Sunday, October 27, 2013

Music for Halloween

Halloween is well know as the most important night of the year in San Francisco.  While it's not a holiday necessarily associated with any particular songs or music, any musical selections with a bit of the macabre or mysterious could create a Halloween mood.


The Halloween SongBOOk includes "spooky music from movies" (examples are the Title themes from the Corpse Bride or Nightmare on Elm Street).  It also has "pop, rock , and novelty songs" (for instance "Monster Mash" and "The Purple People Eater") as well as "creepy classical music" (such as Danse Macabre and Funeral March of a Marionette - the theme to Alfred Hitchcock Presents).


Piano Pictures: Witches, Fairies and Ghosts: 28 Fantastic and Spooky Pieces for Children is a collection of simple piano compositions.  The selections tend more toward the magical and ethereal with works like "A Little Fairy Tale" by Aleksandr Grechaninov, "A Fairy Tale" by Dmitry Kabalevsky, and "A Night Voyage" by Cornelius Gurlitt.  But there is also spookier fare with little pieces like "Dancing Ghosts" by Mike Schoenmehl, and "Ogre" by Alec Rowley.

Harold Arlen and Ralph Blane's "Halloween" from the Dorothy Starr Collection is is a suave, sophisticated adult take on the holiday.  It anticipates what the holiday has become today, albeit with a mid-20th century feel:
Owls and bats, howls from cats
May scare the buttons right off your spats
Don't be afraid of a ghost
For the ghost may be your host.
C. W. Reid's "Halloween" is a self-published children's piano piece from the 1920s also from the Dorothy Starr Collection.  It includes optional words that may be sung or recited in a playful Halloween spirit.


A spooky chromatic figure in minor 6ths with the words that lands on an A major chord accompanies the sentence:
There's a ghostly figure floating down that shadowy lane.
Almost as mysterious as the music is C. W. Reid himself (or herself?).  Published in San Francisco, this is the only work by C. W. Reid in any library in the country.  There is also no such name in the 1926 City Directory.  Who was C. W. Reid?


The Halloween SongBOOk: 27 Frightfully Fun Songs to Play and Sing (Alfred Music Pub. Co., 2010).

"Halloween," by C. W. Reid (San Francisco, CA: C. W. Reid, 1926). [from the Dorothy Starr Collection]

"Halloween," words and music by Harold Arlen (Harwin Music Corporation, 1950). [from the Dorothy Starr Collection]

Piano pictures. 1, Witches, Fairies and Ghosts: 28 Fantastic and Spooky Piano Pieces for Children, edited by Monika Twelsiek (Schott, 2008).

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