Saturday, October 16, 2010

Love story gets Balinese soundtrack

Ottawa's historic Mayfair Theatre will be alive with the shimmering, delicate sound of Balinese gamelan music Monday, Oct. 18, for a screening of Legong: Dance of the Virgins, a silent 1935 Hollywood feature that was filmed in Bali.

Presented as part of a series at the theatre featuring silent films accompanied by live music, the screening will be accompanied by Gamelan Semara Winangun, an Ottawa band of about 12 musicians.

Directed by Henri de la Falaise, the hour-long film features a Balinese cast and tells the story of a young dancer who falls in love with a musician. The producers were not shy about advertising the fact that the film also included shots of bare-breasted women.

"It was a bit of an excuse to show topless women to American audiences, but the love story is also interspersed with shots of typical day-to-day Balinese life at the time, including a lot of temple ceremonies and dances," says drummer Jamie Gullikson, director of the Ottawa gamelan group.

Gamelan ensembles vary in size and include a variety of instruments, including drums, gongs, flutes and stringed instruments.

To prepare for Monday's screening, Gullikson and the musicians have been rehearsing to a DVD copy of the film for months.

They will perform traditional Balinese music and arrangements of new pieces.

"I've tried to structure it so we break into smaller groups and play in different Balinese styles to break things up a bit," says Gullikson, adding he hopes the performance at the Mayfair will encourage potential new members to give the instruments a try. The group rehearses Tuesdays and performs occasional concerts around town.

"Something like this screening is a good opportunity for us to make people aware of the group and maybe attract some people who might like to play in a gamelan," Gullikson says.

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