Hitchin church to screen Hunchback of Notre Dame – with live organ

Lon Chaney as Quasimodo and Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmerelda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). Picture: Courtesy Everett Collection

Lon Chaney as Quasimodo and Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmerelda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). Picture: Courtesy Everett Collection

Courtesy Everett Collection

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is coming to Hitchin – with a virtuoso live accompaniment to the silent film from an international concert organist.

St Mary’s Church in the town centre is to host the special screening of the 1923 classic, based on the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo, which features Lon Chaney as the title character Quasimodo.

The film will be accompanied by Donald MacKenzie, whose organ performances at the Odeon Leicester Square have featured on the BBC World Service and Radio 2, 3 and 4. He has also given royal performances, including some in the presence of the Queen.

The event follows showings of The General, Metropolis and The Phantom of the Opera at St Mary’s in past years to help bolster the church’s funds.

Rachel Bagenal from St Mary’s said: “Each year we vary the genre of the films we show, and this time we are going for a romantic gothic drama.

“What’s really special about this series is the use of our splendid Walker organ – dating back to the 1880s, and recently restored.

“The unique atmospheric setting of the church, coupled with Donald Mackenzie’s continuous accompaniment, has proved to be a memorable experience.”

The film, on Saturday, starts at 7.30pm – with burrito masters Cantina Carnitas selling their wares in Church House beforehand from 6pm.

The show is part of a push by St Mary’s to open up the appeal of the historic building as a common resource at the heart of the Hitchin community, in addition to its religious purpose.

The church, which used to host Rhythms of the World events, had more than 3,000 people in for its Christmas services last month – up by about a fifth on the previous year – with another 5,000 coming to the school carol services there.

St Mary’s vicar Canon Michael Roden said: “St Mary’s is not just for those who come to services every Sunday. You, the public, probably have greater rights to St Mary’s than to almost any other building in Hitchin.

“We are very happy to encourage people to visit us, whether for our services, for a bit of quietness in the midst of their busy lives, or for events such as this film.”

You can get tickets from Hitchin Initiative in Churchyard or on 01462 453335, or from David’s Music in Letchworth’s Eastcheap or on 01462 475900. Tickets are also available online at wegottickets.com/location/3797.

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