Rosa Rio, colorful theater organist, dies at 107

The obituary of Rosa Rio caught my eye. She was a much-admired theater organist who provided live soundtracks for silent films (an exceptional art form) and kept her career going after the arrival of talkies by switching to radio and eventually TV soap operas. What a cool, inspiring life she had. She died Thursday in Florida, a few weeks before her 108th birthday -- a fact made all the more remarkable when you learn that she gave a concert as recently as a year ago at the Tampa Theater, once again accompanying a silent film. To quote from the Times obit:

Several times a year Miss Rio would rise from beneath the stage there, seated at the organ in sequined evening gown, diamond rings and gold lamé slippers. As she wafted majestically upward, the room shook with her signature tune, 'Everything’s Coming Up Roses,' or, as she much preferred to call it, 'Everything’s Coming Up Rosa.'

By all accounts, Miss Rio was quite a character, always willing to challenge sexism in the days of a male-dominated entertainment industry. She also offered a remarkable connection to history -- she played the sobering music in between NBC radio broadcasts of the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

I would have loved hearing Miss Rio in person. I had to settle for these two video clips, which offer a sense of her personality and her talent -- making her entrance at the Tampa Theater a few years ago, and accompanying a Buster Keaton comedy:

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad