Nostalgia, camaraderie and giddiness: The annual Halloween concert

Oct. 31, 2021, 9:06 p.m.

Halloween is versatile — it bears many different definitions depending on the kind of person you are. For my brother, it means donning his store-bought werewolf cape and hunting for Skittles and the occasional king-sized Hershey’s bar from our neighbors. For high-schoolers, it either means sketchy basement parties or handing out candy to other people’s little brothers amidst the homework grind.

For Stanford kids, it means dancing on tombs at “Maus,” the traditional Mausoleum party. But it also means the annual Halloween concert, put on by the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and the Stanford Wind Symphony.

Imagine it now: musicians in cow onesies, cellifish (marine violoncellos!), undergraduates and graduate students (as babies and senior citizens, respectively) and “Squid Game” violinists, all of these costumed musicians playing a combination of movie soundtracks and classical music. Who wouldn’t pay to see that?

Not to mention the oh-so-clever transition enacted by orchestral studies director and music associate professor Paul Phillips, who serves as the conductor of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and Stanford Philharmonic. Phillips emerged dressed as the Front Man character from  “Squid Game,” then shed his black cape and stoic black mask for a second costume: a feisty pirate, complete with luscious dark locks, a bandana and eyeliner (the commitment!).

This event was not only the first in-person Halloween concert since 2019, but the first indoor student concert from the music department since March 2020. Thus, it’s no surprise that there was a full house — advanced tickets were sold out to the public days before, and a long line of students arrived the day of attempting to get seats. The concert was held on Friday.

The performances did not disappoint — featuring theme music from classics like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Jurassic Park,” “West Side Story” and “Star Trek,” the event was incredibly popular for families. 

The program also included contemporary music for this pandemic era — a piece entitled “Seven O’Clock Shout” by Valerie Coleman illustrated a COVID-19 phenomenon when New Yorkers would open their apartment windows at 7 p.m. every day and shout across rooftops to check in on each other. The piece even included audience participation, with avid hollering between percussion and horn solos.

Overall, the energy in the hall was impeccable — a sanguine blend of pop culture references, camaraderie and giddiness.

There were also aspects that fell a little short — the first set began 20 minutes late, for instance, and occasional silences when section costumes were introduced proved there was some disorganization, though they were mostly forgiven as awkward comedy. This general aura of light chaos fit in perfectly, but that was partially due to the informal nature of the performance — these mistakes would have been more glaring had it been a concert dress type of event. Despite these small hiccups, the event was still a complete hit.

The ultimate showstopper was the costume contest. Audience members decked out as wizards, witches, princesses and comedic stuntman Super Dave Osborne clambered onstage, where they were judged based on level of applause from the rest of the audience. In the end, a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Ludwig van Beethoven shared the grand title. In celebration of their victory, the winners were invited to guest-conduct John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post March.”

Nothing says holiday spirit more than watching a tiny green dino wave a baton.

Nicole Tong '24 is the Reads beat desk editor. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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