The Film Music Society FMS FEATURE ARTICLE...

May 23, 2003
Wings Score Takes Flight
Gillian Anderson Conducts the 1927 Classic at AMPAS Screening

A standing-room-only crowd attended both performances of Wings, the 1927 silent classic with live orchestral music, on May 15 and 16 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California.

Musicologist and conductor Gillian Anderson – who has made a career of restoring and presenting music for silents around the world – conducted a 13-piece ensemble in the original score, which included composer J.S. Zamecnik's original music as well as excerpts from concert works by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Wagner, Sousa, Liszt, Rachmaninoff and other composers.

Anderson reconstructed the entire score based on a conductor part that Paramount, the original distributor, had filed for copyright. She tracked down the original arrangements of the existing music, and reorchestrated the Zamecnik music for live performance.

In addition to the sparkling print and the orchestral score, Wings was also accompanied by live sound effects designed and performed by Adrian Johnston.

Anderson and the musicians were accorded standing ovations both nights. She joined the panel of dignitaries (which included descendants of director William Wellman and Paramount executives Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky) for a post-film question-and-answer session, moderated by producer Randy Haberkamp.

Those present expressed the hope that this version of Wings, with the original Zamecnik score, might soon be released on DVD.

Wings was the first movie to win the Academy's Best Picture honors. It screened as part of the Academy's current series, "Facets of the Diamond: 75 Years of Best Picture Winners."