Free ‘Phantom of Opera’ movie proved to be uniquely Youngstown

Free ‘Phantom of Opera’ movie proved to be uniquely Youngstown

On Oct. 26, my wife and I were able to enjoy an incredible afternoon of entertainment that in my mind was uniquely Youngstown. Stambaugh Auditorium hosted a showing of the original black and white version of the movie “The Phantom of the Opera,” starring Lon Chaney. The movie was originally released in 1925 (a year before Stambaugh Auditorium was even opened). Out of necessity, movies from this era were all silent movies.

Having never experienced a silent movie, I, like everyone else in attendance, was mesmerized by the incredible sound effects and deep emotion imbued by the Skinner Opus pipe organ. The organ was played by Mr. Todd Wilson, head of the Organ Department at The Cleveland Institute of Music.

Having never heard such a performance before, had I not known better I would have thought the score was being provided by a full symphony orchestra. The sheer volume and quality of music the organ (and organist) provided was simply astounding. The music started the show and never missed a single beat, nor was there a single pause in the music for the entire hour and a half performance. Remember, being a silent movie, it is the music that fully develops, sustains and delivers the emotional aspects of the show.

So, why was all of this uniquely Youngstown? Well, it was performed in the incredibly beautiful and acoustically perfect Stambaugh Auditorium, a true jewel of the city that any major metropolitan performing arts center would love to have.

Secondly, the level of artistic talent provided by Mr. Wilson was of a quality and level that is ordinarily only found in the most elite of cultural centers of the world. Lastly, and this is what is truly unique to our area, is that this unbelievable performance that combined the arts of cinema, music and true artisanship talent was provided to the public at large via complimentary tickets. The price embossed on each ticket was $0.00.

In any major city in this country, a performance of this caliber, with the talent of a world-class musician performing in a world class venue, would be hundreds of dollars per ticket and would only be offered to the wealthiest and most prominent citizens. To think that all of this was offered to anyone in our area who wished to be included is uniquely Youngstown.

To the members of the Stambaugh Auditorium board and to everyone associated with it, I would like to sincerely thank you for your kindness and consideration in providing a truly wonderful experience.

Gary Wakeford, Canfield