Avignon/New York Film Festival
New York

The Announcement      The Review(s)



April 15, 2002, at 7:30 pm
Avignon/New York Film Festival
Opening Night Gala

The "Phantom of the Opera" silent film includes part of the performance of an opera at the Paris Opera House. Although traditionally a theatre organ has been used to accompany silent films, this contemporary classical score is for classical organ and piano.

French concert organist Mr. Thierry Eschaich will play a $50,000 Allen Renaissance organ from Allen Organ Studios, Inc., of Mineola, and concert pianist Jean-Fran?is Zygel will play the piano in this new French classical accompaniment to the silent film of 1925.

Claire Arnold, vice president of Allen Organ Studios, said, "This French score for classical organ and piano, which is being presented on the gala opening night of a week-long festival of contemporary films, takes a new step forward. Its featured position as the first film in the festival and also as the only silent film will hopefully enable this event to reach a new audience."

Bob Wyatt , president of Allen Organ Studios, Inc., and whose recording "The Happy Organ of Bob Wyatt" was the last made on the NY Paramount organ in its original setting, said, "This is an outgrowth of the yeoman work done in recent decades by Lee Erwin and others to acquaint the general public with the history, beauty, and versatility of the theatre organ."


French Institute Alliance Fran?ise
22 East 60th Street
New York, NY 10022

For more information:
telephone: 212-355-6100, ext. 234—fax: 212-355-8796
www.avignonfilmfest.com—e-mail: jhr2001@aol.com



I hope the organ for the opening of the Avignon/New York Film Festival last Monday night got moved home safely.  Unless people in the audience read the small print of the program notes I wondered how many knew what they had just heard.  I was amazed that this instrument was positioned on stage with the speakers simply lined-up under the screen; the sound in the theatre was that of a permanently installed instrument.  

"I don't think there is anyplace where an organist is more spoiled than in France.  Since these famous instruments are all national landmarks the government funds the upkeep of the pipe organs everywhere; therefore, the public use of any non-pipe instrument in public spaces is very rare. You know my love of the Cavaille'-Coll organs of France; especially for the full body of the reeds and their ability to be played both in an ensemble and as solo stops.  It was a real theatrical treat to be present for the showing of the classic film Phantom to the Opera with all of these tonal resources available to accompany the film.  As an organist I really appreciated the improvisations of the organist Thierry Escaich, who seemed right at home having the tonal resources available to orchestrate the film.

"You and I were probably the only ones in the audience who were aware of the technology of the organ and its digitally sampled Cavaille'-Coll reeds, but I saw in the response of the audience the same kind of excitement I have experienced at concerts in France.  There were so many great moments, but I especially loved the improvised toccata that Thierry Escaich built to an all French-reed crescendo as the leading character of the film, Christine, approaches the phantom from behind and unmasks him.  The sound gave a perfect voice to the emotions that are felt in that classic scene!

"Thanks again for the invitation to what was a memorable experience of viewing this great classic, and congratulations on the creative use of this Allen concert instrument.  From the standing ovation of the audience it was a real success for the film festival and for great organ music to be experienced by the general public."

—The Rev. Daniel P. Sheridan, organist


I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, even though I could not take the time to attend the after show activities. The long drive back and having to be at work at 7:15 a.m. make late night events in the City a little difficult during the week. The two artists did a great job of incorporating both piano and organ into the score, and although it was a classical organ, Thierry managed to get some very theatrical registrations on the swell."

—Tom Stehle, NY Theatre Organ Society


Not only was it colorful and appropriate at all times, but it was also beautiful, contemporary, mostly classical, and fresh. Some of the romantic music played was absolutely gorgeous. The result was that the movie was greatly enhanced by the music.  And yes, it was theatrical too. As a classical organist, I found the improvisations wonderful."

—Claire Arnold, Allen Organ Studios, Inc.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    Contact: Beck Lee (718) 403-0939



(April 15, 2002)  The 8th Avignon/New York Film Festival gets underway on Monday, April 15 with an Opening Night ceremony which will be typically eclectic and cross-cultural.  The 1925 silent classic "Phantom of the Opera," directed by Rupert Julien for Universal Pictures, unspools with a new score performed live by its French creators, Jean-Francois Zygel (on piano) and Thierry Escaich (on classical organ).  This will be the US premiere of the score, which, of course, incorporates Gounod opera themes in the appropriate places.

The organ used for this event is a $50,000 digital instrument built by the Allen Organ Company, the world’s largest builder of organs. The Pennsylvania-based company invented digital sound more than three decades ago and has over 75,000 installations in 70 nations worldwide. Digital “samples?of authentic French organ pipes taken from organs built in France by the great Aristide Cavaille-Coll have been incorporated into this instrument. The audience will experience authentic, digitally-mastered sounds heard in Paris during the great “Belle Epoque?from an organ with over 3000 pipes.

The opening night short film preceding "Phantom," one of the 29 French and American independent features and shorts seen in competition this year, will be "Site" a film by Jason Kliot of New York-based Open City Films (producers of "Three Seasons").  "Site," which was shown at Sundance and Berlin, is a gripping documentary portrait of the faces of people witnessing the devastation of Ground Zero in the weeks immediately following the disaster.

The film's inclusion in the program that evening is particularly fitting in light of the fact that this year's Opening Night ceremony will include the presentation of the Medal of the City of Avignon by that city's fire chief, Commander Alain Armand, to New York's own Fire Department.  Cmdr. Armand, who will be visiting New York for the first time, will confer this honor and token of solidarity on behalf of the Mayor of Avignon, Marie-Josee Roig, and the people of Avignon to Lt. Danny Williams of Engine Co. 39/Ladder Co. 16 which lost two brave souls on 9/11.  Also on hand representing New York's Bravest will be Deputy Chief Thomas Galvin, Division 3 Commander.

On Saturday, April 20 at 12:30PM, Avignon/New York screens "Cinepanorama," one of the most intriguing films shown out-of-competition this year.  We'll see a 75-minute selection of interviews drawn from a six-part documentary (which is scheduled to air on French television) featuring filmed interviews by film journalist Francois Chalais of legendary figures in French and American cinema.  These interviews were a staple of French television in the 50's and early 60's, but they have not been seen since.  Consequently Avignon/New York Film Festival attendees will actually rediscover Chalais' impressive work as a cinema reporter, after 40 years of neglect, even before the French.  The program will be introduced by Dominique Maillet who compiled and restored the footage.

Between 1956 and 1962, Chalais shot these gorgeously-photographed black and white candid interviews on the sets of some of the landmarks of the French New Wave, in hotel rooms, and cafes.  Many of the priceless interviews with Americans working in or visiting France -- people like John Wayne, Billy Wilder paling around with Gary Cooper, Jane Fonda, Faye Dunaway, Otto Preminger and Kirk Douglas -- are astonishingly revealing.  Chalais who had an uncanny ability to engage his interviewees by creating a sense of complicity with them, generally set up his interviews like three-act plays, with a beginning, middle and end.  Each is a rare and intimate portrait, each tells a story and is a privileged moment.

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