Halloween Celebration 2011: October 27, 2011
Rel. 20 Sep 2011
Haunted houses and tombstone-scattered front yards – they’re nothing without the suitably “spooky” strains of J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-, or Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. Halloween, whose importance for children and adults alike has extended beyond the US and Canada to all parts of the world in recent years, has likewise fostered a growing repertoire of Halloween musical “classics”. Works from all periods – from Gregorian chants (the Requiem Mass chant “Dies irae”) to Romantic-era classics like Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique and Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite to recent works by Ligeti and Corigliano – have found themselves co-opted for the purpose of raising our fears and getting us into the Halloween spirit. Classical Archives “ghoulishly” celebrates Halloween with a special feature spotlighting some of the scary musical works that have come to accompany this popular holiday – complete with a two-hour “Spooky Concert” (full streams for subscribers only), and a set of Halloween-themed videos. Grab your jack-o-lantern, turn up your speakers, and join the festivities!
“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”
– William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 10
Halloween – the festival of ghosts, goblins, carved pumpkins, and children “trick-or-treating” that we observe each October 31 – has in recent years become a ritual celebrated around the world. With roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian feast of All Saint’s or All Hallows’ Day (November 1), Halloween (originally ‘Hallowe’en’, short for All Hallows-Evening), is most famous and widespread in the United States and Canada, but increasingly finds itself adapted to local tastes in countries throughout Europe, South America, and Asia. While today’s Halloween rituals vary from place to place, the festival’s original themes still hold sway: the eerie movement of dead souls passing from this world to the Otherworld. Traditionally, on the eve of Samhain, good family relatives were welcomed with treats gathered by children; while evil and potentially harmful spirits were warded off by the wearing of frightful masks and by carving scary faces into gourds and turnips. In the United States today, these traditions meld in children’s love of gathering candy door-to-door (“trick-or-treating”), dressed in costume as ghosts, vampires, zombies, and the like – as pumpkins and graveyard scenes decorate front yards in neighborhoods across the country.
As with every holiday, music plays an important role, and over the years an ever-growing repertoire of “scary” and “spooky” classical works has been co-opted into the Halloween tradition. Our Halloween feature spotlights some of the musical “classics” of the season – many of which are gathered into our 1-Click Halloween Concert (full streams for subscribers only). We also include a set of Halloween-themed videos. Please join in the festivities by adding your own favorite Halloween music and memories in our Comments section. Happy Halloween, and may your Trick-or-Treats be scary and fun!
Below is a collection of favorite Halloween-spirited musical classics, works that possess that rare quality of suspense and “spookiness” that can make the hairs stand up on the back of our necks, and thus make a perfect compliment to the spooky rituals of this October 31 festival – and which inspire our 1-Click “Spooky Music” Concert. Some of these works deal directly with themes of death, mystery, and darkness; while others are fitting simply due to their “scary” melodies, harmonies, and sonorities. Naturally, no list can claim to be complete or comprehensive, so please help us by adding your own Halloween “hits” – or your favorite Halloween memories – in our Comments section.