UCA’s Halloween Organ Extravaganza wraps up Halloween season

Maddie Wright

Organ music is usually reserved for churches and scary movies. 

On Halloween, the University Center for the Arts puts on a Halloween Organ Extravaganza complete with scary, fun and surprise tracks played on a organ. This year marks the 12th anniversary for this event.

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There were three performances throughout the night, at 7 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

All the performers dressed in costume matching the theme of the piece, along with fun lighting and digital effects broadcasted onto the instrument. Those who had never been to a pipe organ concert, were in for a surprise with the magnitude of the instrument and how it covered the entire stage. The sound from the instrument seems to bounce off everywhere. Through the sound of the instrument, there is powerful emotion in the performances.

This year this performance was partly molded by audience feedback. The organ department polled the audience to see what they would like to see.

According to Organ Professor Joel Bacon, the theater also helped create a fully theatrical show in the lights, with staging and costumes.

A large white pipe organ
Church pipe organ at St Marienkirche. Berlin, Germany

The pedalboard is a key element to any organ performance. The performers throughout the evening utilize the pedalboard of the organ that serves as a keyboard of sorts played with your feet, at times looking like they are dancing.

The performance started with a musician in a giraffe costume. As her tail hung off the edge of the organ bench, the stage was lit in red light and a Halloween vibe to pair with the the appropriate “Toccata” by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The second performance was the “Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The performer was in full “Indiana Jones” garb. He approached the stage walking through the audience and snapping his whip once onstage to be met with cheers from the audience. He stayed in character the whole time, ending his piece by stealing the skull that was on top of the organ.

For the third piece, a performer dressed as a witch came to a stage lit with green and blue lights to play a Leon Boellmann piece with sound effects.

The following piece was following the idea of baseball and was clearly cheering on the Houston Astros, the baseball team from Texas that is conveniently where Organ Professor Joel Bacon went to college. Another fun baseball fact shared by Bacon was that 12 years ago when the first Halloween Organ Extravaganza took place, the Astros were also in the World Series.

This piece could only be described as “spooky baseball.” It included hits you could expect to hear at a baseball game, including “The Chicken Dance” complete with claps from the audience. At one point the performer even laid down on the bench, distraught with his team, and played the organ while laying down. The piece featured a rendition of “Take me out to the ballgame.” The audience stood up and sang along.

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For Bacon’s main piece, he came out in a sparkly coat and a lit candle stick. There were red spotlights on him as he performed the classical piece, with an appropriate frantic tone. After this initial piece, he transitioned into the classic Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” in a performance Wayne and Garth would envy ending with a single silhouette of Bacon.

The performance ended with “Introduction and Allegro from Sonata no. 1. op. 42” by Alexandre Guilmant, a perfectly eerie way to end the evening.

Upcoming event: 

Virtuoso Series Concert, Patty Goble, Soprano; Dan Goble, Saxophone; and Russell Hirshfield, Piano

Collegian reporter Maddie Wright can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @maddierwright.