David Briggs - Phantom of the Opera



Norwich Cathedral

This was an organ recital with a difference - the Phantom of the Opera with no more than a couple of hints of Lloyd Webber. First, David Briggs announced his arrival by thundering out the Bach Toccata Fuge while a large-screen monitor let us watch the magic as he controlled the keys and pedals.

Then came the Phantom, not in some new version but in the amazing shapes of the 1925 film. Acting went over-the-top, eyes flashed meaningfully at every turn and thousands of extras charged around at the masked ball before turning nasty as they chased through the streets of Paris.

Over it all was the figure of Lon Chaney, monstrous to behold as he leapt through the action. There were moments when we all laughed. But that was just relaxation from the horror.

The old silent cinema was never really silent. It just could not let the characters talk. Orchestras, pianists and organists always used to supply music to drum up emotions. On this occasion, Briggs took on the role.

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He used all the resources of the mighty cathedral organ, improvising as he went along, varying the tone and adding to the scenes with the odd musical reminiscence. Perhaps he would have made even more impact if he had managed to be a bit more tender for the romantic moments?

But it was impossible not to be swept along. The darkened and cavernous nave became a warren of nooks and crannies. You hardly dared look in case some eerie black figure leapt out at you.

The exceptional concert was sponsored by the Maid's Head.

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