
Ruth Ann Scanzillo, piano/cello
Brad Amidon, percussion
Brad Amidon, percussion
Steve Weiser, marimba
Steve Weiser, marimba

With all of this being said, the nine of us ask you to read our story, watch the videos and hopefully, help us add J.S. Zamecnik into the permanent archives of film history with this one-of-a-kind recording.  The final product will be available on both CD and downloadable from iTunes.  

Watch all 12 videos here on our YouTube Channel...

I thank you so much for listening, reading and watching, and I look forward to answering any and all of your questions!

Best,

Steve Weiser - GM, Erie Chamber Orchestra

Risks and challenges

With the ECO's unique relationship to Gannon University, we are in a powerful position to ensure full completion of this project with as few hiccups as possible. All recording costs will be handled in-house by the university.

Your support goes 100% to the musicians themselves for their hard work along with the various expenses of the CD replication process. That's it.

No overhead. No outrageous studio costs. Nothing outside fees or hidden expenses. Pictures of the process will be posted as time progresses, as well as art work concepts for the liner notes.

Please feel free to contact GM Steve Weiser with further questions!

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Rewards

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    A movie poster from the recording project!

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    A limited edition of our CD "The Sounds of the Silents" along with accompanying movie poster.

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    A limited edition copy of our CD "The Sounds of the Silents" signed by the musicians as well as Maestro Matthew Kraemer along with accompanying movie poster.

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    A DVD of the recording sessions - a unique and one-of-a-kind look behind the scenes into this innovative project along with all previous gifts.

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    Framed art print featuring music from the early 1900's in a stunning frame along with all previous gifts.

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    A private dinner with Maestro Kraemer and the musicians from the "Sounds of the Silents" here in Erie along with all previous gifts.

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    A private performance of our "Sounds of the Silents" concert scheduled at your convenience in a mutually agreed upon venue along with all previous gifts.

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Funding period

- (44 days)