Muscatine, Iowa–Music and history lovers, as well as those looking for an out of the box way to celebrate Mother’s Day, should look no further than the upcoming performance of “Brinton Surprise” by Red Cedar Chamber Music at the Muscatine Art Center. A remarkable free concert bringing together original instrumental music and early silent films, the performance will intrigue audience members of all ages May 8.
A group from the Cedar Rapids area, Red Cedar Chamber Music travels around the state of Iowa (and occasionally beyond it) and has visited Muscatine in previous years. Muscatine Art Center Director Melanie Alexander had heard them perform before, and when they reached out to her about holding a concert at the Muscatine Art Center, she considered it a good fit. “They were excited about it, and I’ve enjoyed hearing from them in the past, and I thought it would be fun for us,” she shared.
Featuring beautiful, original music played by Red Cedar’s directors Miera Kim (a violinist) and Carey Bostian (a cellist), flutist Claudia Anderson, and guitarist John Dowdall, “Brinton Surprise” will include selections of silent films and magic lantern shows from the Brinton Collection, a remarkable set of early films and documents now held in the University of Iowa’s Special Collections. To help audiences understand and enjoy the films, Michael Zahs, the historian who originally discovered the Brinton Collection, will provide narration. Red Cedar and Zahs have worked together to create two other productions featuring media from the Brinton Collection.
Along with music from some of their previous shows, Red Cedar will debut three new compositions, including a score by Philip Wharton for “The Fairytale of Springtime,” a 1902 silent film from France; a score by Michael Kimber for “Venetian Tragedy,” a gripping nine minute dramatic short; and a piece by Jean-Francois Charles and Nicolas Sidoroff to go along with a modern creation honoring the work of French filmmaker Georges Méliès. Something out of the ordinary, Alexander believes the audience will have fun hearing music few people have ever listened to before.
The “Brinton Surprise” concert will give people who have watched other silent film showings at the Muscatine Art Center a chance to see ones they have likely never encountered before. Alexander noted that the performance would particularly appeal to, “people who have been to Eagles and Ivories and enjoyed the silent film component.” However, Alexander believed the performance would amuse to those who have never seen a silent movie as well.
More than anything, Alexander looks forward to welcoming listeners of all ages back to the music room in the Musser Mansion, located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue, to experience the thrills of a live performance. “It’s a chance to return to things we enjoyed and took for granted before 2020,” she said, as she personally welcomes the chance to feel, “that immersion you feel with performers that you don’t when you’re watching at home.”
A free event requiring no preregistration, Red Cedar Chamber Music’s performance of “Brinton Surprise” will take place at the Art Center May 8 at 3 p.m. A matinee concert suitable for people of all ages, Alexander hopes many curious residents, as well as families looking for a new way to celebrate Mother’s Day with the moms in their lives, will come out and have some good old-fashioned fun.