The sound of the silents
Although there were no sound tracks recorded, or played, on films made during the First World War, audiences never watched films silently. In cinemas across Australia and New Zealand orchestras (which could mean anything from a single pianist to a full instrumental ensemble) provided music to accompany movies, and played as the audience entered and exited the cinema.
Violet Donaldson (nee Capstick) worked for many years as a pianist at three cinemas in Timaru. In this extract she recalls the “primitive conditions” in the theatres and also how she wrote and played tunes based on sheet music she listened to at the music shop she worked at, surprising returned servicemen who weren’t expecting to hear the latest in European music back home.