halloween playlists

Jordan Randall Smith

Wickedly Wild Tunes

When I think about my favorite WICKEDLY WILD TUNES, I like to think of witches, goblins, werewolves, and vampires. And for me, I like to go off the beaten path any chance I can, and I especially love to do that while celebrating a diverse group of the very best composers and their music.

I started out with Mahler’s TOTENFEIER (FUNERAL RITES)– it is a terrifyingly intense work from beginning to end and speaks to Mahler’s lifelong musical exploration of suffering, death, and rebirth. This first movement is a tragedy that announces itself immediately by the vicious entrance of cellos and basses.

I followed that up with fan favorite composer Jessie Montgomery and her fantastic work, VOODOO DOLLS, exploring one of the many manifestations of “The Witch” from across the globe. Next up, David Del Tredici’s DRACULA. I’ll never forget being in college and exploring this spooky and kooky score and I know you’ll love it as much as I did, and all the better with David Allen Miller and Nancy Allen Lundy dressed as Dracula and Cruella de Vil! (Listen for the Theremin!) 

Some devilishly great but less well-known works by William Grant Still and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor surround a great moment from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet: the tragic DEATH OF TYBALT, conducted by the one and only Marin Alsop. 

Then, after a while, I felt like I needed to switch it up. I started thinking about how much I love our wonderful Columbia Jazz Band – and that made me think about this spooktacular version of THRILLER, performed by a jazz band! Then, I decided to head over to Broadway to celebrate my favorite 21st century show: none other than Highlights from WICKED. This music never gets old!

Last but not least, I just had to include Jason Love’s magnificent exploration of Mayan witchcraft with your very own Columbia Orchestra in Silvestre Revueltas’ NIGHT OF ENCHANTMENTS!

Richard Scerbo

Fright Night Faves

As I started to put together a playlist for Halloween, I began to imagine an ordinary day turning to night (Britten, Moonlight) and a spooky landscape unfolding in the darkness (Hallman).  All sorts of wild things begin to happen!  Worldless Creatures scurry around (Adolphe); a friendly ghost appears (Bolcom); Hobgoblins emerge (Chadwick); and a cursed huntsman is chased by demons (Franck). A huge celebration erupts as devils, demons, and spirits scare away all those around (Mendelssohn).  Amidst the scary revelries, a train rounds the bend and goes off its tracks. From the ravine below, the spirits of those that perished rise (Visconti).  Suddenly, the day begins to break, and the party ends. Church bells are heard in the distance scaring away all the evil ghouls (Britten, Sunday Morning), and daytime reigns again.  (Fun fact: the works by Julia Adolphe, Joseph Hallman, and Dan Visconti were recorded by my group Inscape, with the Hallman appearing on our Grammy-nominated album, Sprung Rhythm.)

John Murton

Creepy Classics for All Hallows Eve

When looking for spooky music for the season it was impossible to ignore Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. Its depiction of a wild gathering of witches – you might know it from Disney’s Fantasia – is a true classic! Less familiar might be Hugo Wolf’s song Der Feuerreiter. It’s a tale about a demon on horseback who charges through the country setting fire to buildings. The piano has a starring role representing the wild galloping of horse and the alarm bells ringing, and the singer captures all the drama of the story, including a rather gruesome discovery right at the end… Anna Clyne’s This Midnight Hour is a piece I’m absolutely crazy about right now! It was inspired by scenes from two different poems, a mad chase through the night and the gloom as evening settles and a languorous and rather unsettling waltz can be heard. There are waltzes, too, in Liszt’s work inspired by Faust: here the devil hijacks a village wedding celebration with his wild violin playing. Finally, I included The Ghost from Shostakovich’s film music for Hamlet. The appearance of the ghost at the beginning might be startling, but it’s the depiction of the gloomy castle afterwards that always gives me the shivers!

Chris Cicconi

The Witching Hour: Spooky Songs for Halloween

This playlist reflects my favorite frightening fantasy and suspenseful melodies.

VAMPIRE HUNTERS (from the movie Dracula starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Oldman) -This track contains intense, pulsating rhythms as the vampire hunters look for Dracula. What Halloween playlist is complete without a Dracula and vampire reference? RITUAL FIRE DANCE by Manuel de Falla, (taken from El Amor Brujo) – The dance in this magical composition encourages the appearance of the ghost. WITCHES’ SABBATH, (from Berlioz’s amazing work, Symphonie Fantastique) – depicts a hero’s funeral filled with shrieks, groans, and cackles made by hideous monsters and sinister witches. THE KNIGHT KING by Djawadi, (from the popular TV Show, Game of Thrones) – Among my favorites, this haunting and suspenseful melody depicts an epic battle between good and evil zombies, also referred to as the Army of the Dead. ISLE OF THE DEAD by Rachmaninov – A tranquil and eerie composition symbolizing a singular rowboat, sailing to a remote island carrying a coffin. SORCERER’S APPRENTICE by Dukas – This whimsical scherzo is a fantasy where an apprentice tries to use his master’s spells, but it hilariously backfires. Spells and sorcery always make me think of Halloween. WATER GOBLIN by Dvorak, (Rondo) – A young maiden falls prisoner to the evil water goblin after ignoring the warnings of her parent. FUNERAL MARCH OF A MARIONETTE by Gounod – ironically used, due to its suspenseful undertones, as the theme for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents. DANSE MACABRE by Saint-Saens – This piece symbolizes the grim reaper appearing every Halloween night and raising the dead to dance for him as he plays the fiddle, the solo instrument for this piece. THIS IS HALLOWEEN, (from the Disney Movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas) – My playlist finishes up with the townspeople of Halloween Town singing about that upcoming holiday!

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