Silent movie nights return to Edison Street as longtime organist seeks protégé
Apr 9, 2022, 3:40 PM | Updated: Jun 11, 2022, 10:56 pm
SOUTH SALT LAKE — A longtime local tradition resumed this week as Edison Street hosted two silent movie nights following an 18-month pandemic intermission.
As the events returned at the venue, which has been family-operated at 3331 S. Edison Street since 1946, there was a sense of renewed purpose as longtime organist Blaine L. Gale talked about “passing on the torch” to someone carrying on an art form that hearkens back to the silent films of the 1920s.
Gale, 88, routinely and effortlessly improvises on the 2,400-pipe organ and plays by ear and from memory during the shows.
Edison Street owner Larry Bray said it’s a unique skill set even many trained organists aren’t equipped to perform.
“He’s the one that puts the magic to the music,” Bray said. “He’s one in a million and there’s not many people that can do that, but we’ve been looking.”
Gale described his passion for the art form Friday in an interview with KSL TV, noting how music conveys feelings and how each performance constitutes a “conversation” with the audience.
“As an organist with a voice that has to answer to the response patterns of an audience, different yesterday, today and onto the next movie — I have to keep up with that,” he explained. “The beautiful thing about this art form is that once the habits that fingers have from repetition over the years so that they can pronounce the same way your voice with your tongue and your teeth and your mouth and your pucker — all of those things that you’re familiar with — and you can keep them up in a conversation with people and the meaningfulness of what you’re going through. (It’s the) same thing with these fingers on that keyboard.”
Gale hoped that a protégé might emerge someday at a show. He said others over the years have expressed interest but haven’t followed through with it.
On Friday, Gale played the music and sound effects for the 1923 silent film “Safety First” featuring Harold Lloyd.
Edison Street Events, also known by many as the Organ Loft, will continue to have silent film nights every Thursday and Friday through the end of May. Bray said a fall season is also planned.
“It’s more than entertainment,” Gale smiled. “It’s social wellness.”