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Concordia Orchestra plays with the spirit of Halloween

Halloween. The word conjures up masked figures and haunted houses, jack-o’-lanterns and witches flying on broomsticks. Now picture a vampire playing violin, a goblin playing cello, a ghost playing double bass — and you might be imagining how the Concordia Orchestra, will look this Halloween.

“My stand partner and I are going to do something together. Maybe…Hansel and Gretel, or Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf,” said Rebecca Kendall, a violinist in the orchestra.

The orchestra is dressing up in costume for the first performance of their fall domestic tour, which falls on Halloween day.

“The reason [wearing costumes] came about is because, almost always, the orchestra tour is over Halloween and students don’t like to miss Halloween on campus,” said Foster Beyers, the Concordia Orchestra conductor. “This year, because of the way the tour was laid out, I knew way ahead of time that we were going to have to leave on Halloween day.”

Orchestra conductor Foster Beyers directs one of their Halloween pieces. Photo by Reilly Myklebust.
Orchestra conductor Foster Beyers directs one of their Halloween pieces. Photo by Reilly Myklebust.

Last year Beyers promised the orchestra that, if there was a performance on Halloween again, they were going to do a Halloween concert in costume.

“Since I’m asking [the orchestra] to miss Halloween day on campus once again, we want to do something kind of fun to … make up for the fact that they’re disappointed we have to miss Halloween. And I think that now they are excited about it,” Beyers said.

The Concordia Orchestra’s fall domestic tour begins Oct. 31. The orchestra has eight performances over the eight day tour and will travel as far away as Colorado.

“We’re really excited about tour. … Orchestra is playing better than ever. This is the strongest orchestra that I’ve had since I’ve been at Concordia, and this is my fifth year, so I’m really excited,” Beyers said.

The excitement about the tour is shared by more than just the conductor.

“[Touring is] the best part of the year. It’s so much fun,” said Annika Johnson, a violinist in the orchestra.

But the tour is about more than just having fun.

“My favorite part [of touring] is that you play the same music at every concert, but it seems like with every concert the music takes on a new interpretation and you learn something new from it,” Kendall said. “So that was something that surprised me, but it was really cool.”

The orchestra’s first performance on tour will be in Le Mars, Iowa on Halloween. In past years, despite having performances on Halloween, the orchestra has not worn costumes.

“We had a concert on Halloween, but it was just a normal concert,” Kendall said.

Part of this is due to concerts not always being the appropriate place to wear Halloween costumes.

“Often we are either doing a concert on Halloween but it’s not really appropriate to do it in costume, because it’s not really a Halloween concert, or we just don’t do a concert on Halloween because it’s hard to get an audience on Halloween,” Beyers said.

Last year’s Halloween performance was on a Friday and the audience was smaller than normal, according to Beyers. This year, the orchestra is hoping to draw a bigger crowd to its Halloween performance by wearing costumes.

“I most likely will be going as one of the Harry Potter characters. Probably Luna [Lovegood],” Johnson said. “Or maybe something that is somewhat easy to put together, but it’s really fun to go all out, too.”

Foster Beyers and the Concordia Orchestra run through “Symphonie Fantastique.” Photo by Reilly Myklebust.
Foster Beyers and the Concordia Orchestra run through “Symphonie Fantastique.” Photo by Reilly Myklebust.

Students can be as creative as they want with their costumes, but there are limits to what they can wear.

“Their costume can’t get in the way of them playing their instrument. And, of course, it’s got to be appropriate,” Beyers said. “Also, they have to be able to pack it and carry it with them the rest of the tour. That in itself is kind of a restriction.”

Whether this advice will be heeded or not is another story.

“My friend Mike Miller wants to go as a box, but I’m not really sure how that’s going to work, because he plays violin,” Johnson said.

Another of Johnson’s friends plans on going as Princess Leia from “Star Wars.” Despite these lively costumes, most students seem well aware of the restrictions, according to Johnson.

“We’ve definitely been warned by our managers to have a small costume that we can carry with us, because we’re going to have to carry it along for eight days,” Johnson said. “Practicality is a thing, but it’s also Halloween.”

The music that the orchestra is performing also lends itself to the Halloween theme.

“Our repertoire is … not creepy, per se, but we’re playing ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ by Berlioz, which is about someone who falls in love with a woman who … rejects him,” Johnson said. “And then he takes opium and, in his state of confusion from being drugged, he has all of these visions of being beheaded and stuff like that.”

Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” is purposely scary, according to Beyers.

“It’s perfect for a Halloween concert,” Beyers said.

Whether or not the orchestra will dress up for a Halloween concert again next year is still unknown, but Johnson is optimistic about the prospect.

“I think that the atmosphere of the orchestra is really conducive to creativity and doing new things,” Johnson said. “I would [dress up again] for sure.”

Beyers also seems like he would be willing to have a costume concert again next year if the tour performs on Halloween.

“[My costume] is top secret. I won’t say. The students won’t find out until the day of, but I definitely will dress up.” Beyers said. “I have it all planned.”

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