Music Macabre: The RPO at Tower Fine Arts

Spencer Linsner—Happy Halloween, everyone (Better late then never)!

Today I decided to talk about a great opportunity my friends and I had recently: on October 30th, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra came to play a series of Halloween-related pieces at Brockport’s very own Tower Fine Arts Center, in a performance aptly titled “Music Macabre”.

The first piece performed was The Imperial March by John Williams. Famous as the theme from Star Wars typically associated with Darth Vader, it was a surprise to us concert goers, as it wasn’t in the program! Still, I was glad to hear it; Williams is easily one of my favorite composers, and his work in Star Wars is some of his best.

Next was a Halloween favorite, Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens. Based on a poem of the same name, this piece (like many of the songs played that night) has a narrative to it–at the 12th stroke of midnight, Death appears in a graveyard and uses his fiddle to summon the dead from their graves for a Halloween Dance. They dance until the crow of the rooster (depicted by an oboe), at which point they return to their graves until next Halloween.

Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was next on the list. The story is that the eponymous apprentice decides he wants to do more spell casting and less chores, and so he bewitches a broom to carry water for him. His plan goes awry, however, when he can’t figure out how to undo the enchantment, and only the timely intervention of his master saves the workshop from flooding. The song is best known from the 1940 Disney movie Fantasia, in which Mickey Mouse plays the apprentice.

Following that was Edvard Grieg’s well-known piece In the Hall of the Mountain King. The song is an excellent example of orchestral music, and — fun fact — is the basis for the theme song of the TV show “Inspector Gadget”.

The Noon Witch by Antonin Dvorak was next, and it’s arguably the most macabre of the bunch — after a mother gets fed up with her squalling child, she threatens to call a witch to punish him. To her surprise and horror, she discovers that the witch actually appears, and the mother runs away from the witch with the child, fainting when the witch tries to grab her. When her husband returns home and wakes her, they are appalled to find that the child was smothered when the mother fainted.

Finally, a suite from Pirates of the Caribbean rounded it out. A rousing finish, but unfortunately for the Spotify playlist, I could find only the main theme, “He’s a Pirate”. Still a great listen, though. Enjoy the sounds of Halloween!

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