Scary and Spirited Organ Music
More and more organists are giving Halloween programs, and here are some suggestions of what to play. There are the obvious choices like the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor of Bach and the Danse Macabre of Saint-Saëns and Gothic Suite of Boëllmann. Here’s what I have to offer.
All Hollow’s Eve by Robert Leech Bedell
This is a terrific piece for Halloween! Bedell used the following tableaux as the program for this piece: “A Witch’s Rondevous in an Enchanted Glen – The Ride of the Night-Hags – Pastoral Dance of the Happy Spirits – With the dawn of All-Saints Day, the Creatures of Folklore and Legend, suddenly – vanish!”
All Hollow’s Eve
Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Mendelssohn-Koch
You don’t have to play the whole overture, but the fast, jumping spritely part can sound pretty scary in a family friendly way. If this is too gentle, try Black Host!
Overture To A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Mendelssohn-Warren
This fast, virtuosic scherzo is instantly recognizable and will bring your audience to its feet. It is well worth the work. (Listen and watch Thomas Trotter to get an idea of how it goes.)
Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg-Gaul
It’s the last movement of the First Peer Gynt Suite and it’s perfect for running away from ghosts. Faster, run faster!
First Peer Gynt Suite
In Fairyland by Spaulding Stoughton
Consider “The Enchanted Forest” and “March of the Gnomes” from Stoughton’s best known suite
Fire In A Chinese Laundry by Feibel & Harrington
Incredibly dramatic scene that has Halloween potential
Fire In A Chinese Laundry
La Brume (The Mist) by Harvey Gaul
This is a chromatic evening piece and might fit in the middle of a Halloween program to help offset the other music.
On the Coast by Dudley Buck
Now, don’t laugh at this suggestion. Go listen to the opening and tell me you don’t think scary thoughts! Again, there’s no demand that you use the entire piece; cuts are OK for Halloween.
On The Coast
Prelude in G Minor by Rachmaninoff-Federlein
If you’ve never heard this on the organ, you may be surprised by the effect. This is never heard on Halloween organ programs, but if you can start a trend!
Prelude In G Minor
Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner-Lemare
Nothing really needs to be said for this one. If you’ve got this under your fingers, your Halloween audience will never get over it!
Ritt Der Walkueren
Second Toccata, in C Minor by James H Rogers
This toccata is virtually unknown, and your listeners will appreciate its twisting chromatic passages.
The Thunder Storm by T P Ryder
You can play the whole piece in the Spring for the storm idea but the thunder section works for Halloween.
Will o’ the Wisp by Gordon Balch Nevin
Another name for Will o’ the Wisp is Jack o’ Lantern. Enough said.
Will O’ The Wisp by Nevin
Will o’ the Wisp by MacDowell-Ellsasser
This movement from Woodland Sketches is another quirky piece that is appropriately spritely and a bit more evil than Nevin’s. Also to be considered in the same suite is A Deserted Farm. (Listen to Ellsasser’s recording to see if you think it’s right for you.)
Wind in the Chimney by Joseph Clokey
In some rooms, this can be eerie beyond belief!
Trauermarsch (Siegfried’s Funeral Music) by Wagner-Lemare
This is about as somber as it gets and the loud chords can be downright frightening.
Well, that’s a selection to think about. If you know of any Halloween (or All Saints) organ music worthy of restoration, please leave a comment here or email me. Thanks for your interest in this great organ music.