Tricks become treats at Halloween organ concert next week

At the 25th annual Halloween Concert, 11 organ students will share a piece of music originally played by one. They will play the piece seamlessly as, one by one, they trade places on the bench. Photo credit: Courtesy of the Music Department

By Lauren Friederman, Reporter

Play any song on an organ, and it’ll instantly become spooky. At least, that’s what assistant professor of keyboard studies Isabelle Demers is hoping for the organ department’s 25th annual Halloween Concert.

The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 in Jones Concert Hall. Admission is free. The concert will feature nine pieces from Bach and John Williams, and will last about an hour. People are encouraged to come in costume.

The concert hall will be decorated for Halloween, featuring a costumed skeleton. Before the show, there will be a bake sale, with various Halloween cookies and sweets. The proceeds from the sale will go toward the organ department’s trip to Europe in 2017.

In the concert, Demers said she will try to feature both standard organ pieces and transcription pieces. Transcription pieces are those adapted from other instruments to the organ. Some transcription pieces in the concert include “Night on Bald Mountain” from “Fantasia,” the “Harry Potter Symphonic Suite” and “Overture from Phantom of the Opera.”

“This is not going to be a concert of serious academic stuff. It’s really fun, I think,” Demers said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of tunes people know. A lot of it is a little spooky.”

The first piece, Bach’s “Toccata in Fugue,” is a staple in the Halloween concert, but this year, Demers has added a new twist. In years past, one student played the piece. This year, 11 students will each play about a page of the music. This presents a new challenge because the students must switch places during the piece. Demers said she decided to do it this way because it makes it more entertaining, and said this way it is less daunting to split the work among several students.

“It’s surprisingly challenging to coordinate and try to keep playing while someone is moving the bench,” Demers said. “We’re used to being in the center so that whatever we do, there is always some symmetry to it, but when you move off-center the symmetry is wrong, so you have to keep playing, but you might be in a bizarre position.”

Syracuse graduate student Jillian Gardner will be playing the end of the piece. The “Bach Toccata in Fugue” is the most challenging piece she plays in the concert, she said.

Gardner began as a pianist, but she said a church she worked for asked her to begin playing the organ.

“I didn’t want to [play the organ] but then I tried it and the rest is history I guess,” Gardner said.

Gardner wrote the arrangement for the “Overture from the Phantom of the Opera” herself, transcribing it from an orchestral piece to an organ piece. The duet will feature Gardner and Bullard graduate student Sarah Blair. Gardner said they began working on the piece a few weeks ago.

“You have this page of all these parts and you have to decide what is important and what you want, because you can’t play everything,” Gardner said.

Demers’ predecessor, Dr. Joyce Jones, is returning for the concert. Jones will narrate the setting of “Little Bo-Peep” while Demers plays. Demers said Jones may even dress up in a costume.

“This is the first real collaboration between the new regime and the old regime,” Demers said.

The last piece in the show is “For All the Saints,” and will be played by Gardner. This piece was included because it is a traditional hymn that references All Saints Day or All Hallows Day, celebrated on Nov. 1.

“It’s really fun to play,” Gardner said. “It’s different than our standard repertoire, and I think people can relate to that more because they recognize the hymn tune and it’s more upbeat.”