Penn Halloween movie tradition: Alive again

Irvine Auditorium

The Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s isn’t the only set of pipes in Philadelphia churning out a haunting melody this Halloween.

On Friday, Oct. 30, Penn’s Irvine Auditorium will resurrect its traditional screening of the silent film classic “The Phantom of the Opera,” complete with live accompaniment on Irvine’s historic Curtis Organ. Once an annual event, the screening was put on hiatus during the auditorium’s restoration.
Conductor and music educator Peter Krasinski will man Curtis Organ’s 10,731 pipes, performing an original, improvised score with excerpts from Gounod's "Faust.”

Krasinki, a preeminent accompanist for silent films, has performed his cinematic soundtracks across the nation, in venues ranging from the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford, Conn., to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio. Click here to listen to a sample of Krasinski’s “Phantom of the Opera” organ accompaniment.

The Curtis Organ was built in 1926 for the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia, hosted by the city to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Over the decades, the organ fell into disrepair. As part of the $23 million Irvine renovation project, the organ was restored to its former glory with the help of alumni and the Curtis Organ Restoration Society, a group of enthusiasts dedicated to its upkeep. It now boasts a modernized computer system capable of recording a performance with the touch of a button. The original organ console can still be viewed in the lobby of the Irvine Auditorium.

This year, for the first time, there will be a special noon screening of the movie to encourage community attendance. The evening showing will begin at 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by the Perelman Quadrangle, the event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited, so arrive early – and don’t forget your costume.

Originally published on October 28, 2009