Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in church any more – the Wizard Of Oz comes to Boxmoor

Silent film and organist at St John's Church, Boxmoor - organist Donald MacKenzie
Silent film and organist at St John's Church, Boxmoor - organist Donald MacKenzie

The golden age of Hollywood before the talkies took over will be revived for one night only in Boxmoor this weekend – in the unlikely surroundings of a parish church.

The swell of the cinema organ will reverberate around St John’s on Saturday night for the church’s first ever silent movie spectacular, complete with organist, choc ices and plenty of popcorn.

This ambitious evening of entertainment comes courtesy of the people at Music at St. John’s, a community project aimed at encouraging those in the Dacorum area to get involved in music.

Taking centre stage on the night will be Donald MacKenzie, a nationally acclaimed keyboard king who resident organist at the Odeon in Leicester Square.

Donald, who has performed for the Queen in the past, will be taking over the church’s refurbished organ to create an improvised accompaniment to the 1920s silent version of The Wizard of Oz.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to playing at St. John’s, this is such a unique experience and I love to look down and see so many people of all ages, enjoying the music.

“A live performance adds so much to the movie, heightening the enjoyment of the audience. As the organist I have to be flexible with what I play as it’s entirely improvised and my job to carry the storyline, bringing out the emotions and drama.”

To transform the landmark building into a 1920s style cinema, a 10ft by 8ft screen will be installed at the front of the church.

Volunteers will be selling refreshments dressed in period appropriate costumes while ushers will be on hand to guide you to a pew.

Alan Munford of Music At St John’s said: “This is the first time we’ve done anything like this and believe it’s a truly unique event in Hemel Hempstead.

“If it’s a success then we’ll definitely organise one again.

“We’re really excited about it and hope that it’ll introduce more people to the work we do here at St. John’s.”

As well as continuing to put on shows such as this, Alan and the team are keen to use the funds raised to create a bursery scheme, offering younger people the opportunity to receive music lessons from Dacorum Music School.

Saturday’s silent film Spectacular fills the second night of the festival, and tickets will be available on the door.

The festival also includes concerts of local musicians, featuring pianists, cello players and home-grown organists.

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