By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer
On a dark Halloween night, a crescent moon hung low overhead as an autumnal breeze blew costumed concertgoers like Cruella de Vil, Spider-Man and Princess Peach to Jones Concert Hall for a Halloween Organ Concert that was sure to cause Waco’s ghosts and ghouls to stir.
The concert was brought to life with one of the most recognizable organ tunes of all time: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.” San Diego master’s student Vincent Pham struck the chords on the organ as Baytown sophomore McKenzie Comeaux’s soaring soprano voice filled the hall.
A gasp moved through the audience like a chill down the spine when from stage right came the Phantom himself, Pearland junior Davian Raggio — a tenor who tackled the powerful baritone of the Phantom with ease. Raggio said the audience’s reaction to his appearance gave him excitement and cleared his nerves to sing with confidence.
“As a theater guy, I love the drama,” Raggio said. “You never get used to being on stage. Every performance comes with nerves, but when I walked on stage and heard the audience gasp, it was really settling for me. It definitely eggs me on, and I think most performers feel that when you have a really responsive crowd, it makes everything easier and calms the nerves a little bit.”
Raggio’s face was obscured by the frozen white Phantom mask, but his voice was not. This concert was Raggio’s first time performing music from “The Phantom of the Opera” since the part of the Phantom is typically sung by a baritone — a singer with a lower range than Raggio’s.
“As a tenor, since the Phantom is a baritone role, I don’t ever get to do the material,” Raggio said. “This was a fun opportunity for me … It was awesome.”
The rest of the concert included music from the “Avengers” films, “Interstellar,” the “Halo suite,” first-person shooter video games and a comedically timed “Mii theme.” However, central to each piece of the night was the concert’s beating heart: the pipe organ.
The organ in Jones Concert Hall has “blowers” within the instrument that push air through over 6,000 pipes, producing the familiar “orchestral” sound of the organ, according to Silver Spring, Md., sophomore Andy Brown. As the organ is his main instrument, Brown said people are typically awestruck or mistake it for the piano.
“Going up to [an organ], you don’t normally do that, so it’s an experience people want to see,” Brown said. “If it’s not that, it’s like, ‘That’s like the piano, right?’”
The organ, the flesh and blood of Halloween music before “Thriller” and “The Monster Mash,” is a unique and exciting instrument to play, Brown said. Dressed in Ravenclaw robes, Brown cast spells in the concert hall with a performance of music from the “Harry Potter” soundtrack. He attributed the organ’s spooky reputation to Hollywood and popular media.
“It started as a movie about a church that turned to satanism or Satan worship, and the organ was still there,” Brown said. “That was a Halloween movie, and I think since then, it just stuck.”
The next chilling concerts to be held in Jones Concert Hall are the Percussion Fall Concert and the Symphony Orchestra Concert, this Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.