Happy Halloween! Big night for Calgary Organ Festival tonight with two great events at Knox United. We asked music director Chellan Hoffman why organ music is so perfectly spooky for Halloween.
The organ is a mysterious beast. It’s complex, it’s elusive, it’s unique, it’s powerful.
Hollywood/movie pop culture has often used the organ to set the mood for something mysterious or scary.
Is it because the organ console itself is such a complex machine that it looks like a science experiment?
Is it because the pipe organ has lungs that send air up to the pipes?
Is it because the organist looks a bit like a mad scientist when he/she pulls stops and plays the pedals and keyboards with all available arms and legs?
Is it because the pipe organ can produce such a loud, monstrous, resonant sound that the windows rattle, the chairs vibrate and the floorboards shake?
Or is it because the organ pipes can produce such a hushed and ethereal sound that it could well be the whisper of ghosts and spirits in distant rooms?
Is it because this large instrument seems to be able to hide?
Organs usually reside in large buildings, and if you want to find one, you have to snoop and search. In the dark, usually.
The organ console waits silently behind a wooden screen, a cement wall, a dark corner; it crouches in basements and pits, far away from light switches; it perches in high balconies that can only be reached by creaky, winding staircases!
Hundreds and hundreds of pipes (the vocal cords of the organ), inhabit the empty spaces of the building. Like little mice and big goblins, the pipes are behind walls, up in attics, and under the floorboards.
You can’t always see those pipes, but you can hear their breath, and feel their vibrations.
Maybe Hollywood knew it all along: THE ORGAN IS ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!
Chellan’s top picks for spooky organ music:
Toccata from Suite Gothique – Leon Boëllmann
Introduction from Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue – Healey Willan
Introduction and Passacaglia – Max Reger
Toccata from Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 – JS Bach
Kyrie and Libera Me movements from “Requiem” – Gabriel Fauré
Here’s a Halloween classical playlist perfect for your own pumpkin carving:
Sherri Zickefoose, Oct. 31, 2014