October 1, 2007


In late September 2007, Jelani Eddington traveled to Lapua, Finland to perform in the Lapua Organ Festival. The festival takes place once every two years in a small town located approximately three hours by train to the northwest of the capital city, Helsinki.

The centerpiece of Jelani’s performance was his accompaniment of the 1923 film The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, starring legendary silent film actor Lon Chaney. While the history of silent film accompaniment on the organ is a long and rich one in the United States, Europe has had very little exposure to this typically American art form. Indeed, during the original heyday of the American theatre organ in the early 1920s, thousands of organists in theatres large and small throughout the United States made their living by providing musical accompaniment to the silent films of the day. By contrast, the theatre pipe organ came to prominence in the European countries just late enough that silent films were already being replaced by their “talking” counterparts.

No theatre organs were known to have been installed in Finland, although a handful of such instruments found their way to Sweden and Denmark. As such, it is not surprising that there have been very few viewings of silent films with organ accompaniment in this small Scandinavian country of just over 5 million inhabitants. As a result, there was much anticipation for this silent film event. The performance took place in the beautiful Lapua Cathedral on the pipe organ installed in the church. At an impressive size of four manuals and over 100 ranks, this instrument is the largest pipe organ anywhere in Finland. With a wealth of tone color, the instrument suited silent film accomapniment with exceptional ease.

The performance, as well as the entire festival, received a healthy dose of media attention, and the cathedral was very full the night of the film. After a brief mini-concert consisting of orchestral transcriptions such as Marche Militaire and music from the Opera Carmen, Jelani began the performance of his original score to The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. The performance was very well received by the audience and received highly favorable reviews in the local press.

Other participants in the Lapua Organ Festival included noted Finish organist Kalevi Kiviniemi, Wayne Marshall (UK), and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.