It was a nightmare before Christmas at the annual “Pipe Screams – All gory, loud, and horror” concert on Halloween night. Members of the St. Olaf community packed into Boe Chapel to listen to organ students play spooky tunes.
Boe Chapel embraced its dark side during this spooky concert. The front of the chapel was lit with Frankenstein-esqe vibrant purple and mottled green lighting. The organ, which took central stage, was covered in cobwebs and infested with oversized spiders. Even the audience was bathed in red lights cast from above, creating a chilling ambiance.
The musicians cleverly employed humor and eerie music throughout the 70 minute concert to keep the large audience attentive.
The night began with a spooky start as Associate Professor of Music James Bobb waltzed into the chapel dressed as Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” He played Toccata in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, a song fittingly ghoulish for Halloween night.
Next, Sarah Palmer ’22, dressed as a vampire, played the prelude from the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock horror film “Psycho.” Palmer arranged the chilling piece herself and performed it with accuracy from memory.
In between pieces, the audience joined the organ in singing “scarols.” These spooky tunes are simply Christmas carols transposed into minor keys sung with creepy lyrics. The first scarol, “Why Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” featured the chorus “Oh tidings of horror and fright, horror and fright! / Oh tidings of horror and fright.”
The second scarol maintained the name “Joy to the world,” but sang that “The night of fright has come!” and of the rise of “The Great Pumpkin” instead of Christ.
The third scarol, “Spooky Night,” sung to the altered tune of “Silent Night,” featured the clever lyrics “Spooky night, Halloween night, / goblins green, ghosts all white, / vampires craving the taste of your blood, / zombies chase you all covered in mud. / Hope you keep your head. / Hope you don’t end up dead.”
All of the scarols were written by St. Olaf organ students.
Next, the organ students brought a bit of Halloween humor to the stage as Evan Schlicht ’23 and Oliver Streissberg ’23, dressed as Shaggy and Fred, played their pieces.
Streissberg approached the organ at the front of the Chapel, arranged the bench and organ pistons and sat down. Suddenly, sound began to resonate around the chapel, but Streissburg was not touching anything. After a few seconds of confusion, the audience began to laugh as they realized Schlight was the one actually playing, using the other organ keyboard in the balcony of Boe.
The students utilized this trick once more when Michael Terry Caraher ’20 played his piece dressed as the Invisible Man. Caraher used the organ in the balcony, while another organ student stood next to the empty organ bench on the stage and pretended to turn pages. The trick worked well and had the audience laughing for half of his piece.
Other memorable performances included that of Meggie Snyder ’22, dressed as a dark ballerina. Her spooky piece, “Chant héroïque” by Jean Langlais, was perfectly suited for the evening. Full of dissonance, darkness and harsh, quickly moving chords, the song sounded almost violent. Samuel Long’s ’21 piece, “Introduction and Passacaglia in D,” was also fittingly somber. The song employed some of the lowest pipes, which made the pews vibrate with the deep, ghoulish sound. Long and his page turner, Catherine Long Rodland ’87, cleverly dressed as a lifeguard and shark.
For the final piece, Rodland and her husband Brian Carson played “The Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner. The dark, adventurous piece was a fitting end to a wild ride of Halloween music.
Although all of the pieces were well performed, some of the pieces did not seem spooky enough for the Halloween-themed concert. Overall, however, the concert was a fittingly macabre way to spend the evening. The effort organ students put into both their music and the spooky Halloween touches was admirable and served as a wonderful celebration of the organ, which is already quite an ominous instrument.