The Classical Spirit of Halloween

By Cheryl Willoughby

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Conant Farm jack o lanterns

Forget about childhood fears like the thing in the closet and the seemingly endless expanse of darkness beneath the bed, “scary” can take on a whole different dimension with the perspective of an adult.


At a certain age, “scary” becomes things we earnestly worry about every day: the realities of the economy, or, say, freakishly strong late-season hurricanes. Or perhaps the "normally" scary, such as rush hour on 93 South (or 128, or 95, or the Mass. Pike, or….) on a Friday summer afternoon. It’s just part of growing up.

But, for just a few hours this Wednesday, Classical New England invites you to set aside the real-world concerns that keep us up at night in the grownup world and allow music to do what it does best: transport the mind and spirit to another place altogether. It’s Hallowe’en. And we’re offering a mid-week musical diversion featuring characters from the supernatural world of goblins, fairies, and magical spirits of all origins.

Do you know the story of the virtuoso violinist whose skills were so superb it was widely thought he could only have come by his talents if he’d struck some kind of dangerous Mephistpholean bargain? We’re not talking about Paganini here, though he certainly did everything he could in his lifetime to perpetuate a similar mythology for himself. No, this is someone who lived much earlier – the 17th c. teacher and violinist Giuseppe Tartini. Wednesday morning Laura Carlo will feature his treacherously difficult Devil’s Trill virtuoso violin sonata.

Other highlights in her program include two works that were famously featured in animated Disney films: the magical Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas (who could ever forget Mickey Mouse in the hapless title role, with his pesky problem of exponentially multiplying brooms and buckets?), and, from Fantasia, Modest Mussorgsky’s darkly evocative Night on the Bare Mountain.

As the day continues you can look forward to Alan McLellan conjuring up Charles Gounod’s ballet music from his “underworldly” opera, Faust, as well as the clarevoyant trio of witches from Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth, and an afternoon materialization of Beethoven’s spectral Ghost piano trio.

And into the evening while the real-life little ghosts and witches take to the streets for their trick-or-treating, Cathy Fuller and James David Jacobs offer a haunting accompaniment to all of the night’s festivities.

You can get back to the fearsome tasks of yard cleanup, mortgage payments and end-of-the-week deadlines on Thursday and Friday. For the 31st, turn your imagination over to Classical New England and we’ll promise a howlingly entertaining time.

In the meantime, enjoy a few spooky classics from the Disney archives!







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