Halloween Monster Concert provides spooky tunes and BOOming Organ music

Christine Dudley, A&C Reporter

“Spirits float from dorm to dorm, while Boone readies for snowstorms. Salt and slush will coat our streets. Off to Sugar, App, and Beech,” sang the audience of App State’s 11th Halloween Monster Concert.

The pumpkin carol, “Goblins We Have Heard on High” was sung to the tune of “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Five other Christmas carols also got spooky App State revamps such as “Deck the Patch,” “O Come All Ye Monsters” and  “Great Pumpkin is Coming to Town.” Audience members wore a wild array of Halloween costumes, and the musicians dressed as “Peanuts” characters.

Hunter Cox, graduate piano performance student, dressed as Schroeder and opened the show with J.S. Bach’s famous organ piece “Toccata and Fugue.” The rest of the organ students lifted cue cards at the bidding of Joby Bell, dressed as Miss Othmar, so the audience would interrupt with screams, howls, oohs and aahs.

“We put this on not only to have fun, but also to showcase the organ as a not-so-stuffy instrument that a lot of people usually think it is,” Joby Bell, organist and music professor, said.

To keep audience energy up, the program’s pieces alternated between Halloween carols and serious organ solos. Bell said the carols are his favorite part of the concert.

“I like seeing people have fun with the words, and when they get to a funny lyric, I like turning around and watching them laugh at the good parts,” Bell said.

Bell started the Halloween Monster Concert tradition 13 years ago. Although some years the concert includes additional instruments, the organ is always the central focus. This year’s concert was the first to feature the serpent, a distant ancestor of the tuba. The lights were dim as David Babb, senior music education major, played “O Frondens Virga” on the slithery wind instrument.

For freshman music performance major Sarah Schiener and senior music industry major Alex Smith, it was their first time playing organ in Rosen Concert Hall for an audience. Schiener, played a Bach fugue that she has been practicing since the summer. Schiener said she has been taking organ lessons since her freshman year of high school. Playing the organ helps Scheiner fully express herself.

“I’m a quiet person, but the organ is the one place where I can comfortably be loud,” Schiener said. “It’s just so powerful and beautiful.”

Smith, who played one of the carols, said she fell in love with the organ after feeling unfulfilled by the oboe, her primary instrument. She found the organ to be a more dynamic instrument and started taking lessons with Bell.

“I love how different it can always be and there’s no one thing that an organ can do,” Smith said. “It can play symphonies, it can play its own pieces, it can play hymns, it can play a concerto, it can be an accompaniment, or it can be accompanied by anything.”

Bell also played the organ over Thomas Edison’s silent film “Frankenstein.”. Dean of the Hayes School of Music James Douthit  said the organ was not only used in churches, but it was also used in movie theaters to accompany silent movies in the early 20th century.

“The organ is a little harder to get to these days,” Douthit said. “It used to be a normal part of life because so many people say went to church where there was an organ, but you know a lot of people aren’t doing that and so they just don’t encounter it very often.”

Nevertheless, Bell said the organ is still a relevant instrument because once people are exposed to it, they still catch the desire to learn how to play, even if its much later in life.

“Audiences have dropped a bit, but I don’t think the number of organists has dropped,” Bell said.

Besides showing that the organ is relevant and fun, Bell said another motive for doing this concert is to recruit people to the organ studio. Five of the six students in organ studio picked up organ as a secondary instrument. The next show featuring organ music will be Appalachian Chorale’s performance of Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. in Rosen Concert Hall. For information on all other upcoming performances, check out the Hayes School of Music’s website.

Story by Christine Dudley