Marco Benevento Trio

In an ingenious marriage of media in the Burlington Performing Arts Center’s cabaret, The Marco Benevento Trio played a set of original music in accompaniment to a screening of cult horror director Roger Corman’s House of Usher. There were some fleeting clashes between the musicians and the movie but, by and large, Benevento and company accentuated the drama and suspense of the film with a score that could easily stand on its own terms.

The concept might well have worked better with a silent film to avoid any of the instances early in the film when the decibel level of the keyboards, bass and drums virtually drowned out the dialogue coming from the screen. But given the slightly dated quality of the Vincent Price interpretation of a story by Edgar Allen Poe—and the resulting kitsch quotient that rendered some straight-faced delivery virtually as satire—the conflicts were minor at best.

In fact, during those intervals of cinema action, as when Jack Winthrop’s character sped through the Usher family house to try and save his buried-alive bride, Benevento’s music enhanced the tension of the moment. It was remarkable in fact that, playing almost continuously for ninety minutes, the trio kept pace with the film every scene along the way. The sounds they created often generated a surreal atmosphere when the screen showed superimposed images over the main visuals.

It’s a further tribute to the composer of the music that he never fell prey to the temptation to toss in clichéd rhythms or melodic motifs that have long since turned trite in the soundtrack milieu. On the contrary, Benevento’s use of piano and even more so, his effects-laden keyboard instruments (which in other contexts often sound contrived), further accentuated the match between the music and the movie. As a matter of fact, the grand finale depicting the House of Usher going down in flames was accompanied by a grand flourish perfectly appropriate to the climax of the film as much as the conclusion of the playing itself.

Benevento and The Flynn might well have moved more than a few instantly recorded CDs of this performance had they been available for sale. And given the success of this event in execution as much as concept—plus sufficient demand to call for a second show the same night after a sell-out from its initial announcement—this memorable occasion might well be worth turning into a Burlington Vermont Halloween tradition in this intimate venue.

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