St. Olaf scares up Halloween musical fun with its annual PipeScreams organ concert

Lon Chaney plays the organ as the title character of the 1925 film "The Phantom of the Opera." Universal Pictures

October 25, 2022

Spooky season is here and Northfield’s St. Olaf College is celebrating Halloween with its 10th annual PipeScreams concert at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at Boe Memorial Chapel.

In addition, this year the concert organizers received a special invitation to perform at Red Wing’s Sheldon Theater on Oct. 29. This will be their first time performing at the theater, and they are thrilled to take the show on the road.

PipeScreams is the only holiday-inspired production that the organ department puts on, organ professor Catherine Rodland said. Organists all over the world hold similar Halloween-themed concerts because the organ is generally associated with horror films and scary music.

“Perhaps because of the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, by Bach,” she said.

This type of concert is an excellent way to showcase the instrument and the talent of the students. There are 15 students studying organ this year, Rodland said.

St. Olaf is one of the most renowned and largest undergraduate programs for organ music in the country, according to the college.

“One of the most wonderful things about this concert is that it features all the students — beginners studying the organ as a secondary instrument, and the most accomplished majors altogether,” Rodland said. “And the professors perform with the students, which is fun for all of us.”

The students and faculty get even more into the ghoulish festivities by dressing up in costumes as they showcase their love for the organ to the public.

The performances this year will feature one student playing Mars from Gustav Holst’s The Planets and others playing traditional works by Bach, Gigout, Reger and Vierne. The concert will end with an organ duet of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, with Rodland performing with her husband, Brian Carson.  

For a taste of what might be in store at this year’s PipeScreams concert, check out the 2020 performances.