Organist Andrew Galuska will haunt a showing of the 1925 version of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’
Published 6:01 am Monday, February 2, 2015
Ghost of an opera
Our Saviors Lutheran Church and an area organist are about to strike a chord of film history.
Organist Andrew Galuska will perform along with the 1925 version of “The Phantom of the Opera” in the style of classic, silent films at Our Saviors at 4 p.m. Feb. 8.
“It’s for the whole family,” he said. “You can bring your kids; your kids can watch the movie and also be exposed to the great majesty of the organ.”
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Before “talkies,” organists and other musicians commonly accompanied silent films. That became a thing of the past once sound was introduced to movies. But in the last 10 to 15 years, there’s been a resurgence of people playing along with silent films.
Galuska, director of music at Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester, has performed along with “The Phantom of the Opera” for about a decade all over the country. He first did it at a church in the Houston, Minnesota, area during the Halloween season, and he’s done it every year since.
Most of Galuska’s performance is improvised; however, Galuska has gone through the film before with a stopwatch to time out key scenes, reactions and climactic moments.
Now, it’s almost second nature.
“I know every scene,” he said.
While improvised, Galuska weaves in familiar themes. This version predates Andrew Lloyd Weber’s 1986 musical version by 61 years, but Galuska still weaves hints of that classic score into his performance.
“People will hear everything, from pure composition — my own — to Bach to the great masters of French romantic organ music to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical score,” he said.
Only one thing is the same in each performance: He alway opens with Johan Sebastian Bach’s famed organ opening. However, no two performances are ever alike.
“It’s like composing a film score on the spot, but using themes that people will recognize,” Galuska said.
He’s performed to other silent films, like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films, but one stands out to audiences: “‘Phantom of the Opera’ is by far the most popular,” he said.
After “Phantom,” “Nosferatu” and “Jekyll and Hyde” are two of the most requested films.
Lon Chaney’s “The Phantom of the Opera” was a horror classic back in its day and was considered a pioneer in terms of monster makeup. The film was also one of the first were people try to blend color into the film, as they use color in a scene of the phantom walking down stairs.
“It’s a great film,” Galuska said.
While scary in 1925, the film is tame — and at times funny — by today’s standards, and Galuska said all ages will enjoy the show.
“It is family friendly,” he said.
The film will be projected on one big screen in Our Saviors sanctuary, and ViDeyo Arts Video Production Studio will film Galuska, whose playing will be displayed on another screen.
Galuska typically watches the film on a monitor or a mirror as he plays.
The audience also has the chance for a closeup view of Galuska’s performance, as several seats are available the church balcony.
“This is a fun event,” he said.
After his performance on Our Saviors’ 1973 Casavantes, Galuska is planning an organ dedication performance at 4 p.m. on March 22 at Christ United Methodist with the Mayo Chamber Orchestra.
The performance is presented by the Our Savior’s Recital Series and the Southeast Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
Fast facts about Andrew Galuska:
•He’s director of music and the organist at Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester
•He’s has won prizes for organ performance and improvisation in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Texas and abroad.
•In 2008, he won second-place in the Royal College of Canadian Organists International Improvisation Competition held in Ontario.
•He studied French organ literature and has studied organ performance and choral conducting at the Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, Rhode Island College; the Moores School of Music, University of Houston; and the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University.
•While he’s played and studied six centuries of organ and choral music, he has emphasized the masters of romantic and 20th century music.
•He’s traveled across the U.S. and abroad as a solo artist, choral conductor, collaborative artist, teacher and lecturer.
•He has performed at Stanford University, Tufts University, Miami International University, University of Massachusetts, Mechanics Hall – Worcester, Massachusetts, First Presbyterian Church – Houston, Texas, the First Baptist Church in America – Providence, Rhode Island, St. Thomas Church – New York City, the Eglise St. Jean-Baptiste – Montreal, QC, and the Sarasota Opera Guild. He’s also performed at several events hosted by the Organ Historical Society, the American Guild of Organists, the American Baptist Conference, the United Church of Christ Conference, and the United Methodist Conference.
•He’s released several recordings of organ music. “Organs of New England,” an anthology of organs and organists, was released in March 2013 on the Organ Historical Society/Raven Record label. “The Organ Works of Franz Liszt” will be released in 2015 and features the great organ of Metropolitan UMC in Detroit, Michigan. “Sleepers, Wake,” a recording of Lessons and Carols, was released in 2009. In November of 2008, he recorded American composer Dominick Argento’s “Jonah and the Whale” with the Boston Modern Orchestra and the Providence Singers.