‘Nosferatu’ Screening Features Live Orchestra

‘Nosferatu’ Screening Features Live Orchestra

Cult Vampire Classic Film Left Long Vampire Legacy 

SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech’s Performing Arts Series will host a special screening of the seminal 1922 cult classic vampire film, Nosferatu, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at Macey Center.

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Max Schreck as Count Orlok in the cult classic movie 'Nosferatu.'


Nosferatu was an unauthorized adaptation of Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not get the rights to the novel. Stoker’s heirs sued, and a judge ordered all copies of the film be destroyed. However, a few copies survived, and since then the film has come to be regarded as an influential masterpiece of cinema.

One of the few surviving copies of a 1920s vampire film will be screened in Socorro, along with an original score written by two Texas Tech University music professors. Christopher Smith and Roger Landes of Texas Tech worked together in 2015 to create the new score for F.W. Murnau’s 1922 archetypal vampire film Nosferatu. Landes, a film buff as well as a musician, suggested adding the score to the silent film, which then would be performed by the Elegant Savages Orchestra, which Smith conducts. It was so well-received they are reprising the performance.

In the spirit of watching an old horror film, Tech Club Macey (TCM) will kick off the evening with a “Dine with the Count” and Vampire Costume Contest, for the 21-and-over crowd. The dinner-social hour, 5-7:30 pm, features a menu of Beef pot pie, German potato salad and red velvet cake, with a red wine drink special. This event is free to members, $10 for non-members; annual memberships are available at the door.

This performance comes to Socorro as a result of Performing Arts Series Director Ronna Kalish’s first introduction to Roger Landes at Macey Center in 2001 when he played bazouki with Spanish piper Carlos Nunez. Before joining the Texas Tech music faculty, Landes had a 30+ year career as a touring performer, recording artist, bandleader, and producer in the field of Irish traditional music. He originated and served as artistic director of Zoukfest, which he brought to New Mexico in 2001.


The Elegant Savages Ochestra from Texas Tech will perform the new score to 'Nosferatu' as the film plays in Macey Center.


After premiering this new live score for “Nosferatu” at Texas Tech, Roger put feelers out about touring to New Mexico. Kalish jumped on the idea, thinking it a good fit for New Mexico Tech and Socorro.  “I am truly excited about this performance,” said Kalish, “We have never had a live orchestra perform a score for a silent movie. This is unprecedented in Socorro, but quite rare anywhere in the 21st century.”

This new live score experiments musically, as Murnau did when he filmed Nosferatu. As the film plays, the Elegant Savages Orchestra and Balkan Ensemble will engage in a series of conducted improvisations, responding in real time to cues and pre-written music. Therefore, this dynamic score is different at every screening. The result is a unique suite of interlocking compositions, juxtaposing and contrasting both ensembles, in moods ranging from lyric to horrific!

Nosferatu is the very first vampire film and one of the earliest horror films. Produced in 1921 by the artist Albin Grau and directed by the great F.W. Murnau, the silent film was almost lost forever due to legal backlash. A copyright lawsuit launched in 1922 over similarities to the novel Dracula, resulted in all but one copy of the film being destroyed. That one surviving copy breathed life back into the film by bringing it back into the mainstream, where this cult classic has been re-adapted and enjoyed by audiences around the world for nearly a century.

“In approaching the writing of the themes for the scores, we both kept in mind the juxtaposition of cultures represented in the film, which maintains the tension between Western Europe and Eastern Europe established by Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula,” Smith said. “As an alternative to the original score, which is very late Romantic and exclusively Western, we strove to integrate aspects of Balkan traditional as well as Western European music.”

The Elegant Savages Orchestra is a unique ensemble of winds, strings, and rhythm instruments, voices, and dancers, providing classical and sight-reading musicians the opportunity to explore various traditional and vernacular music “by ear” genres in a chamber orchestral format: strings, winds, and percussion. Section leaders are recruited from the Texas Tech University Celtic Ensemble and Baltic Ensemble, but participation is open to musicians from across the Texas Tech campus. Repertoire is drawn from Celtic, English, Appalachian, Balkan, Caribbean, and Scandinavian music and dance traditions. The Orchestra collaborates extensively with composers, songwriters, choreographers, and virtuoso soloists to create unique symphonic realizations of their creative visions.

“The Elegant Savages Orchestra is a truly steampunk group of musicians,” Kalish said. “They are all very accomplished musicians, but they tear down boundaries and create an aural soundscape that fits the movie Nosferatu perfectly.”

“We are hoping to have several New Mexico Tech and Socorro High School musicians joining the ensemble on a few sections, which is very exciting.  We have some amazing musicians in Socorro!”

Tickets cost $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $7 for youth, and FREE to Tech students with a valid ID. Tickets are available online at www.nmtpas.org, or at the Cashier’s Office (second floor of Fidel Center), Socorro County Chamber of Commerce, Sofia’s Kitchen Drive-up, or at the door. Students with a valid ID can pick up their free tickets at the NMT Bookstore.

Sponsors for this event are the Bodega Burger Co. and the New Mexico Tech Student Government Association.

– NMT –