Written by Kevin Heffernan

This isn’t your Grandfather’s Santa Claus

(It’s your Great-Grandfathers)


This footage is the kind of footage parents could use to scare the shit out of their kids into behaving. Like Old Testament God, this nordic neighbor of the Eskimo people is gonna cross your name off the list as soon as he sees you rob from an old blind man, but reward the Good Samaritan with a “LIVE Pony.” Now we just hide some creepy elf on a shelf out of reach of the kids to introduce them to the idea of mass surveillance at a young age.

The musicians that make up Wooden Cities have spent the last few holiday seasons digging up footage from 1901 – 1925 and have a blast putting a new musical soundtrack to it all, live in front of an audience.

If you’re looking for something different and fun to do this holiday season, that also supports your local musicians, Wooden Cities has you covered on Friday December 14 at Hallwalls, 8PM. Tickets at the door. 

Program Details
Wooden Cities is at it again for a fourth time with its not-so-classic, silent Christmas film scoring extravaganza!! Travel to the North Pole, meet the many forms of the big jolly guy, and see how Christmas Crackers are made.


The seven shorts, all filmed between 1901-1925, map the full range of the silent film era, and include works by acclaimed directors Edwin S. Porter and D.W. Griffith, as well as lesser known artists like Frank Kleinschmidt. The films themselves range from simple, non-narrative moving portraits to works with complex plots and elaborate imagery, and feature many of the most charming aspects of silent film: the transparent special effects, melodramatic gestural acting, comically inexplicable edits, and, underneath it all, a warm, nostalgic poignancy.
Wooden Cities will perform live music to accompany these films, providing soundtracks that by turns augment, mimic, comment on, or undercut the action onscreen. The scores—each written by past or current members of the ensemble—range from explicitly notated, leitmotif-dense compositions, to quasi-improvisatory free jazz outbursts. At times, the music directly mirrors the action on the screen, providing Carl Stalling-esque sonic narrations; other times, the music subversively undermines the film, revealing darker, more uncanny aspects only hinted at onscreen. In every case, the ensemble provides a dynamic energy, adding new dimensions and contemporary perspectives to these century-old films.
A Christmas Carol (1910) directed by J. Searle Dawley
A Winter Straw Ride (1906) directed by Wallace McCutcheon and Edwin S. Porter
Making Christmas Crackers (1910)
The Night Before Christmas (1905) directed by Edwin S. Porter
A Holiday Pageant at Home (1901)
Santa Clause (1925)
A Trap for Santa (1909) D.W. Grffith
and other holiday surprises
$12 general
$10 students/seniors
$8 members
Wooden Cities is:
Brendan Fitzgerald, director, percussion and sound effects
Megan Kyle, english horn and oboe
Sheryl Hadeka, horn
Jared Tinkham, guitar
Nick Emmanuel, piano
Nola Renalo, voice
Ethan Hayden, voice and trombone
Evan Courtin, violin
Katie Weissman, cello
Megan McDevitt, bass


Wooden Cities is both an ensemble and a collective of performers and composers seeking to help increase the performance and awareness of contemporary music in the Western New York area through unique, educational presentations. Formed in July 2011, the group served as a vehicle for director Brendan Fitzgerald to present John Zorn’s game piece Cobra. Since that time, the group has grown to include nearly a dozen performers and is constantly seeking new works by new composers while continuing to present works by some of the essential, yet underrepresented composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. The ensemble recently recorded their first album, which will be released in 2019.

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