The Musicians

Neil Brand

neil brand

Neil Brand has been accompanying silent films for over 17 years, regularly at the NFT on London’s south bank and throughout the UK and increasingly at film festivals and special events throughout the world, including Australia, New Zealand (twice), America, Israel, Sweden, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Pordenone, Bologna and Bergamo festivals in Italy.

Training originally as an actor, he has made his name as a writer/performer/composer, scoring BFI video releases of such films as South (Shackleton’s Journey to the South Pole), The Ring by Alfred Hitchcock (also touring live with a swing band), the great lost film The Life and Times of David Lloyd George (for which he performed the world premiere in 1996 and subsequently recorded his acclaimed score) and Early Cinema, avant-garde cinema and Russian pre-Soviet cinema.

He has written many scores for TV documentaries including The Real Stephen Hawking, The Crimean War, In The Wild, Pandas with Debra Winger, Great Railway Journeys and Comic Relief: Balls to Africa and scores for over 40 Radio 4 dramas including War and Peace, the Box of Delights and Sony award winner A Town Like Alice. He has toured internationally with his acclaimed one man show Through the Sound Barrier – his book, Dramatic Notes (published by Arts Council Publications/University of Luton Press) is an introduction for the layman to the world of scoring music to drama with a series of interviews with distinguished practitioners.

He also co-devised the Backtracks CD-ROM for Channel 4/BFI. He writes music for theatre, has written two award-winning musicals and four radio plays, twice presented the Radio 2 arts programme, is a visiting professor of the Royal College of Music and is considered one of the finest exponents of improvised silent film accompaniment in the world.

For more information please visit Neil’s Website

John Sweeney

john sweeney

John Sweeney has played for silent films since 1990 at venues including Riverside Studios Cinema, National Film Theatre, Nottingham Broadway and the Barbican Centre. He has also worked extensively in contemporary dance, composing music for choreographers Viola Farber, Sarah Fahie and Andreja Rauch. John also works as a pianist for Rambert Dance Company and En-Knap.

“For me, the greatest joy in playing for silent movies is the realisation that the film is a forgotten masterpiece. This has happened to me so many times, and each time it feels a privilege to be part of the process of making that film live again.” John Sweeney

Stephen Horne


Stephen has long been considered one of the leading silent film accompanists. He has been a house pianist at BFI Southbank for over 25 years, while playing at all the other major UK venues. Although principally a pianist, he often incorporates instruments such as flute and accordion into his performances, sometimes simultaneously.
He regularly performs internationally and in recent years his accompaniments have met with acclaim at film festivals in Pordenone, Bologna, Telluride, San Francisco, Cannes, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Berlin. In 2011 and 2012, he was commissioned to compose ensemble scores for the London Film Festival Archive Galas of ‘The First Born’ and ‘The Manxman’.
Stephen’s music can be heard on several DVD releases of silent films, including ‘A Cottage on Dartmoor’, ‘The Battle of the Somme’ and ‘Mantrap’.
“I think that music will play an increasingly important role in presentations of silent films. When I talk to younger audience members, it is usually the ‘performance’ aspect of the event which most excites them. It is as though live music dispels their preconceptions, enabling them to engage with what they are watching. This seems indispensable, when one considers that the thirty years of silent film production will soon recede beyond living memory.”

For more information please visit Stephen’s website:

Philip Carli

phil carli

Philip Carli began accompanying silent film at the age of 13, with a solo piano performance for Lon Chaney’s 1923 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. During his undergraduate years he programmed and accompanied an annual summer series of silent films. Since then, he has continued his studies of the film, music and culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries earning a doctorate in musicology at the Eastman School of Music. He has at the same time toured extensively as a film accompanist throughout North America and Europe, performing at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Film Theatre in London, and the Berlin International Film Festival. He is the staff accompanist for the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and performs annually at film festivals in the United States and at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy. His most recent tour was to Japan. His full film scores include Herbert Brenon’s Peter Pan(1924), Poor Little Rich Girl (1917) a restoration of the score to Chang (1927) and many accompaniments to video and DVD releases.

In matters of musical style, Phil Carli’s central dictum for film accompaniment is that the score and performance should serve the film above all, regardless of the particular genre of the music. In an ideal performance, the audience should be caught up in the excitement – or humour, or pathos – of the drama without specific awareness of the accompaniment, even while it is helping to intensify the film’s emotional message. For his own accompaniments, he draws on his deep knowledge of “period” musical materials, including both popular dance forms of the 1920s and the highly chromatic music developed for nineteenth-century opera. This helps the audience to bridge the cultural gap between their everyday lives and the film images produced and edited generations ago. An exciting score in an idiom that would be familiar to the original audience for the film leads the modern viewer to accept dramatic conventions that might otherwise seem stilted or even unintentionally comical, rather than highlighting these as more “modern” scores can do. The musical translation pulls viewers deeply into the world of the film, more than the mere intellectual engagement of an introductory lecture can do, by engaging their emotions in musical terms that are still familiar and strongly compelling today.

Günter A. Buchwald 


Günter Buchwald is one of the pioneers of the renaissance of silent film music and one of the most experienced practitioners in the world. He has accompanied silent films for over 25 years with a repertoire of more than 1300 titles. He is director of the Silent Movie Music Company and conducts the Freiburg Filmharmonic Orchestra, which he founded in1992. His wide experience in music from Baroque to Jazz allows him a huge stylistic variety in musical improvisation. Since 1984 he has appeared regularly at film festivals in Berlin, Bonn, Pordenone, Zurigo (and others) and special events in New York, Tokyo, Paris, Tel Aviv and Munich.

In 1992 Buchwald started a second career as conductor of classical music as well as film music and has worked with the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, Filarmonica Banatul Timisoara, Philharmonic Orchestra Freiburg, Zuger Sinfonietta and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

Particularly reknowned for his work with Paul Wegner’s classic film The Golem, (1920) he has worked in collaboration with the ‘King of Klezmer’ Giora Feidman and the Arditti String Quartett, with whom he performed the premiere at the Vienna Silent Film Festival in 1997. He since worked with many different musicians for live performances of The Golem.

In 1998 he restored the music for Eisenstein’s classic film, Battleship Potemkin, (1925) originally composed by Nicolai Krijukov in 1950 and performed at its premiere.

He composed the music for the Japanese silent classic Nani ga konojo o so saseta ka (1930) which was restored in 1996 and had a hugely successful premiere as the opening gala of the Tokyo Film Festival in 1997. For the Kyoto Film Festival 1999 he composed a score for Murnau´s Faust (1926) for choir and quartet. He wrote a score for chamber orchestra for the Swiss-French silent film La Vocation d’André Carel which was premiered on ARTE in May 2005.

 Elizabeth-Jane Baldry 

Elizabeth-Jane BaldryElizabeth-Jane Baldry is a harpist and composer. Her silent film scores include Peter Pan, Nosferatu, Cottage on Dartmoor, Phantom of the Opera, Loves of the Pharoah, Sunrise, Diary of a Lost Girl, and Thief of Bagdad; venues include London’s Barbican, the Arnolfini in Bristol, Pordenone in Italy, and Central Michigan University, USA. Her compositions have been used by ITV, the BBC and by Irish, Japanese, Danish and Canadian film, radio and television. She also directs and produces films of British fairytales, grows trees and keeps bees in her magical little wood close to her own ‘Cottage on Dartmoor.’

And some quotes:

“Elizabeth-Jane Baldry’s harp accompaniment to Marion Rice Davies’ LITTLE OLD NEW YORK was superb – fresh, bright — a revelation.  Who would have thought the harp could have such range and depth?  Another example of a score transforming a charming, lightweight film into first-rate entertainment.” – Russell Merritt – Professor of Film Studies, University of California.

“I have seen Nosferatu many times; I’ve even lectured on it. But this is the finest accompaniment I’ve ever heard…absolutely extraordinary.” – Professor Emeritus Christopher McCullough, University of Exeter

One response

  1. Pingback: Don’t miss the British Silent Film Festival | Silent London

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