The sound of an organ is inherently frightening—its volume, tone, supernatural ability to turn a minor chord into pure evil. For me, personally, this traces back to the 1966 Don Knotts movie “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” in which a haunted organ terrified Knotts’ character Luther Heggs and me, six or seven years old, sitting in the Cinema Theatre in Urbana, Illinois.
So, it took some courage on my part to walk with my wife into Ira Allen Chapel last night for the annual Halloween organ/choral/light show that Professor Neiweem masterminds with the help of many—notably The University Concert Choir and Catamount Singers, students costumed as everything from Mel Gibson in Braveheart to the sexy ladybug/rabbit/whatever favored by many young women.
Though Professor Neiweem brought it with the sinister “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” and cast an imposing shadow while conducting the choir, it really wasn’t too scary there in the chapel last night. This was attested to by the little boy in a lamb costume in the row behind us who took it all in without a whimper. It was a show in which a reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s haunting “Anna Belle Lee” could exist side-by-side with Neiweem’s organ rendition of the campy “Cantina” number from “Star Wars.” And the singers even dipped into Gilbert and Sullivan, UVM junior Bruce Barger putting his strong voice (and the plastic hammer that accessorized his Thor costume) to impressive effect on “A Wandering Minstrel I” from The Mikado.