Movie 6min

The Old Chorister (1904)

Not rated.

Categories
Angels Based on Song Black and White Choir Church of England Death Drama Old Man Priest Short Silent Film Singer
Descriptions

An old man hears distant singing in a park. He remembers singing in the choir in his youth. At the church the vicar calls in fighting choir boys and invites the old man in. As he sings he sees an angel and dies at the altar. Intended to be used with live performance of C H Roberts’ song, The Aged Chorister, following the instructions in Williamson’s catalogue: ‘At the point where the Old Chorister is remembering his younger days, an on-site boy soprano is to sing the opening measures of Handel’s I know that my Redeemer liveth and again during the scene where the choir is singing in the church, an on-site chorus sings a verse of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s Onward Christian Soldiers, breaking off at the point where the old man is stricken.’ How often such forces were assembled is not recorded.

Source: Brighton & Hove, film and cinema


An aged villager, reminded of his boyhood days in the church choir by the sound of the bells, totters to the church door and begs the vicar to allow him to join in and sing once more. He expires in the chancel, happy.

Source: TMDB


First announced in James Williamson's November 1904 catalogue, The Old Chorister represents a return to the territory he explored in The Little Match Seller (1902), where Williamson uses superimposition effects to depict a character's thoughts on film. But the later film, in addition to being made up of multiple scenes, also attempts to convey the effect of overheard sound in a silent medium.

Although Williamson described it in the catalogue as "a pathetic story, adapted for musical effects", which suggests that he intended screenings to have some form of accompaniment, the film is perfectly comprehensible without it, as it is clear from his gestures that the old chorister hears something in the distance, and precisely what he hears is then revealed in the form of a superimposition of a young chorister singing. This image has a dual function, representing both what the old chorister hears at this particular moment in time, and also his simultaneous memory of his own past life.

While it was common for Williamson's films from this period to be made up of several scenes (four in this case), he normally moved from one to another by a straightforward cut. But with The Old Chorister, each scene transition is heralded by a fade to and from black, an effect that would have been familiar to audiences at magic lantern slideshows, but which was still relatively unusual in films.

Source: BFI


An old man is walking in a park. He hears singing in the distance. He sees a seat and sits down and remembers himself when young and sang in the church choir. He starts off walking again and comes to the church. The choir boys are fighting outside and the priest calls to them. They go inside. The old man talks to the priest who invites the old man inside. When the service starts the choir boys file past the altar, the old man is once again dressed in his choir robes. As he is singing, the old man has a vision of an angel and rushes to the altar. He collapses and dies (230ft).

Source: BFI

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Cast
Unavailbale.
Crew
James Williamson - Director