Pacific Symphony, The Phantom of the Opera
The film's story, an adaptation of the gothic French horror novel of the same name written by Gaston Leroux, captivated and terrorized audiences of its day with its cutting-edge special effects and horrific makeup designed by Chaney himself (which the studio kept secret, causing screaming and fainting when the film was first shown). The story revolves around rehearsals and performances of the most popular opera of the day, "Faust," at the Paris Opera House. Opera lovers may take special interest in hearing how James works many of the familiar melodies from "Faust" into his dramatic accompaniment. The one-of-a-kind William J. Gillespie Concert Organ, built from steel, tin, oak, poplar, maple, lead and carbon fiber, with 4,322 pipes premiered at the first concert of Pacific Symphony's 2008-09 season, after three years and 42,000 hours of labor by a team of organ builders at C.B. Fisk.
For more than 40 years, James has played a pivotal role in the international revival of silent films with live music. He began professional film accompaniment at Indiana University while he was a music student in the late 1960s and was appointed Hollywood's International Ambassador of the Silent Film in 1998. James now tours under the auspices of the Silent FiLM Concerts Production Company, performing to silent films with solo organ, piano and chamber ensemble accompaniments in addition to presentations with major symphony orchestras throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
James is renowned for providing the most comprehensive selection of authentic silent films with live music presentations available today, using his extensive personal scoring library-the largest such private collection in existence, with contributions from musicians, studios and libraries around the world. James also serves as house organist for the Historic Everett Theatre in Everett, Wash. and as theater organist for the San Diego Symphony.
The Symphony's "Pedals and Pipes" organ series continues Sunday, May 5, at 7:30 p.m., when Grammy Award-winner Paul Jacobs performs "Music from Paris," including works by Boulanger, Durufle, Guilmant, Messiaen and Vierne. Projected images allow a unique, up-close look at the master organist and the magnificent instrument.