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

Danse Macabre by Saint-Saëns, arranged by Clarence Dickinson and Charlotte Mathewson Lockwood (4 Hands)
The spookiest Halloween music known. Makes a great encore.
Danse Macabre

In Fairyland by Spaulding Stoughton
Consider “The Enchanted Forest” and “March of the Gnomes” from Stoughton’s best known suite
In Fairyland

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

Fire In A Chinese Laundry by Feibel & Harrington
Incredibly dramatic scene that has Halloween potential
Fire In A Chinese Laundry

Fugue in F Minor, “The Munster” by Mark Peterson
Guaranteed to get audience reactions! It’s part of “Three Television Themes.”
Television Theme Trio

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.
La Brume

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

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

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

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

Second Toccata, in C Minor by James H Rogers
This toccata is virtually unknown, and your listeners will appreciate its twisting chromatic passages.
Second Toccata

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.
Thunder Storm

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.)
Woodland Sketches

Wind in the Chimney by Joseph Clokey
In some rooms, this can be eerie beyond belief!
Fireside Fancies

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.

8 Responses to Halloween

  1. Pingback: Prepare Ye for Halloween | MMS Organ Music Blog

  2. Tom Nichol says:

    One piece that occurs to me is Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre.” I’m sure I’ve heard at least a few organ transcriptions of it. And what about “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky? Are there any noteworthy organ transcriptions of that legendary work? They’re kinda special to me because I was born on Halloween–under a full “hunter’s moon,” yet! Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, “Omphale’s Spinning Wheel” by Saint-Saens is another good one–especially if you like to listen to old-time radio! The Shadow knows–HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

  3. The Danse Macabre is not restored but you can download the Lemare transcriptioin from http://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/52914. I’m looking for a good transcription of Bald/Bare Mountain. I’ll have to look at Spinning Wheel!

  4. Anne Kimball says:

    What about the Munster Fugue that you restored recently?

  5. There’s Liber Daemonum by Christopher Rouse — but most of it is very difficult technically. It depicts demon goddesses from various world mythologies. 17 minutes duration, Helicon Press.

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