Ghost, ghouls and monsters came out for the theatrical Halloween “Haunted Piano” recital performed by talented adjunct music instructor Barbara Scheidker. But enough about the students in the audience.
Set late in the evening when a walk across the darkened Southwestern College’s campus was spooky enough, Scheidker dressed in medieval gowns and animal accessories, adding to the ambience of creepiness.
A full house in the candle-lit recital room set the mood for haunting Halloween melodies and creaky chords. Scheidker channeled a bit of her inner Snape as she talked about 19th century ragtime and 20th century phantom music. Her time-transporting piano transcended the grave and revealed the impact of dead European composers on Halloween music. She scared away some of the crowd with explanations of minor scales and staccato, elements that make music “spooky.”
Jaunty ragtime-hardly scary-is reminiscent of a child’s happy Halloween, a time of candy corn and trick-or-treating. Scheidker’s hoppy hands bounced across the keyboard creating the joyful tunes of upper class parlors in the days before recorded music. Her performance of “Maple Leaf Rag,” a Scott Joplin masterpiece, filled the room with happy themes and propulsive rhythms conjuring images of dress up and turn-of-the-century Halloween festivities.
Moving forward in time, the recital became less cheery as Scheidker began to play slower and darker compositions. William Bolcom’s “The Poltergeist” was the harrowing highlight of an evening of minor key mischief. Lights in the room went dark as the music crept in. Candles flickered on the floor and the exits signs gave off an ominous glow that captured the haunted spirit of the recital. Slow and gentle melodies eased some students to the brink of sleep only to have Scheidker snatch their consciousness back with a thunderous surprise at the end. It was Hayden’s “Surprise Symphony” wearing a sheet and the keyboard jumping out to shout “Boo!”, a bit of musical fun and games on the eve of trick-or-treat.
Scheidker’s intense face glowed by the faint light of her lamp like the whispering flashlight dancers in Bob Fosse’s “Hernando’s Hideaway.” When “The Poltergeist” was finished the audience could see the relief and accomplishment she felt.
“This was one of the hardest pieces I have done,” she said.
“Bendicion” brought the evening to a gentler close, kind of tucking the audience into bed with a sweet kiss on the forehead after a harrowing night lost in the graveyard.
Scheidker’s passion for her music and her obvious affection for Halloween illuminated the dimly-lit recital. Scheidker, as the skilled artist, provided her own light.