Annual Halloween organ concert offers fun and spooky tunes

By Connor Yearsley


Wednesday’s annual Halloween organ concert will be a different way to spend the holiday and is likely to change some people’s perceptions of the instrument.

“When people think of organ they think of two things: They think of church music and they think of scary spooky,” said Isabelle Demers, assistant professor of organ at Baylor.

Demers, who has only taught at Baylor since the beginning of the year, said she thinks the spooky organ sounds people are used to hearing, such as in film scores, are often synthesized and usually don’t do the real thing justice. She said the organ should be experienced in a hall.

“I think it’s exciting that people will see a different side of the instrument, for those who aren’t used to hearing it at church,” Demers said.

The nine-piece program includes pieces from the classical repertoire as well as arrangements of popular film music, with J.S. Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” beginning the program.

Demers has a couple of favorites from the program.

“The ‘Harry Potter Suite’ is very special,” she said. “The Grieg [piece,] ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King,’ is kind of funny.”

She said she thinks the “Harry Potter Suite” is also the longest and most challenging piece on the program. She said there are lots of colors in that piece.

Ting Ting Chan, a master’s candidate in performance studies, arranged the piece and will be performing it at the concert.

“When Dr. Demers and I discussed earlier in the semester what I should play for Halloween, she mentioned the ‘Harry Potter Suite,’” said Chan, who will be performing in her second Halloween organ concert at Baylor. “Therefore, I started looking into the music. I really liked the different colors and characters in the piece and I decided to start working on it.”

Chan said it’s the first transcription she did for solo organ and that it took her about a week. She said it was challenging, but fun. She also said it took her and Demers quite a while to find the right color for each section of the piece.

Demers said she thinks the audience will especially enjoy the pieces they recognize, including “Toccata and Fugue,” “Captain Davy Jones’ Piece” from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

“There is a piece by P.D.Q. Bach that is very goofy,” she said.

She said most of the pieces are unaccompanied.

“There’s one organ piece that’s accompanied by two recorders,” she said.

Demers also said the students are anticipating the concert.

“The students are very excited about it,” she said. “It’s not your traditional stuffy organ concert.”

“I am very excited for this concert because it has always been one of the most popular recitals during the school year and we get to play some nontraditional organ music,” Chan said.

Demers said they found a list of the most popular Halloween organ music and picked some of their favorites from the list, but that it’s not all just spooky.

“The ‘Toccata and Fugue’ really has nothing to do with Halloween, but it’s become associated with Halloween so much that you almost have to include it,” she said.

Demers said she hopes her students are prepared and that they started thinking seriously about this concert around mid-September, although she thinks some of the students have been preparing since last year.

Demers encourages people to come.

“I think it’s something [people] won’t have many chances to experience,” she said. “I was told that some of the costumes are really over-the-top.”

She also said that some of it will take place in the dark.

“There’s going to be decorations,” she said. “I suppose some people will come to see the costumes. They are welcome to come costumed themselves.

“I think it will be great fun for everyone, not just the performers. I think the more people, the more fun it will be.”

“It will be a funny organ recital because it is very different from a traditional organ recital,” Chan said. “I hope people will enjoy these organ pieces which don’t normally get performed in classical organ recitals. In this concert, people will get to hear some special sounds and effects from the organ and hear the organ in a different way.”

The concert will feature seven students and two faculty members and will begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building. It is free and open to the public.