Tom Roberts

Tom Roberts is a leading exponent of early jazz piano. He's played everywhere from New York’s Carnegie Hall and the Tonight Show to the major jazz clubs in the French Quarter.

 

Charlie Chaplin Silent Picture Show

Tom has written new original scores for many Chaplin films, including The Pawn Shop and Kid Auto Races. He has performed alongside these films everywhere from the Hollywood Theater to Heinz Hall. 

 

Read more about Tom's inspiration, and his writing process below.

Discovering Chaplin

I have always been interested in Charlie Chaplin, but it wasn't until three years ago when the Pittsburgh Symphony approached me to improvise for some silent movies that I became passionate.

When I found out that the films were Chaplin movies, I convinced them to permit me to compose new scores in a manner that Chaplin himself would have approved of.

I was aware that the music becomes a major part of our experience when watching a silent film—the wrong music can totally destroy our experience of the film.

Chaplin himself was well aware of that and, as soon as he could, he composed scores for the films that he owned.

I fell in love with the score to City Lights, a Dog's Life, The Kid... They were miraculous and created the perfect atmosphere for the audience's experience of those films.

Chaplin stated that a profound sense of irony was the key ingredient: to juxtapose the most elegant music against the most outrageous slapstick. And to also create an almost subconscious means of the audience to connect with the story and characters.

Someone once said that watching a silent film is like being in a dream.

More than just a funny guy 

Mahatma Ghandi wanted to meet Charlie Chaplin; Albert Einstein wished to be seated next to him at the premier of City Lights. Why would such remarkable men be so drawn to a lowly comedian?

I believe that the answer can be found within the 30 minutes of The Pawn Shop. Chaplin creates a story in which the illusory nature of time and personal identity are explored. I won't go any further—you must come and see it for yourself.

Composing

I was so moved by what I saw that I spent a year and a half composing the music, studying the film to truly understand exactly what Chaplin meant. It needed to be exactly right, to make all of the connections between the characters and the story, as well as the underlying, dare I say, mysticism of the film! 

Since the initial two films, I have scored two new films: Kid Auto Races to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chaplin's first films, as well as he miraculous The Pawn Shop.

Booking info

Would you like to spend an evening with Chaplin? Contact Tom at 917.627.9594 or via email.

©2017 Tom Roberts  
tom@tomrobertspiano.com