Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928, Silent (France) with Live Specially-Commissioned Piano Accompaniment from Peter Urpeth

Joan-of-arc21A landmark in cinema, the film depicts the trial and execution of Joan of Arc.  Danish film director Dreyer spent over a year researching the original transcripts of her trial before writing the script.  Stage actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s performance as Joan in her only major screen role has become legendary among film scholars and the film set was modelled on medieval architecture in order to realistically portray the Rouen prison.   Known for its cinematography and use of close-ups, Dreyer didn’t allow the actors to wear make-up.

Despite objections and cuts made to the film by clerical and government censors, it was a critical success and has consistently been considered one of the greatest films ever made, praised and referenced by many film directors and musicians.  For several decades it was released and viewed in several re-edited versions until in 1981 a film print of Dreyer’s final cut of the film was discovered in a mental institution in Oslo, Norway and re-released.

4564_faclan-2012_peter-urpeth_nosferatuPeter Urpeth (b Romford, Essex 1963) is a pianist, harmonium player and composer working mostly in improvisation, jazz, theatre music and alternative performance art forms.  In 2011 and 2012 he was commissioned by An Lanntair to provide live accompaniment to two dark but very different classics of early cinema, Murnau’s Nosferatu (1921) and Dreyer’s Vampyr 1930.

His work in the theatre and with film started with on-stage accompaniment to Steve Berkoff’s ‘Fall Of The House of Usher’; in Perrier Award-winning shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Donald Swann (Flanders & Swann) in the Fania Williams / Richard Crane Company; with award-winning writer/performer Leon Robinson and most recently, in a series of collaborations with poet, film-maker, artist and storyteller, Ian Stephen.

Silent movies are in his blood as his aunt, Constance Urpeth, was a performer in cinemas throughout London during the heyday of the silent movie era.  Favouring ad hoc and loose long-term partnerships, Peter has, over the last 30 years, worked with some of Europe’s finest improvising musicians including saxophonists Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill & Raymond MacDonald, guitarist Derek Bailey, trumpeter Jon Impett, and vocalist Maggie Nicols.  He has given performances at the Purcell Room (South Bank Centre, London), and on British Council Tours in France, Belgium and Holland, as well as playing in the Czech Republic with Ian Stephen.  As well as being a musician, Peter is a novelist and poet.


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