The night turned eerie on Thursday, Oct. 24 at St. Armands Key Lutheran Church as members and visitors gathered to get collectively creeped by the silent film classic "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," accompanied on the organ by Steven Ball.
"This is definitely a first for the church," said Minister of Music, Michael Bodnyk.
Ball gave a brief history of silent film before the viewing. First of all, silent films were never silent. His job of "soundtrack-maker" has been around as long as film. As theaters got bigger, there was more need to fill them with sound, and organs evolved to mimic the sounds of an orchestra, which was both too large and too prone to multiple-human errors than the compact organ played by one musician.
"The orchestra could not keep up with the film," Ball said.
But he could.
"If I do my job well, then after a minute or two I will disappear from the film for you," said Ball, who is the Director of Sacred Music at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in St. Louis.
The music began almost instantaneously as Bodnyk pressed play on the film. Ball indeed disappeared from the film, and was lit by a single light in the corner while he played. The orchestral sounds filled the room as the organ emitted a flutelike sound when a woman came onscreen.
"You're going to hear some things you don't hear in church," Ball said before the film.
Ball travels often to play silent films, especially during Halloween. "Welcome to the scary show!" he joked. The showing of the evening was filmed in 1920, starring John Barrymore. It's often considered the first film in the horror genre, Ball said.