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‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ silent movie revived Tuesday

Sep 14, 2017

The 1923 classic silent movie “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” will be revived by the sounds of the Barhydt organ as organist Robert Nicholls plays an improvisational musical theme sound track at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center’s Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts.

Starring Lon Chaney in the role that launched his career as a major star, and featuring a 19-acre set and thousands of extras, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is a visual spectacle on a grand scale. Nicholls will improvise a live sound track that moves frame by frame with the epic visual masterpiece.

Nicholls is the music director and champion improvisational artist at First Presbyterian Church in Evansville, Indiana. He won the 2012 top prize in the American Guild of Organists’ biannual pipe organ improvisation competition.

Nicholls was born in Cambridge, England, to a British farmer and American mother from Carmi, Illinois, and grew up in rural Cambridgeshire. At the age of 8, he joined the choristers at Westminster Abbey in London under the direction of Simon Preston. He graduated from Oundle School and Cambridge University. He sang tenor in the choirs of Gonville and Caius and St. John’s Colleges in Cambridge. He maintained an abiding interest in the organ and joined the staff of First Presbyterian Church in Evansville in 1996.

Nicholls plays the piano, directs the church band, choir and handbells and plays the Fisk Pipe organ Op. 98. His organ teachers have included James Parsons, Philip Scriven, Roberta Gary, and John Schwandt (improvisation). Nicholls’s compositions for both organ and choir have been performed and broadcast in both the US and Europe, and at RSCM America summer residential courses.

He has accompanied “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “The Golem,” “Nosferatu,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.”

Tickets for the “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” silent movie are $18 for general admission seating and are available at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center ticket office 472-2787 and online at www.FairfieldACC.com

The 2017-18 Sondheim Organ Music Spotlight Series features four organists, both accomplished performers and rising stars, on the 21-rank, 1,800 pipe, three manual Moller organ originally installed in Barhydt Chapel at Parsons College. Now reconditioned and modernized, the Barhydt organ, named for John and Coralee Dey, is a prized instrument at the Sondheim theater.

The Organ Music Spotlight Series is a partnership between the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center Barhydt Organ Committee and the Fairfield Concert Association.

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