Liberty Center Association for the Arts Inc. will soon host its first official event since renovations began last year. Ragtime music legend Jeff Barnhart will present an afternoon silent film event along with an evening of diverse live music, both in the LCAA Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 6.
Barnhart, a popular entertainer at Sedalia’s annual Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, will provide an afternoon and evening of varied musical performances. Although he’s known for ragtime tunes, Barnhart will concentrate on other music genres during both performances.
“Those performers are so diverse in what they do, we just wanted to have him do a cool piano show,” LCAA Executive Director Terri Ballad said Wednesday.
LCAA has began a film series and Feb. 6 they will present the first in that series: three silent movies by Buster Keaton. Barnhart will perform live background piano music for the 1920 era films, “One Week,” “The Goat” and “Sherlock Jr.”
The films, all comedies, begin at 2 p.m.
“It’s going to be a great time,” Barnhart said by phone Wednesday. “That whole day is going to be devoted to some wonderful entertainment. I’m really looking forward to being there and doing it.”
For the afternoon event, Ballard said she is “reaching out” to nursing homes in the area to see if the residents are interested in attending. She also noted that the comedy films are great entertainment for family and children.
“It will be very family-oriented,” said Ballard, who is also the director of the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation. “For kids to see how movies actually used to be, I think would be a hoot. I don’t think that’s been done in town, that I’m aware of.”
Barnhart said he’s a fan of silent movie star and comedian Buster Keaton.
“Buster Keaton was the greatest creator of silent short film comedies in history of the genre,” Barnhart noted. “He was not able to move on as was Chaplin …. that’s why so many people don’t know much about him. He disappeared pretty much after silent films.
“This is a great thing, especially in the cold weather, to bring kids to, to bring family members to,” he said. “I remember I was about 5-years-old the first time I saw Charlie Chaplin’s films. It was amazing, after you got past the fact that’s it’s all in black and white.”
Barnhart will perform live as the films play out.
“I’ll be doing a lot of ’20s jazz and making stuff up as we go,” he added. “There will be some ragtime, but a lot jazz … (Keaton) was never as serious-minded as Chaplin. Chaplin was trying elevate silent film into something other than just comedic entertainment.
The evening performance will be geared toward adults and offer several musical styles.
“That evening, at 7:30, we are going to do Jeff’s ‘Hot Piano Show,’” Ballard added. “He’ll do some comedy and some boogie woogie, jazz, blues and some love songs. I’m billing it as a couple’s event or a girls-night-out event.”
“I’ll have a whole segment of love songs,” Barnhart said. “I’ll be doing some Broadway stuff, I’ll be doing some jazz, some swing, some blues, some boogie woogie pieces. That will be something that is definitely open to a wide variety of music listeners.”
Ballard said she was excited about the upcoming event.
“Some of the requests that I’ve had from people is doing some sort of piano show like dueling pianos,” Ballard said.”I’m kind of excited about this. In my tenure this is the first time we’ve done a piano event.”
She added that she decided to host the event because Barnhart will be in town as this year’s Scott Joplin Artist-in-Residence beginning Monday, Feb. 8. The timing was perfect for him to present a show at LCAA the weekend before.
“Jeff and another gentleman close the (Scott Joplin) festival at the Stark tent and it is the best show,” Ballard said. “It’s like standing room only, everybody knows it’s happening.
“So I’m excited to have him here because he’s one of the favorites during the festival,” she added. “I view him as the patriarch of this younger generation of ragtime performers. I want our community to see that these performers do things other than ragtime.”
Ballard said she hoped people will attend the events.
“I hope they will come and see the new theatre and see the talent,” she added. “Jeff literally travels Europe, he travels the country. It’s wonderful and impressive that he would come do this in our community at a price that’s affordable. That allows us to pass the savings on. So, I hope people support it and come out, because it will be a fun time.”
The LCCA Silent Film Triple Feature starring Buster Keaton with live music by Jeff Barnhart will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6; the cost is $5. The evening Hot Piano Show with Barnhart will begin at 7:30 p.m.; the cost is $12 at the door or $10 in advance. Both shows will take place at the LCAA Theatre, 111 W. Fifth St. For more information or for tickets, call 827-3228 or email [email protected]
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.