WEEKEND PREVIEW: Original ‘Snow White’ meets harp and viola

A one-of-a-kind event happens Saturday night at historic Kenyon Hall – the century-old silent movie telling the “Snow White” fairy tale, accompanied live by a Vashon Island musician’s 21st-century harp and viola score. Here’s what it’s all about:

Everyone knows Disney’s classic animated film “Snow White,” but few are aware that that a teenage Walt Disney growing up in Kansas City saw the original silent movie of the fairy tale, and it was this 1916 silent that inspired him to blaze a path in filmmaking and make his own version in 1937.

Like all silent films, Snow White was made on flammable nitrate film stock, and for many years, it was rumored to have been destroyed in a vault fire. But a single theatrical print was discovered in the Netherlands in 1992, and a heroic restoration was performed by the George Eastman House film archive.

Now the whimsical silent fantasy returns to the silver screen, and West Seattle film lovers can see the long-lost Snow White with live musical accompaniment. Harpist-composer Leslie McMichael’s magical score brings the silent film alive at 7:30 pm on Saturday, March 11 at Kenyon Hall, 7904 35th Avenue SW.

Vashon Island harpist McMichael will perform live on the concert harp for the 63-minute film, and her original score also features her sister Barbara McMichael on viola.

Northwest Film Forum commissioned McMichael to compose a new score for Snow White in 2016, and the 100-year-old film, and McMichael’s live music premiered at opening night of Children’s Film Festival Seattle that year. Since then, the old film and new live score have toured across the country accompanying screenings of the historic film.

How did McMichael approach the project of scoring the film? The harpist says that her DVD remote and digital timer were two modern tools that she relied on to compose a soundtrack that seamlessly fits the onscreen action. After watching the 63-minute film and writing longhand notes about every scene and character, she developed musical themes to reflect the moods in the storyline. Certain motifs reappear in her score whenever a character appears – sweet Snow White has specific music, as does the Witch, the Huntsman, the Prince, and, of course, the Seven Dwarves!

McMichael adds, “It’s thrilling to play live and pair the visuals of film with my music. With every performance, we get to use our instruments to underscore the expressive acting so typical of the silent era – very fun!”

For advance tickets to the Snow White film screening with live harp and viola accompaniment, go here. General admission is $15, $10/seniors and students, and children under 6 are free.

3 Replies to "WEEKEND PREVIEW: Original 'Snow White' meets harp and viola"

  • Katherine L March 10, 2023 (2:50 pm)

    It’s interesting to see that the person who wrote this used the older, grammatically correct version, “dwarves“ rather than the newer usage, “dwarfs.”

  • WSCurmudgeon March 10, 2023 (5:00 pm)

    The Grammarist’s article on the history of the two plurals question is exactly opposite of what my impression was:


    • Katherine L March 10, 2023 (9:16 pm)

      I agree with you, Curmudgeon. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say grammarist is flat out wrong. There’s a long history of dwarf/dwarves. It’s only in recent years that it’s been changed to dwarfs, which is actually harder to say. If you look at any large dictionary, I’m pretty sure it’ll still show the plural of dwarf as dwarves.

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