Organist Peter Krasinski to Create Live Improvised Musical Score for ‘BEN-HUR’ at St Cecilia’s

April 29, 2017
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A sweeping silent film drama set during the time of Christ will be shown in a landmark Boston church.

Organist Peter Krasinski will accompany BEN-HUR, A Tale of the Christ” (1925) on Thursday, April 27, at Saint Cecelia Parish, 18 Belvidere St. The screening is at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. Tickets range from $10 to $30 with a special pre-screening reception with the artist priced at $100.

Along with being an active and relevant church in the city of Boston, and one of the city’s prominent musical venues, Saint Cecilia Parish is a magnificent space that includes the Gilbert and Smith Pipe organ. The powerful musical capabilities of this instrument range from sounds as soft as a whisper, to thunderous sonorities.

“Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” is a 1925 American epic silent film directed by Fred Niblo and written by June Mathis based on the 1880 novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” by General Lew Wallace. Starring Ramon Novarro as the title character, the film is the first feature-length adaptation of the novel and second overall, following the 1907 short.

In 1997, Ben-Hur was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

The 1925 version’s chariot race is said by many to be considerably more exciting than the later sound version. The sea battle used full-sized ships and hundreds of extras shot in Italy, where a fire broke out on the ships during the shooting…the extras’ panic on screen was not acting.

The film (in digital format) as well as the musical prelude at the organ will be presented in the sanctuary of the church on a screen specially brought in for the event. Krasinski stated,  “Although an unusual place to see a full feature film, the incredible musical capabilities and sonic colors of the Smith and Gilbert organ at Saint Cecilia Parish deliver emotional impact. I invite everyone in the Boston area to join us to be a part of this intense story as we recreate the experience of seeing this mesmerizing film masterpiece as it was intended to be seen — on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.”

The event is presented as an artistic response to the current social and political climate in the world today. Krasinski stated recently, “In BEN-HUR from 1925 we have a masterpiece of a film that remains relevant to our time. Depicting the horror of war, the occupation of a people, the cost of ignorance, the result of religious intolerance, this experience also mirrors our own love of family, and hope for a better future. In this story we see ourselves.”

Krasinski, past dean of the Boston chapter of the American Guild of Organists, is widely recognized for his silent film accompaniment performances.

He performs frequently in the Boston area; recent engagements include accompanying the silent version of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” as a fund-raiser for the Pine Street Inn and “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” at Old South Church marking the centennial of the United States involvement of World War One. In November he completed his fifth tour of Japan.

The event is open to the open to the public; tickets range from $10 to $30.

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