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Northwest Sinfonietta performs Charlie Chaplin music

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“We’re not your grandmother’s chamber orchestra,” proudly proclaims Neil Birnbaum, executive director for Northwest Sinfonietta. “We … try to be more adventurous in our programming.”

Saturday, Jan. 31, the Northwest Sinfonietta, a nationally recognized 35-member troupe based in Tacoma, will serenade audiences with musical accompaniment to two Charlie Chaplin films — a performance unique in the orchestra’s 18-season history. A fresh repertoire should “attract a wider range of audiences,” Birnbaum believes.

Apparently Chaplin had a similar knack for risk-taking. “Shoulder Arms,” one of the evening’s selected pieces, pokes fun at heroism in battle as Chaplin’s character and his “Awkward Squad” march to the front lines. Production on the film concluded in 1918, just as devastated soldiers returned home from the First World War. “To choose the war as the topic of a comedy was very daring,” says musical director Christoph Chagnard. Chaplin’s gamble paid off, and Arms further cemented his worldwide reputation as a comedic master.

Close to a century later, we still recognize the iconic face, the clownish gait, and gape at his extraordinary deftness in multiple disciplines — acting, writing, directing, even score composition. A gifted pianist and violinist, Chaplin invented the music for all his works. “Watching his films, I couldn’t think of much better music to put on them,” says Chagnard.

See (and hear) this timeless talent at the Rialto Theater.

[Rialto Theater, Saturday, Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m., $21-$45, $55 ticket includes prix fixe dinner at Sea Grill, 310 S. Ninth, Tacoma, 253.591.5894]


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