Musician Maria Newman brings life to Capitol Rotunda, song to silent film

Musician Maria Newman brings life to Capitol Rotunda, song to silent film

Contributing writerJanuary 3, 2014 

Harlequin Productions will show the silent film “Heart o’ the Hills” with accompaniment by Maria Newman and Malibu Coast Silent Film Orchestra on Saturday.


As a composer and performer, Maria Newman is known for music spanning a wide array of genres and styles.

When she performs Saturday in Olympia, Newman will present her work in two very different settings — in the Capitol Rotunda, and on the stage of the State Theater, accompanying a silent film.

“What brings us to Olympia are these incredible locations,” she said. “I don’t know what other city has these incredible locations to offer.”

Performing in the Rotunda last year with other musicians — including her husband, violist Scott Hosfeld — was a magical experience, she said.

“It was extraordinary,” she said. “In a way, the place is alive because of all the different nooks and crannies. When a listener is hearing, say, a single instrument from way up near the dome and then suddenly an entire ensemble is playing from on the seal, right on the floor underneath the dome, it feels like the room is evolving. It’s alive.

“I loved it,” she added. “I can’t wait to do it again. That was a real enticement.

“Scott and I have played at the U.S. Capitol Building,” she said, “and all I will say is that your building is an extraordinary building.”

Saturday afternoon’s concert will include a wide array of Newman’s compositions, performed by a large group of musicians, including a flute choir from Central Washington University.

At the State Theater, home of Harlequin Productions, Newman and the Malibu Coast Silent Film Orchestra will accompany Mary Pickford’s 1919 “Heart o’ the Hills,” a high-energy drama about a group of Kentucky hillbillies.

Newman — who comes from a family of Hollywood composers, including brother Thomas Newman and cousin Randy Newman — aims to add new life to the remastered film with her music.

“I wanted to write something completely new, so it would be a new experience for new audiences,” Newman said. “Hopefully, the music will breathe new life into a film that has been on the shelf for quite a long time.”

Working with the Mary Pickford Institute for Film Education, she’s written scores for many of Pickford’s films.

“Mary Pickford was a master storyteller with visuals, and Maria is a storyteller with music,” Hugh Munro Neely, the institute’s director and curator, said in a film about Newman’s work. “Maria taps into an emotional core that is there in Pickford’s performance.”

The film has quite a story to tell, Newman said.

“It’s a beautifully done film,” she said. “It’s a wonderful story, almost Hamlet-esque. The cinematography is extraordinary.”

And there’s lots of action. In one scene, Pickford is standing on the back of a horse shooting at a tree. Another notable scene is of a clog dance that Newman calls “the funniest thing you have ever seen.”

Not all the action will be on screen. The Malibu Coast Silent Film Orchestra will be playing on stage alongside the film.

“The setting in the State Theater is an intimate setting,” Newman said. “We’re going to be right there where people can see us sweating to get through the movie in exactly the right time, hitting the right moments.

“I think people like to see other people sweat.” >>

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