In the 1920s, Melbourne bands live-soundtracked silent films. This brilliant program’s bringing it back

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In the 1920s, Melbourne bands live-soundtracked silent films. This brilliant program’s bringing it back

Words by Staff Writer

Hobsons Bay City Council’s very popular annual performing arts program, Arts at your Doorstep, is staging a screening of Buster Keaton's The General with a live soundtrack performed by Sounds of Silent.

The General is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time and Melbourne’s wonderful five-piece The Sounds of Silent are staging a special screening with a traditional improvised ensemble performance to soundtrack the classic silent film.

It’s a throwback to the beloved experience of the silent movie era, when many bands performed in Melbourne theatres to accompany silent films. After showing Buster Keaton’s wonderful Steamboat Bill Jr. in May, to rapturous acclaim, Hobsons Bay City Council are now screening Keaton’s magnum opus. The General, an action-adventure comedy inspired by the true story of the Great Locomotive Chase, one of the most thrilling raids of the American Civil War.

Sounds of Silent perform The General

  • Thursday August 3 at 7:30pm
  • Williamstown Town Hall, 104 Ferguson Street
  • 75 minutes. All tickets $20
  • Seating at tables, bring your own drinks and refreshments

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The nature of a grand train chase across America in the midst of war proved perfect fodder for Keaton’s iconoclastic brand of physical comedy. It was one of the most expensive films of the silent movie era and the massive production values – combined with Keaton’s daring stunts – create a film experience unlike any other from the era.

It’s easy to see why The General will make an excellent film for The Sounds of Silent, who have developed a score specifically for the film. The group consist of some of Melbourne’s finest individual musicians: Martin Zakharov is Musical Director and plays saxophone, clarinet and flute, Jim McGuffie is on trumpet, Ros Jones is on trombone, Rod Wilson on keyboards and Iliya Zakharov on drums and percussion.

The ensemble has performed all over Australia to sell-out audiences. Audiences are encouraged to bring their own snacks, drinks and refreshments, and settle in for a fun-filled evening of action and drama for the whole family.

As mentioned previously, this performance is just one part of the extraordinary Arts at your Doorstep program bringing innovative and exciting performances to Melbourne’s western suburbs.

In other performances coming up over the next few months, Emma Donovan & The Putbacks will play live on July 14 at Williamstown Town Hall.

Maude Davey and Ruth Katerelos join forces to take a spin around the songs made sensational over the decades by the likes of Nina Simone, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, Madeleine Peyroux, Dusty Springfield, Peggy Lee and more in Goddesses of Jazz on September 13.

Jens Altheimer performs his new children’s show Whalebone – a comedic take on humanity’s chance of preserving our history in the age of robots – during the school holidays on September 27.

And in Double Feature on October 19, the surprise discovery of his mother’s 1946 diary leads three-time Barry Award nominee Damian Callinan on a cinematic, romantic romp through post-war Melbourne. We thoroughly recommend checking out the full program here.

Sounds of Silent perform The General on Thursday August 3 at 7:30pm as part of Arts at your Doorstep. Grab tickets here at

This article was made in partnership with Hobsons Bay City Council.