a copy of the press release

12 June 2008
Phantom of the Opera film at Truro Cathedral
Are you looking for a slightly different kind of Friday night out?
On Friday 27th June at 8pm you won’t have further to look than Truro
Cathedral! A unique cinema experience is being offered but with a twist.
They are showing one of the greatest silent films ever made, the classic
1925 film version of Phantom of the Opera, starring Lon Channey,
together with live, improvised organ accompaniment from international
recitalist David Briggs.
This is cinema as it used to be with a musician trying to capture the mood as the
silent movie’s images flashed across the silver screen.
Robert Sharpe, Director of Music at the Cathedral, who helped organise the showing
is anticipating a fantastic evening of dramatic entertainment, “This is a unique event in
Cornwall, a wonderful opportunity to see one of the absolute classic ‘gothic’ movies
of all time in classic gothic surroundings with one of the world’s best ‘improvisation’
organists playing on Truro’s world famous Willis organ, what more could you want!”
A special large screen is going to brought in to show the movie in all its black and
white glory.
The classic silent movie dates to 1925 and stars Lon Chaney, in probably his most
famous role, as the grotesquely masked and facially disfigured ‘Phantom’. Chaney did
all his own make-up and even created his own mask for the role, which was kept a
studio secret until the film’s premiere. His genius at mime and ability to bring a
degree of humanity to the character of the Phantom made it one of the most
successful films of its era, spawning a whole genre of horror movies like Dracula,
Frankenstein, The Wolfman and the Mummy.
The plot revolves around his infatuation for an understudy at the famous Paris Opera
House and his desire to see her move from the chorus line to the lead, causing
mayhem and murder on the way. Probably the most famous scene is the Phantom’s
unmasking which left original audiences shrieking and fainting with terror and horror.
The story is a classic romance of unrequited love cast in a sort of ‘Beauty and the
Beast’ narrative and will definitely keep people on the edge of their seats. David
Briggs, who will provide the organ accompaniment, has a worldwide reputation as
one of the foremost concert organists of his generation. He has won plaudits and
prizes for his special musical skills of improvisation and transcription and has over 50
concerts booked this year alone. David is delighted to be back in Truro, “I spent six
happy years as Organist at the Cathedral (1989-1994) here in Cornwall and so to
come back again to help the Cathedral with their fundraising is very special.” David
will also give a talk at the beginning of the evening to explain a little bit about
improvisation and how he goes about the task of fitting the music to the film. David
said, “Since the age of six, I’ve always loved to improvise music, enjoying the sense of
freedom at the keyboard that comes with this. When you improvise it’s impossible
to play a wrong note, and that very fact remains quite liberating! As with all
improvisation, it’s very important that there is a sense of structure and organisation
– I like to use Leitmotives (recurring musical themes) to portray the individual
characters, and also sometimes to help pre-empt the action in the movie, by subtle
use of musical suggestion – so that sometimes the audience knows what is just about
to happen before they actually see it on the screen. The goal is inevitably to make
the music expand on the inherent message and emotion of the movie and the two
have to be very closely dovetailed. When people say “the music and the movie
seemed to be as one and I forgot I was listening to an organ”, then you know you
have achieved a degree of success. Phantom’ is a gift to the improviser – because of
the huge variety of emotions within the movie – sensuality, sense of loss,
underground spookiness, manic chase scenes, operatic ebullience, bizarre quirkiness,
and also a degree of sympathy for the Phantom himself.” The music is likely to
include Bach, Mendelssohn, Offenbach even the Marseillaise; you might even
recognise some of the Andrew Lloyd Webber themes from his musical of the same
name! In a hushed, darkened cathedral, with the movie looming large at the front of
the nave and an improvised, dramatic, post-romantic score coming from a wonderful
instrument such as the Father Willis here at Truro, the effect is going to be
mesmerising. It’ll be a great night’s entertainment; a complete one-off.
Tickets for the showing are £10 and are available on the door or in advance from
Hall For Cornwall box office 01872 262466.
For further details Contact:
Colin Reid, Cathedral Communications Officer, 01872 245007,
12th June 2008