All treats and no tricks at annual Halloween Concert

Nov. 1, 2023, 12:55 a.m.

It may be one thing to jam out to your favorite tunes on late nights in your room, but it’s certainly another when you’re immersed by sound, rhythm, light — and a little Halloween spirit. Dinkelspiel Auditorium was transformed on Friday evening from a standard auditorium (and occasional classroom) to an adorably spooky concert hall for the Stanford Wind Symphony’s annual Halloween Concert, featuring the Stanford Jazz Orchestra. 

There was a hum of excitement in the room even before the concert had begun. Children dressed up as unicorns or Minecraft Steves fidgeted in their seats as their guardians hushed them. Students eagerly waved their friends over to sit with them, and other attendees flipped through the program looking for familiar faces and reading through the repertoire. Soon, the lights dimmed, signaling the start of the concert.

Student musicians created a delightful concoction of pieces from various genres, combining serious technical pieces with familiar tunes that audiences of all ages could enjoy. Stanford Jazz Orchestra opened with selections from “The Incredibles,” transitioning seamlessly between “The Pink Panther” and “I’ll Be Seeing You” and finishing off with a solo-laden James Bond medley and Lizzo’s “Cuz I Love You.”

The stage lighting color and brightness changed between pieces to match the energy of each song. This effect really emphasized the changes in dynamic, adding to the magic of it all.

The jazz musicians themselves were also incredibly engaged throughout their performances, tapping their feet along to the beat and leaning in as they played. They supported soloists with silent yet visible focus while waiting for their cue to join back in as a group. This small orchestra’s camaraderie translates into a cohesive, tight-knit community that members appreciate. 

“You get to do something as a whole and you’re all unified towards a singular goal,” said Ethan Htun ’27, who is a tenor saxophonist and “The Pink Panther” medley soloist.

This collective effort was also evident in the ensembles’ non-musical preparation. Ensemble members worked together to create Halloween costumes, according to alto saxophonist Grant Moore ’25.

The Jazz Orchestra’s various solos captured the curiosity of students in attendance.

“One person would start with a small beat behind and then the beat would build and it would change as the solo grew in intensity,” said audience member Jackson Whitt ’26.

Whether performing a solo or playing as a collective, each member held their own. Even  accompaniments brought a pizzazz of their own in accentuating the soloist’s performance. If the numerous moving parts posed a problem for these seasoned musicians, it certainly did not show. 

“There were probably hundreds of mess-ups that the audience really wouldn’t have known about,” Moore said. “I think it’s because we really have that spirit of ‘if you mess up it’s not your fault, nobody’s perfect and just move on.’”

The wind symphony’s “Wicked” medley seamlessly connected energies between pieces like the boundless “Defying Gravity” and angsty “No Good Deed.” Guest conductor Rachael Vega, Associate Director of Bands for the Leland Stanford Junior Marching Band, provided her expert guidance while decked out on theme in a witch costume. 

Not to be outdone, Stanford Wind Symphony director Giancarlo Aquilanti conducted the four movements of Second Suite for Band (Latino-Mexicano): Son Montuno, Tango (“Sargasso Serenade”), Guaracha and Paso Doble (“A La Corrida!”). Aquilanti and his students worked in tandem, responding to one another. 

The use of percussion — especially the clave — in the wind symphony stood out to Whitt, who is currently in the process of writing a song for an all-percussion group. They found the pieces not only “nice to listen to,” especially because of their Latino background, but also informative for their own songwriting. 

In the “spoopy” (spooky and cute) Halloween spirit, both ensembles were dressed up, each instrument section having their own theme. It was an absolute delight to see members decked out in chef hats and aprons, simple cowboy gear and even crazy neon colors paired with black suits to fit “Barbenheimer.” 

The festivities culminated with the annual costume contest, which invited any willing audience members to showcase their costumes on stage. The pineapple flavored Hi-Chew received the most applause and cheers from the audience, deeming them the winner.

As a reward, they were given the chance to conduct the closing piece, “The Washington Post March.” Bathed in red and blue lights, the new conductor wielded the baton with enthusiastic movements that prompted the audience to start clapping along. By the end of the concert, the initial anticipatory energy in the room had reached exponential heights. 

“The audience was loving it,” Whitt said. “It was great to see everyone come together in the cheers for the costumes.”

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

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