Maria Newman, Renowned Composer, Brings Silent Film Classics to Life at Harlequin

maria newman
Maria Newman, renowned violin virtuoso and composer, will be treating the audience to live musical accompaniment to the classic silent film Heart o’ the Hills at Harlequin Productions.


By Gale Hemmann

sunset airOlympia music lovers, you’re in for a treat. Maria Newman, world-famous composer and violinist, is coming to Harlequin Productions to do a one-night-only performance on Saturday, January 4, 2014. It promises to be a unique event: Newman and the Malibu Coast Silent Film Orchestra will be performing live, original music to the 1919 Mary Pickford silent film classic, Heart o’ the Hills. Following the performance, Newman and the orchestra members will offer a chance to discuss the film and music with the audience. The evening is entitled, “Maria Newman and Friends: Not-so-Silent Film,” and you don’t want to miss it.

maria newman
Maria Newman, renowned violin virtuoso and composer, will be treating the audience to live musical accompaniment to the classic silent film Heart o’ the Hills at Harlequin Productions.  Photo courtesy of Harlequin Productions with permission of Maria Newman.

While Newman has written over 150 original concert pieces, for everything from ballets to chamber works, her passion in recent years has become writing original music scores for remastered, once-forgotten silent films, giving them new life. Specifically, she has partnered with the Mary Pickford Foundation to write scores for 19 Mary Pickford films (Pickford was an astronomically popular silent film actress). A truly unique project, Newman says of her work that she enjoys both the contemporary and historical aspects of classical music, and the way this can be combined with silent films to evoke their timeless emotional power. (You can watch a YouTube clip of Newman’s breathtaking work, and hear her talk about her process, here.) Indeed, in our fast-paced times, it seems all the more fascinating and innovative that Newman chooses to focus on creating music for silent movies, building a bridge between past and present.

It’s hard to know where to begin when talking about Maria Newman’s work. Newman is an artist of international acclaim; she has played at Carnegie Hall in New York City and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., not to mention the United States Capitol Building Campus. She has won many awards and fellowships, and has been commended by the United States Congress. She has collaborated with many stars including Pierce Brosnan, and you can find her playing on public radio and television nationwide. Newman is a woman of many talents: violinist, violist, pianist, composer, and teacher.

harlequin productions
The audience gives an enthusiastic standing ovation at a recent Harlequin Productions play. Harlequin plays have long been crowd-pleasers for Olympia audiences.  Photo courtesy Harlequin Productions.

Newman is known not only for her technical mastery of music but for her incredible passion when she performs: she has a true emotional connection to the music, and is able to invite the audience in to share this connection, leaving them riveted. In listening to Maria talk about her music, the quote from Leo Tolstoy comes to mind: “Music is the shorthand of emotion.”  Clearly, Newman delights in bringing this concept to life. One can only surmise that getting to hear Newman and the orchestra up-close, in the intimate space at Harlequin, would be an especially powerful honor.

Maria Newman was born into a family of famous Hollywood music composers. She is the daughter of Academy Award-winning film composer Alfred Newman, who composed music for the Hollywood Bowl, and she began playing music at age five. Her siblings, aunt and uncle, and a cousin are all also successful composers. And yet, Newman has earned a reputation all on her own. In fact, she first began composing under a pseudonym, M. Louis Parker, determined not to let her gender or her family name influence the reception of her music. Once her musical career began taking off, people wanted to know more about the person behind the music, and she began composing under her real name.

While Newman was born in Los Angeles and educated at Yale University and Rochester University’s Eastman School of Music, she is no stranger to the Northwest. She spent nearly a decade in Washington State, working as Composer-in-Residence at the Icicle Creek Music Center in Leavenworth. She and her husband, composer Scot Hosfield, currently reside in Malibu, California with their five (highly musical) children. Newman holds several positions at the Montgomery Arts House for Music and Architecture in Malibu, where she continues to put on concerts for local audiences.

harlequin productions
Harlequin Productions is housed in the historic State Theater on Fourth Avenue. Harlequin completely restored the theater, carrying on its legacy as a Downtown Olympia landmark.

So how did Harlequin arrange to have Newman visit? Newman was planning to come to Olympia for an event at the Capitol Rotunda Building (the Northwest Flute Consort) earlier in the day, and a friend (Marilyn First) of Harlequin’s Managing Artistic Director, Scot Whitney, connected Newman with Harlequin.

I had the opportunity to speak with Whitney about the upcoming show. He was understandably excited. He noted that everyone at Harlequin is “beyond completely thrilled,” and that it means a lot to him personally as well as to the staff and volunteers at the theater to host Newman. Whitney was one of the founders of Harlequin Productions, which formed in 1991 and bought the State Theater several years later. With genuine awe in his voice, Whitney noted that the silent film performance will be both a wonderful musical experience and a tribute to the State Theater’s film history.

Newman is clearly an exceptional individual. Bold, talented, and creative, she has earned a name for herself around the world for good reason. Her show promises to be a synthesia of the arts and truly a one-of-a-kind experience. You don’t want to miss Newman’s show at Harlequin Productions.

To purchase tickets, visit the Harlequin Productions website. You can also check out the Maria Newman and Friends: Not-so-Silent Film event page on Facebook.

Harlequin Productions at the State Theater

202 Fourth Avenue East

Olympia, WA 98501

Tickets and box office information can be found here.


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