Saturday, July 30, 2011
Movies in Christchurch Cathedral
As part of the Spraoi festivities the Christchurch team mounted a showing of an old silent movie to live accompaniment on their fine recently restored organ. I had heard great reports about a similar production last year and this rare event was high on my list of must see events. The film was a German 1930's production of Faust by Murnau. The show started at 10pm presumably to optimise the light conditions and ran for almost two hours. The centre aisle pews were respectably full and certainly the audience appeared mesemerised throughout by the rendition of this dark fable . The performance of organist Morgan Cooke was quite a feat of stamina and skill and he faithfully reflected the shifting moods on screen with organ , some auxilliary percussion and at one point some vocalising . Celestial heights, depths of hell and all manner of earthly things were captured with a shifting palette of colours at the console from deep bass pedals, bells, jagged dissonance and jaunty rhythms. Even the most demanding operatic or concerto role will allow some time for the performer to draw breath, but in this marathon performance there is no time to pause and I thought Cooke did a wonderful job in stimulating and sustaining our interest throughout. Not having seen very many silent films , this was fascinating glimpse into the art from another era and while a modern day film and its easily reproducible soundtrack will give a standardised experience wherever it is shown, there is something beguiling about the ephemeral nature of this improvised performance. Well done to Joan Dalton and the team at Christchurch on their imaginative programming and I look forward to the next one.