Pacific Symphony logo

Press Release


Jean Oelrich
Director of Marketing & Communications
(714) 876-2380

Organist and silent-film revivalist Dennis James returns to perform Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush” for Pacific Symphony’s Pedals and Pipes series

Orange County, Calif. — March 31, 2015

Touring the world presenting silent films as they were meant to be seen (and heard!), virtuoso organist Dennis James returns to Pacific Symphony’s Pedals and Pipes series to recreate the soundtrack to one of the greatest silent films of all time: Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush.” In his skilled hands, the remarkable William J. Gillespie Concert Organ brings to life all of the drama, romance and hilarity of Chaplin’s famous 1925 film, which plays on the big screen. Chaplin is seen in his iconic role as The Little Tramp, this time called The Lone Prospector, as he sets off to Alaska to hit it big in the Gold Rush. Whether boiling his own shoe to keep from starving or running from his delirious cabin mate who thinks he’s a chicken, Chaplin’s exemplary talent for physical comedy and comedic timing shines with the support of actors Georgia Hale, Mack Swain and Tom Murray. This concert takes place on Sunday, April 26, at 3 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $10-$50; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit

“The Gold Rush” is known as “the outstanding gem of all Chaplin’s pictures” (The New York Times), and is the highest-grossing silent comedy of all time. Written and directed by Chaplin, the film portrays scenes based on prospectors and their journey to the Klondike Gold Rush as well as accounts from the Donner Party. Although these tales are filled with strife and tragedy, Chaplin is deeply sensitive to them and ingeniously creates a comedy that turns what would be tears into laughter.

“The film contains several themes: an ironic commentary on man’s greed; the spiritual regeneration of a ‘wild’ girl; and the embodiment and refinement of Chaplin’s ‘Little Man,’” says organist James, who thoroughly analyzes each movie and its score before accompanying it.

In addition, James claims, “Silent films were never meant to be presented silently,” rather, “music was an expected element of the presentation.” James has reinvigorated the musical arrangements for hundreds of silent films and is renowned for his authenticity and superb musicianship.

James is an esteemed advocate for silent films such as Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush” and has been an important figure for more than 40 years in the international revival of silent films with live music, keeping them alive in modern times. James’ passion comes from his belief that movies were a large part of how Americans heard music during early decades of the 20th-century, and he wants others to know the significance they had on our past. Today, a similar effect is present in that movies are one of the most prominent ways classical music is heard by the public. James founded the production company Silent Film Concerts and has created a vast variety of film accompaniments with piano, organ and orchestra.

According to Peter Mintun, New York pianist and cultural historian, “James is one of the only living musicians who understands what is musically, historically and cinematically appropriate for silent films.” Mintun adds that James’ music “subconsciously guides the listener into many moods, tension, bliss, excitement, despair, terror and hilarity.”

James began performing on the pipe organ during his teen years and has dedicated his musical career to reviving silent films across the world with performances throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. He appears regularly in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and Philadelphia for international film festivals as a featured solo performer, as well as at the Pordenone and Rome silent film festivals. Recently, James has performed sold-out concerts with Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall and Meyerson Symphony Center, and his film presentations have been shown in places such as Canada, Australia, England, Singapore, France, Austria and Italy.

This Pedals and Pipes concert is generously sponsored by Valerie and Barry Hon.