Thursday November 9, 2006 7:00 Î live Music by Adam Tully 7:30 Î Film begins
St. Bartholomew's Church
Park Avenue and 51st Street, Manhattan | DIRECTIONS
Tickets: $10, $20, $35, and $100
Tickets are available at the door on the day of the event and online
The $35 and $100 tickets also include admission to a reception after the film where you can mingle with the participants and the filmmaker and enjoy free refreshments sponsored by Dewar's.
A one-year (46 issues) subscription to New York magazine (valued at $9.97) will be included with any $25 or higher ticket purchase. (Full magazine offer and refund details available here).
Paul Festa's Apparition of the Eternal Church
Rooftop Films is best known for known for bringing together spectacular venues, fabulous films and great music, and on November 9th we will merge these three elements yet again to produce one of our most extraordinary and unique shows to date. Rooftop Films, the Premiere Commission and the St. Bartholomew's Great Music Series are proud to present the New York Premiere of Paul Festa's profound, unusual and entertaining new documentary, Apparition of the Eternal Church. The screening will take place in the gorgeous grand hall of St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan and will be followed by a performance by world-renowned organist William K. Trafka of Olivier Messiaen's monumental organ work, Apparition de l'eglise eternelle.
Long considered one of Messiaen's finest achievements, Apparition de l'eglise eternelle is, quite literally, an awesome piece of music. A devout Catholic, Messiaen intended for the work to depict Christian Divinity itself, and he hoped that his powerful stacked chords blasting out the pipes of the grand church organ would evoke what the composer referred to as "hammer blows of grace." Indeed, the music so effectively evokes the gorgeous and terrifying grandeur of transcendent spiritual experience that it is said to have driven several audience members into hysterical fits and religious seizures when it was originally performed in 1931.
First-time filmmaker Paul Festa still claims that he is a die-hard agnostic, but when he first heard Apparition he was driven to extreme heights of spiritual and erotic ecstasy and he immediately decided that he had to share Messiaen's piece with others and document their reaction to the music. He acquired a video camera, grabbed a pair of headphones and cornered every fascinating individual he could find—playwrights, poets, Wigstock drag queens, Scissor Sisters, professional models, documentary filmmakers, pianists, performance artists, and everyone from Harold Bloom to Lemony Snicket to John Cameron Mitchell—and forced them all to listen to Messiaen's 10-minute piece straight through, asking that they describe its effect on them as the video tape rolled.
After filming hundreds of people as they tossed and turned and thought aloud, Festa set about editing the interviews to see if there was any way that this bizarre collection of geniuses and eccentrics could somehow have put the violent contradictions of Messiaen's music into words. The result is a surprising, exhilarating and often hilarious collective interpretation that Karl Bartos (the founder of Kraftwerk) aptly called "one of the best movies about music [he has] ever seen."
The participants' responses are wonderfully varied and far from dry and academic. All but a couple of the subjects had never heard the piece before and most are not at all familiar with Messiaen, but all of them were deeply affected by the piece and they vividly express their churning emotions with eloquent, witty, and candid personal disclosures, as well as the occasional profane anecdote. The discussion wanders wildly from topic to topic as the subjects muse about Christ, torture, horror films, death, dissonance, the definition of music and the value of engaging in covert sexual encounters in acoustically rich sacred spaces.
Following the film, William Trafka will play Messiaen's masterpiece in its entirety on one of the largest and finest church organs in North America. Please join us on November 9th amidst the majestic stain glass windows and soaring arches of St. Bart's as the music and its interpreters conjure something like what William Blake famously called "the marriage of heaven and hell."