The first film was actually supposed to be Charlie Chaplin's Gold Rush, but they apparently couldn't secure the rights to show it, which does bring up some interesting questions in my mind, particularly: how much money is the copyright holder asking for an 81-year-old, black & white, silent film?
The organist was a tiny young man, flown in from Michigan of all places (although he was not Steven Ball, the resident organist at the Michigan Theater). He made me think of otterpop, or rather, what I imagine otterpop might have looked like when he was 12 years old. He had a nervous habit of rolling forward onto his toes when he spoke to the audience, and he was dwarfed by the organ console. He encouraged us to cheer for the hero, boo or hiss at the villains, and applaud for the hero's feats of derring-do—after all, he said, no one should shush you for not being able to hear the dialogue.
The organist worked many recognizable—and usually anachronistic—themes into his improvised scores. "I've been working on the railroad," "Dixie," "London Bridge is Falling Down," and "The William Tell Overature" all appeared in The General, and the "Bridal Chorus," "William Tell," "The Star-Spangled Banner," and even the Final Jeopardy theme music appeared in The Mark of Zorro. They were musical themes that nearly everyone in the audience knew and that represented something specific—trains, the South, a chase, marriage—it was amazing to me how just a brief snippet of melody could convey a specific, interpretable message.
The crowd ran from young to old, and everyone got into the cheering and hissing. A good time was had by all, and the only thing that could have been improved, in my opinion, would be a bucket of buttery popcorn and a bigger screen.