Have you ever thought that Halloween deserved its own set of serious spooky music? We don’t mean camp or cute, though the soundtracks that Danny Elfman wrote for Tim Burton‘s dark fairy tales border on that. We also don’t mean pop music (“Monster Mash” would certainly qualify for that category). Naturally, there’s already classical music that is frequently used for creepy films and programs, such as Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Toccata and Fugue in D minor for organ, BWV 565 (listen to it here; you’ll recognize it immediately). And yet, there ought to be something new for Samhain, All Hallows Eve and The Day of the Dead.
Now there is. Someone has finally written a score especially for the season: Kristen Lawrence. She’s a classically trained organ phenom, pianist and composer (for the guys who are curious: she’s also a long-haired, willowy blonde babe, if you like the kind that hangs out in cemeteries, that is). She’s a California girl, too, but not like any such that the Beach Boys ever envisioned. According to her Wikipedia page, she grew up in Orange County near Disneyland and calls Disneyland’s haunted masion her second home. Ms. Lawrence began studying the piano at age seven; at age 12, she began studying the organ with Pulitzer-Prize-nominated nominated composer and organist Dr. Robert Cummings. From the start, her organ lessons were taught in a cathedral, which led to a lifelong love of Gothic Cathedral architecture. In 1995, she spent a college semester abroad studying in Vienna, Austria, where her interest in all things spooky and ooky blossomed. Later, she accepted a music scholarship to Brigham Young University and graduated in 2001.
Not to put too fine a point on it: almost 20 years ago, when Ms. Lawrence became seriously interested in spooky music and the folk tales and legends behind such music, she became a Halloween groupie. This led her to write and record several albums’ worth of spooky music appropriate for the season, which she named Halloween carols. This has also led to related performances. For example, in October 2008, she played the role of the spooky music teacher and organist in the Pacific Symphony’s annual Halloween Spooktacular program (this year’s Spooktacular is a Masquerade), when she also had the opportunity to play a magnificent $3 million concert organ installed at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, aka the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA. Trust us: that’s a big deal to classical organists. Her musical influences come from many sources. If she has a musical genre, it’s Modern Gothic.
Ms. Lawrence began recording in 2008 with her debut album Arachnitect. Three other albums follwed: A Broom With A View (2009), Vampire Empire (2009; mostly radio edits and instrumental versions of previous works) and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (2012). Her subject matter covers the Halloween, Wiccan and Gothic gamut from witches to vampires, cats to bats, folk tales to Poe (she’s put his classic poem “The Raven” to a 20-minute piece of music, divided into part 1 and part 2). There’s the “Blood Waltz,” a sort of a spooky drawing-room gavotte or minuet for ghouls, and “Vampire Empire,” a waltz for harpsichord and organ that’s suitable for those after-midnight formals. “Souling Song,” better known to some as the tune “A-Soalin’,” a Christmas folk carol sung by Peter, Paul and Mary on their In Concert album, comes in both the Celtic Samhain version (suitable for either a Celtic day of the dead or a witches’ sabbath) and the All Hallows Eve version. For the younger set, there’s a gentle lullaby called “Sleeping Dust” and a liverlier tune called “Cat In The Catacombs” that features a second vocal by Ms. Lawrence’s surly black cat, Molly Macabre. Just cute enough without tipping into saccharine.
We’ll have more Music for the Grim(m) Season in future posts. Hope you enjoy them. Meanwhile, use the colder nights to snuggle up. Don’t shiver too much, right? Nighty-night! Don’t let the bats bite.
Until next time, Spookyfans,
Marie and Michael