Dan Whitehouse / Charlie Chaplin: The Vagabond

Musician composes first film score.
Commissioned by Birmingham Comedy Festival.
Available to watch for free, now.

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Dan Whitehouse has composed a new score for Charlie Chaplin’s early masterpiece, The Vagabond.

The surprising and atmospheric soundtrack has been commissioned by Birmingham Comedy Festival, and is available to watch online now.

Moving away from the scenario-based slapstick films of his early career, by 1916’s The Vagabond Charlie Chaplin was beginning to develop a sophisticated cinematic style that combined comedy with drama and pathos that set him apart from his silent peers. Even at the time, critics recognised the film as “an artistic advance” (New York Tribune) for the star.

Born in 1889 into poverty, the London-raised Chaplin was a seasoned British music hall act before an American theatre tour led to an invitation from the fledgling movie business in 1914. He embraced the new medium and by the time he made The Vagabond, he’d already made over 50 films with his on-screen character – The Tramp – making him one of the most recognisable figures in the world!

A true auteur, Chaplin acted, wrote and directed the vast majority of his films, and even composed scores for many later productions and re-releases. Among his best known movies are 1921’s The Kid, widely considered one of the greatest films of the silent era; Modern Times, 1936’s comment on the effect of rapid industrialisation; and 1940’s The Great Dictator, in which the similarly mustachioed star parodied Hitler and the rise of fascism.

Chaplin died on Christmas Day 1977. Although his place of birth has never been identified, one theory suggests he was born at Black Patch, a Roma site in Smethwick, just outside Birmingham, West Midlands.

Dan Whitehouse is a West Midlands-born songwriter and musician. Signed to Reveal Records (home to Lau, Joan As Police Woman, and Eddi Reader), Dan’s latest release is the double album Dreamland Tomorrow. Combining raw acoustic material with more experimental and electronic-tinged recordings, contributors and collaborators on the collection include Boo Hewerdine, The Little Unsaid’s John Elliott, minimalist composer Richard J. Birkin, and BBC Jazz Award winning saxophonist Xhosa Cole.

His first film-related work, Dan’s soundtrack to The Vagabond was composed during lockdown and continues the more textural approach he explored for the first half of Dreamland Tomorrow.

Says Dan: “The picture was a guiding light. Chaplin and the cast’s animated expressions drew me in, and their light clearly highlighted the notes I should play, and with what velocity and vigour.

“The picture is timeless, international, universal – crosses cultures,” he continues. “I’ve just revealed a little bit of how I see it, the filter I view it through, using the palette of sounds my collaborators James (aka Jimantronic) and Jack (Sadler) and I are currently drawing from.”

A spokesperson for Birmingham Comedy Festival said: “We’ve been long admirers of Dan’s work so we were really excited when he agreed to take on the project.

“Today, many of us only see silent films with random old jazz tracks dubbed on top – which can be very intrusive and ultimately distract from the subtleties of the film. Dan’s contemporary score gives Chaplin’s The Vagabond a new lease of life, and a very different vibe, allowing us to see the film afresh.”

The Vagabond, featuring Dan’s score, is available to stream on-demand now via: https://youtu.be/PX5xWNEEQm8

A brief accompanying short, Birmingham Comedy Festival Visits Black Patch Park: Birthplace Of Charlie Chaplin?, which features a sample of Dan’s score, is available here: https://youtu.be/14WcbqsWvWU

Birmingham Comedy Festival is an award-winning arts festival. Due to the pandemic, for its 2020 edition, it shifted online with a series of new commissions, performances, incursions and chats, with guests including Toyah Willcox, The Nightingales, Mrs Barbara Nice, and street artist Foka Wolf.

For more information, see: www.bhamcomfest.co.uk


For more information on Dan Whitehouse see:

You can hear/ buy Dreamland Tomorrow and other Dan Whitehouse releases here: danwhitehousemusic.bandcamp.com

Dan Whitehouse

Above: Musician Dan Whitehouse, who created a new score for Chaplin’s The Vagabond during 2020’s lockdown.


Dan Whitehouse and representatives from Birmingham Comedy Festival are available for selected interviews. Please contact us with all requests.