Born out of an interest to interact more with the community, the USC oboe and bassoon studios decided last year to put on a Halloween concert. With Halloween quickly approaching, the studio is getting ready for their second annual “Halloween Spooktacular!”
Preparation started a couple weeks ago, and with the general mood of the performance being light and fun, putting the show together is relatively easy.
Emily Whitlow is a second-year music performance student who will be in the Halloween concert. This will be her second year involved in the production, and she has enjoyed the preparation process so far.
“It’s not traditional orchestra music or band music or something like that. And it’s kind of just a stress reliever,” she said. “We can all just get together and play fun music with each other.”
According to Whitlow, some of the music will be similar to that of last year’s performance. However, the studios have expanded significantly since last year, and this growth has made a difference.
“We all pretty much doubled in size,” she said. “There’s a lot of people, so it gives us more ... of an opportunity to play more music that has more parts … we have a lot more sound.”
Back in August, third-year biology student Aaron Martin came across a piece of music called “Two Quatrains” that he thought would tie in nicely with the show, knowing it was set to hit the stage in October.
“I thought it would be great for the Halloween concert because it’s kind of this dark, modal piece of historical text,” Martin said.
He brought it to the attention of Rebecca Nagel, oboe professor at the USC School of Music; Nagel was on board, but what Martin didn’t expect was that she would ask him to arrange the piece.
“I said, you know, I’ve never arranged anything before, but I’ll sure give it a shot," Martin said.
Arranging a piece is different from composing one; the latter refers to the actual writing of the melody, while the former is more of a translational process. What this means is that Martin was tasked with turning the composition “Two Quatrains” into a piece that was suitable for woodwinds even though the original content might have been crafted for other instruments.
Martin said that this process generally takes a one or two days for someone who is well-practiced and whose primary job is to complete the arrangement, but given that it was his first time arranging and that he is involved in so many things at USC, it took him a couple weeks.
The first half of the piece was easier for Martin because the composer provided a sample page that guided him through the process.
The second half, however, was much more difficult, as it had to be done solely by ear.
“I had to listen to the piece about five hundred times and figure out, you know, what voice had what notes and then how long each note should be held, that kind of thing,” he said.
He got the piece to come together, and it will be included in the performance on Tuesday afternoon.
Despite the challenge of putting together the arrangement, Martin echoed Whitlow’s general feelings of finding a stress relief in practicing the music.
“It’s a great outlet. So, I’m having a rough day in biochemistry and I come here and have a lesson with Dr. Nagel and it kind of re-grounds me,” he said.
Come Halloween, all performers will be in costume. Whitlow, for example, will be dressed as a vampire to go along with the Marschner piece “Overture: Der Vampyre.”
“We’ll have Ghost Busters on stage, we’ll have zombies on stage, all that fun stuff,” Whitlow said. “It's a pretty interactive concert.”
Martin and Whitlow both look forward to seeing the audience reactions to this unconventional approach to the performance. Martin personally hopes that things that might not have run smoothly last year will go well at this year's concert.
"Last year it was in its early stages and a couple things didn't take off like we wanted," Martin said. "But this year everyone's got some script to introduce their piece, and it's just going to be a lot of fun."