Something Creepy This Way Comes…

No, not that guy from the next block, the one who alternates between asking if you know Jesus and inviting you to vote for Eugene V. Debs for president.

If you think that “The Dinosaurs” from Carnival of the Animals sounds like this, well… you are quite correct.

Berlioz may have been thinking of the Dance of Death, the Totentanz paintings showing a long line of kings, peasants, bishops, farm women, merchants, knights, beggars, all led by skeletal forms explaining that all must die no matter their rank or station.

But the dead are not the only ones dancing… the “Kindly Ones” also have their time.

But these are not what most people think of as classical music for Halloween. No, it is either Leopold Stokowski’s orchestration of Bach’s Tocata and Fugue in D minor, or a piece of music actually inspired by Walpurgisnacht, and illustrated with the Russian legends about Chernobog.

8 thoughts on “Something Creepy This Way Comes…

  1. For this purpose I really like Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor (In remembrance of victims of fascism and war).
    The whole thing is worth a listen, but since few of you can easily listen to something for over a third of an hour, this is what it builds to: https://youtu.be/wokx576v5Y0

  2. I’ll also add sections from Prokofiev’s soundtrack (restored version, not the cantata) for “Alexander Nevsky,” starting with “Arise Ye Russian People!” and continuing through to the engagement with the Teutonic Knights. The call to arms will startle a number of children and parents. The Prince’s army on the move starts with horns and bassoon in a minor key, low and building, with the Knights in Latin contrapuntal. It was chilling to watch and hear with live orchestra/chorus, and very scary on a dark night. It’s also out of season, but it works.

  3. I was lucky enough to have a very kindly band teacher in elementary and junior high, in my very small Indiana school, that arranged every Halloween for a student trip to nearby Indiana University for a performance by Dennis James on the pipe organ installed in the Auditorium. (I’m guessing you might already know who Dennis James is. If not, he’s in Wikipedia). Mr. James played the organ as an accompaniment to a silent film.

    Small school band teachers not being paid princely sums, he also worked as an usher there. He arranged for tickets, a school bus to haul us over, got us in and seated, then scurried off to perform his duties.

    I remember one performance where the film was Nosferatu. Mr. James, clad in a tux (and IIRC, a flower in his hand), was brought in laid out on a bier by pallbearers (bier-bearers?) who marched down the aisle to the bottom of the staircase to the organ’s console. James leaped up, dramatically swept his cape back and dashed up the stair case to his post, all to wild cheers from the crowd of course.

    It was as much fun to watch him watch the screen as it was the film. I remember being especially amused when some one in the film raised a large door knocker and clonked it three times on the door. James quite expertly synced a BLOMP BLOMP BLOMP from the organ’s lower tones in time with it.

    Halloween was a lot more fun when I was a kid.

    I’ve loved the sound of pipe organs ever since. It’s one of the few things I can tolerate YouTube for.

    • The movie-house organists are a really under-appreciated breed. They had to improvise, time everything, and play for long periods of time. There is a certain physical stamina that a lot of non-organists don’t appreciate, plus the mental agility and musicianship.

    • We have an old movie house here where they still play the organ before every Friday-Sunday show (new stuff, it’s our local second-run place, believe it or not) and a few times a year for a Silent film. Saw the first theatrical version of Sherlock Holmes there just last month, although they brought in a guest organist to handle the Wurlitzer duties on that one. It’s a very nearly lost art and I am so lucky to have the opportunity to see it as often as I do.

  4. If you like organ music and live within 200 miles of Methuen (25 mi north of Boston) you should attend the summer Wednesday concerts there. The place will take your breath away the first time you walk in.

    Liszt, Totentanz for piano and orchestra.

    And this short documentary: https://youtu.be/dLgvKwOYniY

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