New Yorker Helps Oklahomans Travel Back To The 1920's With Music Accompaniment For Silent Films

Based in New York, James travels the world bringing the century-old instruments back to life, including the one at the Coleman Theatre. 

Friday, May 24th 2024, 9:57 pm



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The air was still, and the sheet music was in place, ready to give people a glimpse into entertainment from a hundred years ago.

"I'm so excited to hear this organ play and it's just going to be a beautiful experience," said visitor Mary Frances Allen. 

Allen and others were filled with excitement to see the man behind the sound of the theater's silent films.

"We are so privileged that we get to announce him as our house organist and welcome right now, Dennis James," said Danny Dillon with the Coleman Theatre. 

Dennis James learned to play the organ when he was just 14 years old, "it's a dream come true," he said. He said his love for the instrument came from his teacher, "his show biz name was Melody Mack, and his real name was Leonard McClain," James said. 

Based in New York, James travels the world bringing the century-old instruments back to life, including the one at the Coleman Theatre. 

"These are very rare to still be in a theater, and it's very rare nowadays to even have the theaters, they're tearing them down left and right," James said about the century-old Wurlitzer organ and historic theatre. 

Back in the day, tens of thousands of the Wurlitzer organs could be found all over the United States. Dennis said only 188 are still around so he hoped to give his audience a chance to travel back in time. "The great joy is to be able to preserve something, not like it's a museum not like the conservation idea, but this is real, this is alive, people pay for a ticket, and they come in and see it and it's just like it was 100 years ago," he said. 

As people watched, the century-old magic came to life, "there just no words, no words," Allen said, and other members of the audience discovered a new appreciation for this type of art, "it was awesome cause I kept looking over at the organ and he's just like going and I just realized it's not part of, like, he's doing it live," said Bailynn Hamm from Joplin, MO. 

Dennis said he loves getting the chance to play, especially when it brings him back to the instrument's roots.

"These are the people these movies were made for, this is the kind of setting, so there's kind of an extra authenticity to bring this to Miami, Oklahoma and it keeps me coming back now for 19 years," he said. 

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