Alloy Orchestra Returns to Cornell Cinema

Jim Catalano, Ithaca Journal March 6th 2018

It’s always a big deal when the Alloy Orchestra comes to Ithaca.

Founded in 1991, the trio of Roger C. Miller, Ken Winokur and Terry Donahue have been making regular visits to Cornell Cinema for nearly 20 years to perform their original live scores to classic silent films.

This weekend, Alloy Orchestra will be at the Willard Straight Theatre to perform scores to two films: Sergei Eisenstein’s “Strike!” (1925) at 7:15 p.m. Friday, and Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman’s “The General” (1926) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“Strike!” is Eisenstein’s feature debut, an account of a 1912 factory workers’ strike and its violent suppression, and will be shown as part of Cornell Cinema’s “Labor on Film” series. (It also will serve as the kickoff to the School of Industrial and Labor Relations Workers’ Institute’s “Union Days” events.)

According to a “Strike!” review in the New York Post, “The Alloy Orchestra helps create a feel of palpable menace as factory workers’ ire against the fat-cat factory owners builds to the breaking point. … By the time the final clash of cymbals concludes a devastating finale, the mix of Eisenstein and the Alloy has produced a spellbinding collaboration.”

Alloy also will reprise its popular score for “The General” as part of the IthaKid Film Festival. Time Out Film Guide says “The General” is “Keaton’s best, and arguably the greatest screen comedy ever made. Against a meticulously evoked Civil War background, Buster risks life, limb, and love as he pursues his beloved railway engine, hijacked by Northern spies up to no good for the Southern cause. The result is everything one could wish for: witty, dramatic, visually stunning, and full of subtle, delightful human insights and constantly hilarious.” Find out more at www.alloyorchestra.com.

Given the funding issues that Cornell Cinema is facing, this may be its last chance to host Alloy for the foreseeable future. The band members always have loved coming here — in 2016 interviews, Miller called Cornell Cinema “one of our homes away from home” and Winokur lauded its director, Mary Fessenden, noting “she appreciates the rare beauty of a magnificent old film from the ’20s or whenever, and also understands the importance of putting it together with the best live accompaniment, including many of my comrades and competitors. She runs one of the best film programs in the country.”

Ticket prices for “Strike!” are $12 ($10 for seniors and students), and for “The General” it’s $7 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased in advance at cornellcinematickets.com.

Cornell Cinema also will present another music-related event on Tuesday, with local Celtic band Traonach doing a pre-screening set at 6:45 p.m. for the 7:15 p.m. local premiere of “Song of Granite,” a film about traditional Irish singer Joe Heaney.

For more information, visit cinema.cornell.edu or call 607-255-3522.