Silent No More

 

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the June 2017 Issue

Like many young boys, Breck McGough grew up loving superhero movies. But it wasn’t the action or special effects that captured his interest—it was the music. 

 

Now, as the composer of over 20 film scores, he’s turned his sights toward reintroducing the world to musical styles that have gone unheard for nearly a century! 

 

McGough began performing historical music three years ago when he played piano during a 1920s silent movie. The Paramount Theatre on film row in Oklahoma City was showing the horror flick, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. McGough wrote an original piano score and played live while the film rolled. 

 

“Playing non-stop for an hour-long movie is exhausting, but it’s an overwhelmingly enjoyable to help the audience experience the film much like audiences would have 95 years ago,” said McGough. 

 

Performing wasn’t new to McGough, who grew up singing at church. His mom was an opera singer, his aunt was a concert pianist, and his grandma taught him to read music by age of seven. He assumed that all children noticed and loved movie background music. 

 

“When I was four, I would play the movie Batman Returns over and over again, but I wasn’t watching the movie, I was just listening to the soundtrack.” 

 

McGough eventually taught himself to read and write scores. In college, he met Spike Alkire and Jake Kelley, two filmmakers producing award-winning films. They identified McGough’s interest in history and his ability to create period-authentic music, so the three teamed up to form Everytime Productions.

 

For a college talent show, Alkire and Kelley created a silent film spoof for which McGough composed a three-part piano piece. All three sat on the same piano bench, and as the film progressed, they began fighting over bench space. 

 

“It was a great comic gag, because we really hammed it up,” McGough said. 

 

Afterward, Kelley suggested that McGough write a Dr. Caligari score for Paramount Theater. McGough next wrote two silent film scores for the Metropolitan Library System, where he works as an associate librarian. Fellow librarian, Buddy Johnson, described McGough’s personality and performances as, “Sunshine and smiles. When he’s playing music, it’s like seeing the human personification of joy.”  

 

Breck McGough

 

McGough enjoys describing the moment he was softly playing during the scene of a woman sleeping. Suddenly, she was snatched up by the main character. “I hit the piano really hard, and I heard the audience gasp,” McGough said. “I knew the music had punctuated the timing of the physical comedy.” 

 

The library is now utilizing McGough’s talent to interpret the library’s collections of historical sheet music--songs written in a lost style that haven’t been heard in a century. McGough never dreamed he would use his talent in such diverse ways, but he’s thrilled to combine his love of music

and history. 

 

“I get a big sense of pride when people enjoy my scores,” McGough said. “Composing music is a dream come true.

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