Music at GMC

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Film: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(1923 Silent Movie shown on a big screen)
Starring: Lon Chaney (Quasimodo)
Patsy Ruth Miller (Esmeralda)
Norman Kerry (Captain Phoebus)
Kate Lester (Madame de Gondelaurier)
Winifred Bryson (Fleur de Lys de Gondelaurier)
Date: 7.30pm, Friday 25th March, 2011
Improvisation: David Briggs (organ)

Friday 25th March, 2011 was a very different 'night out' for concert goers at Gillingham Methodist Church! A unique cinema experience with a twist was on offer when we showed another of the greatest silent films ever made, the classic 1923 film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with live, improvised organ accompaniment from international recitalist David Briggs.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1923 American film starring Lon Chaney as Quasimodo and Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmeralda, and is directed by Wallace Worsley. The film is the most famous adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel, aside from the 1996 Disney adaptation. The film was Universal's "Super Jewel" of 1923 and was their most successful silent film, grossing over $3 million.

The film is most notable for the grand sets that recall 15th century Paris as well as Lon Chaney's performance and spectacular make-up as the tortured bell-ringer of Notre Dame. The film elevated Chaney, already a well-known character actor, to full star status in Hollywood. It also helped set a standard for many later horror films, including Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera in 1925. Today, the film is in the public domain.

David Briggs was formerly organ scholar of King's College, Cambridge and Organist of Gloucester Cathedral. He holds a reputation as one of the most fluent and expert improvisers in the world.

David set the scene for the evening by playing the Finale from Vierne's 1st Symphony. He then used its memorable theme as the motif for Quasimodo (the hunchback) and the bells of Notre Dame. This was cinema as it used to be with a talented and amazing musician capturing the mood as the silent movie’s images flashed across the silver screen.
This concert will go down as one of the greats but keep your eyes peeled for our plans for next year's visit!

The Plot

The story is set in Paris ten years before Columbus discovered America.

Quasimodo is a deformed (deaf and half-blind) bell-ringer of the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Jehan Frollo, the evil brother of the saintly archdeacon Claude Frollo, prevails upon him to kidnap the fair Esmeralda, the adopted daughter of Clopin, who is the king of the oppressed beggars of Paris' underworld. The dashing Captain Phoebus rescues her from Quasimodo, while Jehan escapes and leaves him. Phoebus is entranced by Esmeralda, and takes her under his wing.

Quasimodo is sentenced to be lashed in the public square. As he suffers under the sting of the whip, Esmeralda pities him, and brings him water. Quasimodo later hates Jehan for betraying him. Jehan and Clopin both learn that Phoebus plans to wed Esmeralda. Clopin leads the beggars into the house of Phoebus' fiance, where Phoebus has brought Esmeralda and disguised her as royalty. Clopin demands Esmeralda be returned, and Phoebus only does so after Esmeralda says that she does not belong with the aristocracy. However, Esmeralda sends him a note, to say goodbye to him a last time.

During their meeting in Notre Dame, Jehan stabs and wounds Phoebus and lays the blame on Esmeralda. She is sentenced to death, but is rescued from the gallows by Quasimodo and takes refuge in the cathedral, where Archdeacon Claude invokes the sacred right of sanctuary, protecting her from arrest. Clopin leads the whole of the underworld to storm the cathedral that night, while crafty Jehan attempts to loot the treasure vaults. Quasimodo routs the invaders with rocks and torrents of molten lead, and kills Jehan by throwing him off the ramparts of Notre Dame. Just before he does, however, Jehan fatally stabs Quasimodo in the back with his knife. Phoebus comes to the rescue and encounters Esmeralda. As she and Phoebus clasp each other to their hearts, Quasimodo rings his own death toll. Esmeralda and Phoebus leave without even noticing that Quasimodo is mortally wounded, but Claude enters just in time to see him die. After ringing the bell, Quasimodo dies.

The last image of the film is the great bell, swinging silently, holding the corpse of Quasimodo.

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