Eat.Enjoy.Live.: Holyoke’s United Congregational Church to screen ‘The Navigator’

3/3/2017 | G. Michael Dobbs

Category: March 2017

The screening of the revered Buster Keaton silent comedy, “The Navigator” with a live musical accompaniment at the United Congregational Church in Holyoke on March 4 is far more than an exercise in nostalgia.

According to organist Peter Krasinski who will provide the musical score for the film, contemporary audiences come to such events for several different reasons.

Krasinski explained to Reminder Publications he recently performed the score for the classic 1926 science fiction film “Metropolis” at the famed Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.  

“You would have thought that they were film buffs – but the survey data shows that the average age was 29, that 84 percent had never heard an organ live, and that they were enticed by the advertising and media hype. These people came without knowing what on earth they were going to experience. Proof that people can still be artistically vulnerable. And goodness, I’m glad that they were – what fun they all had!” he said.

Krasinski is the recipient of a number of prizes including the First Prize in Improvisation from the American Guild of Organists National Competition and is the past Dean of the Boston chapter of the American Guild of Organists. He currently serves as Organist at First Church of Christ, Scientist in Providence RI and is faculty member of St Paul’s Choir School, Cambridge. He regularly presents master-classes in improvisation to the Harvard Organ Society.

He will be performing on the church’s vintage E.M. Skinner Opus 322 pipe organ and has performed at the church in the past. Part of his process in preparing for a performance is not only carefully watching the film several times, but also being very familiar with the venue and with the organ.

“I’ve played it a number of times,” he said of the organ at the church. “I’m old friends with the organ.”

He added his admiration for it and said, “It’s like having the Philadelphia Orchestra at my disposal.”

Krasinski is a fan of silent film and said he “tries to ley the movie do the talking. I try to be an honest narrator.”

Krasinski improvises his score and said, “I apply the art of improvisation to the film in a unique way.”

He added, “I enjoy very much creating music for them.”

Krasinski recalled how he utilized both organs at the Harvard University Memorial Church for a screening of the World War I aviation epic, “Wings.” He started on one organ at the beginning of the film, which is set in the United States, and then used a different organ in the back of the room when the action of the film shifted to Europe.

The great silent film actor Lon Chaney is a favorite of Krasinski's. Chaney may be best known for his role as Erik the Phantom in “Phantom of the Opera,” but he had a very diverse career.

“I just can’t get enough of him,” Krasinski said “In many of his films his character is unloved and wants to be loved.”

He continued, “I can’t believe that I’m his ‘voice.’”

Keaton’s movies are among his favorites, although he readily admitted, “the film I’m playing at the moment is my favorite.”

Keaton made “The Navigator” in 1924. It tells the story of a spoiled rich young man Rollo Treadway (Keaton) who unsuccessfully proposes to a young woman who yearns him down. He decided to go on the honeymoon cruise regardless, only to wind up on the wrong ship, which circumstances have also brought the young woman of his affections. The two inexperienced people must deal with running the ship when drifts off into the Pacific Ocean.

The film was one of Keaton’s biggest hits at the box office and one biographer has reported Keaton called it his best film.

Krasinski has an active schedule of performances and will be performing the score for the silent version of “Ben Hur” at St. Anthony of Padua in New Bedford followed by the Rudolph Valentino film “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

For more information on his performances, go to

Admission to the Keaton film is a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students. The United Congregational Church is at the corner of Appleton and Maple streets.

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