Visual Statement : More than just movies at the Michigan Theater

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 12:28am

Andrew Rogers, a staff organist at the Michigan Theater, first became interested in the organ at a chapel at one of his spiritual retreats before coming to the Michigan Theater.

“I started to enjoy some of the sounds of the organ but then I got interested in wanting to learn how to play,” Rogers said. “Music was always in the background. I worked for a travel agency and I had (a) church job and music got squeezed in between everything else. I quit the travel agency so I could do more programs … So now it was my opportunity to make a living out of music rather than just a hobby. I was able to come down here and start playing before films and occasionally travel doing silent films.”

During these silent films accompaniments, Rogers acts a live score — choosing how to incorporate his music into the film and acting almost as a director.

“For instance, in Hitchcock’s ‘The Lodger’, there’s a girl in the film and you’re not sure if she’s safe around the lodger or not, so I can really choose musically, when I will let the audience know she’s safe,” Rogers said. “Every time I do a film (it’s) a little different because the way I incorporate the melodies will change each time.”

While Rogers does spend his time accompanying silent films, his job at the Michigan Theater gives him the rare opportunity to play on one of 40 organs in the country that are still in their original home.

“Other (organs) have fallen into disuse, (been) removed, split up for parts to go into other organs or moved into different locations like schools or churches,” Rogers said. “It’s really the interest and foresight of the theater that have kept it up. So whatever I say about the organ or my role here it’s really the theater that backs the organ and keeps it running.”