CHARLIE CHAPLIN - LEFT-HANDED CELLIST AND COMPOSER
As my March 24, 2007 New York Symphony Space -Thalia
nearer, it may be time to let my latest invention come to light, the
interview with Charlie Chaplin, the left-handed cellist and composer.
This multi-faceted genius formed his own Charlie Chaplin Music Publishing
Co. in 1916 with his friend Bert Clark, an
English vaudeville comedian.
Together, in a mad scheme, they rented a third-floor office in downtown Los
Angeles and printed a thousand copies each of two Chaplin songs but never
sold more than a few. One of the songs from 1916 was "Oh! That Cello",
will see the light of day next March in my brand-new concert version.
Chaplin was notorious for dragging both violin and
cello on tour in his
earlier days with the Karno troupe, and for practicing long hours on both
instruments during his lengthy hotel stays. Stan Laurel (later of
Hardy fame), Charlie's early New York hotel room-mate, is quoted in the book,
"Stan & Ollie" as still seeing Chaplin practicing the violin or cello
the noise of his own vigorous cooking. In the marvelous photo biography of
Chaplin by Jeffrey Vance there
is a rare, touching picture of Charlie serenading
fellow actor Jackie Coogan with his violin
during a break in the filming of
"The Kid." Chaplin was and played left-handed, and he had both his violin
cello restrung and rebuilt. Of course many fine players, whether right- or left-
handed, play a sringed instrument the "conventional" way. The reality is
a string player has to master and coordinate two different techniques, both
equally challenging, left hand AND bow technique!
Also not well known is Chaplin's intense involvement
with the background
music to most of his films. Although he could not read music, he spent months
dictating and supervising the creation of the scores for his later films, and even
composed new material in his later years for his early silent movies. The list of
his musical neighbors and acquaintances is vast and included composers
Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky, composer-pianist
pianists Vladimir Horowitz, Ignacy Paderewski, Arthur Rubinstein,
and violinists Jascha Heifetz and cellist
(their photos are shown in Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography).
POSTED: NOVEMBER 9, 2006
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