Silent Film “Down to the Sea in Ships” with a LIVE Piano Score by Dr. Jennifer Maxwell


Studio Theater Fri, Jun 30, 2023 7:00 PM
Studio Theater Fri, Aug 23 6:00 PM
Run Time:2H
Release Year:1922
Category:Live Concerts


Pianist Dr. Jennifer Maxwell, of New Bedford has created a film score for the 1922 classic silent film "Down to the Sea in Ships," that filmed in that other whaling town of New Bedford and was directed by Elmer Clifton. Using some archival material and some original music, Maxwell has written a theme for each of the film’s characters (e.g. hero's theme, villain’s theme, etc.) and each type of action (e.g. love theme, whaling theme, etc.), timed them to occur exactly for the durations of the scenes, and composed them in keys and such that would segue appropriately from one to the next. She also utilized several vintage tunes that would have been recognizable in the day, weaving them in with the original music — all with the purpose of underscoring the narrative and providing cohesion in a medium in which there is no dialogue. With its theme of whaling and its inclusion of the only legally filmed whale hunt in cinematic history, the film offers a glimpse into Nantucket’s own history. It also is notable for featuring the debut of the inimitable flapper girl movie star Clara Bow (and she is indeed delightful!).

Experience the film just as audiences would have in the silent film era . . . with live piano!  As the film is silent therefore through-scored, the piano plays throughout in a recital-type manner. This is a very family-friendly event: (the film is quite benign, allowing even younger audience members to enjoy a movie AND a piano concert!)

General Public: $35 + $3 service fee
Dreamland Members & Summer Dream Pass Holders: $25 + No Service Fee


American pianist Dr. Jennifer A. Maxwell has earned acclaim for her versatility as a performer, educator, and scholar.  A 2016 and 2018 Grammy Award Nominee, she has performed thousands of concerts of solo and chamber repertoire across the country, been featured in television and radio interviews, written a film score, and judged competitions.

Maxwell has presented performances at the Providence Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Boston University, University of Rhode Island, Nantucket Whaling Museum, Nantucket Atheneum, Nantucket Music Center, Jamestown Piano Association, Rhode Island College, Music in the Loft, Steinway of Chicago, Mostly Music Concert Series, CUBE Chicago Contemporary Music Series, Schubertiade Chicago, Illinois State Music Teachers Association, Chicago, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois, Music Institute of Chicago, and PianoForte Great Pianists Series, among others; performed concerti with the Southern Illinois Symphony and University of Chicago Symphony; been featured on Live From WFMT, Chicago’s Classical Radio; and she was the pianist for the National Association for Music Education bi-annual convention.  Recent activities include solo recitals of works by Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, and Adès; an interview/performance on National Public Radio; the Red Violin program with Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius owner Elizabeth Pitcairn; a program of music by women composers; Stravinsky’s virtuosic Petrouchka on the Nantucket Arts Council Celebrity Series with duo partner Dr. Svetlana Belsky; Beethoven in Havana, a new tango by Joachim Horsley adapted as a piano concerto; and repeat performances of her archival/original score for the 1922 classic silent film Down to the Sea in Ships.  She also has performed on period instruments, presenting an annual fortepiano recital at the historic Whitehall Mansion.  Maxwell is featured in director Jay Craven’s 2022 film Martin Eden, just released.

Maxwell has held professorships at Roger Williams University and the University of Rhode Island, and she is faculty emerita at the Nantucket Music Center.  Previously she held positions at the University of Chicago, Louisville Orchestra, Kentucky Center for the Arts, and University of Louisville. 

Maxwell earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Boston University, where she was in the studio of the legendary Anthony di Bonaventura and was granted a special dissertation scholarship to research and write Tracing a Lineage of the Mazurka Genre: Influences of Szymanowski and Chopin on the Mazurkas of Thomas Adès.