Detroit Symphony Orchestra Announces Free Screening of Classic Silent Film Sparrows with Live Premiere of New Soundtrack


DETROIT, (July 8, 2010) – Join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and The Mary Pickford Foundation as they present a free screening of the 1926 silent film gem, Sparrows, starring Mary Pickford.  The highlight of the screening will be the world premiere of a new soundtrack to this classic film, composed by Jeffrey Silverman and performed live by the DSO. The performance is conducted by Hugh Munro Neely and takes place on Thu., July 15 at 8 p.m. at Orchestra Hall. Doors open at 6 p.m. for additional pre-concert activities.


As a sample of what to look forward to on Thu., July 15, local actors and musicians will reenact the process of filming a silent movie on Fri., July 9 and Sat., July 10 during the pre-concert activities for the Detroit Symphony at Ford House concerts in Grosse Pointe Shores. On the day of the screening, Thu., July 15, there will be several pre-concert activities in the Max M. Fisher Music Center. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., an informative Q&A Salon with composer Jeffrey Silverman will be held in Allesee Hall. At 6:20 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. in The Music Box, the Mary Pickford Institute will present two live stage performances of Land of Dreams, a 25-min play that introduces Mary Pickford, Hollywood’s first superstar. Throughout the evening on Thu., July 15, local actors will reenact silent movie filming in the Max. M. Fisher Atrium. The film, Sparrows, begins at 8 p.m. on Thu., July 15 in Orchestra Hall.


Starring Mary Pickford, America’s first sweetheart, and directed by William Beaudine, Sparrows is set deep in the swamps of America’s South and tells the story of youthful triumph against all odds. The Grimes family operates a farm where unwanted or lost children are cruelly worked and underfed. Mollie (Pickford) leads the orphans in a harrowing escape through alligator-infested swamps to freedom. This screening of Sparrows demonstrates that the “Silents” were never truly silent but often featured live musical accompaniment by a piano or even an orchestra, similar to the performance presented by the DSO. However, like many silent films, Sparrows was originally released without a full score, leaving music directors at movie theaters to fill the silence with standard classical music from their libraries. On Thu., July 15, Sparrows will be accompanied for the first time by an original full score composed by Jeffrey Silverman.


Jeffrey Silverman is a composer and music producer with dozens of films and television projects to his credit. His music can be heard on many cable and network channels including Fox, Bravo, A&E, MTV, The History Channel, Biography and TLC.  Silverman’s film scores have been performed by several European orchestras, and his score for Sparrows won a special award in September of 2008 at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival.


Silverman’s talents as a record producer and orchestrator have garnered him three platinum records. As a Broadway composer and conductor, he has conducted Broadway shows including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance starring Bernadette Peters and the original Broadway production of Les Misérables.  Four of his musicals have been presented on the New York stage. Silverman divides his time between Los Angeles and New York. A recent recording of Jeffrey Silverman’s score for Sparrows will be released on DVD next year by Milestone Films.


Hugh Munro Neely is a filmmaker, historian and musician. He has been a guest conductor for several orchestras, including the National Philharmonic in Maryland, the Orchestra Sinfonica del Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy, and the Janacek Philharmonic in the Czech Republic. He studied conducting with Alma Hewitt, Thomas Summerville, and Frantisek Vajnar. Neely specializes in music for silent films, as well as in classical music from the Slavic repertoire, especially that of Dvořák and Smetana. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is curator of collections at the Mary Pickford Institute for Film Education. Neely is in demand as a speaker on film history and on the life and works of Mary Pickford.  As a filmmaker, he has directed biographical documentary films on Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, and others, many of which have appeared on Cinemax, Bravo and Turner Classic Movies. His most recent film, The Woman with the Hungry Eyes, premiered at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York.


Mary Pickford was born Gladys Smith in Toronto, Canada in 1892.  Her father died when she was five, leaving the family without savings or income.  As a child actor, Mary became the family breadwinner.  She began acting in films in New York in 1909.  By 1916, at the age of 24, Mary was generally acknowledged to be the most famous and popular woman not only in America but in the world.


Mary was affectionately known as “America’s Sweetheart” and as an actress, defined film acting.  As a woman in the film industry, she set standards for excellence, was a founding member of United Artists and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and is acknowledged as one of Hollywood’s first Movie Stars.  She was the first woman to earn $1,000,000 in a single year.


Doors open at 6 p.m. for this free performance, and the screening of Sparrows begins at 8 p.m. Although this is a free event, tickets must be reserved in advance at the Max M. Fisher Music Center box office (3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit); by calling (313) 576-5111; or online at




DSO at the Movies – Sparrows

Hugh Munro Neely, conductor

Orchestra Hall

Thu., July 15 at 8 p.m.


Sponsors: Mary Pickford Foundation & Detroit Symphony Orchestra

One Response to “Detroit Symphony Orchestra Announces Free Screening of Classic Silent Film Sparrows with Live Premiere of New Soundtrack”

  1. I attended the program tonight and could not have been more pleased.
    Thank you, DSO and the Mary Pickford Foundation for such a wonderful night.

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