Halloween night recital a treat Naval Academy organist offers fun, spooky evening

November 06, 1997|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I had absolutely no intention of reviewing the Halloween night recital presented by Monte Maxwell, the Juilliard-trained Texan who was appointed organist of the Naval Academy Chapel in February.

It was to be a purely recreational evening for the family, a chance to yank the kids away from the sugary greed of trick-or-treating to hear a bit of spooky music banged out on that mighty chapel organ.

But what I experienced was so thoroughly delightful that I couldn't help thinking that the academy might have bestowed on us another holiday tradition that could last for many years.

Indeed, the organ recital might become to Halloween what the academy's annual "Messiah" concerts are to Christmas.

A large, hushed crowd entered the chapel to find the massive structure darkened, shrouded in fog and bathed in a ghoulish purple haze.

Into this setting -- carried in a coffin, no less -- came Maxwell, whose stints in organ lofts around the world probably never prepared him for such a Draculesque entrance.

After a stiff, sinister bow, he launched into Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" and soon was joined by four singing Naval "phantoms" belting out that ominous tango from the balconies and, gulp, all the way up in that stratospheric dome.

(Alas, each member of the quartet was male. Where, oh where, was the lyric soprano the song needs so desperately?)

Next came the Technicolor explosions of Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor and an attractive rendition of "Music of the Night," also from "Phantom."

As the lights flicked eerie colors and the fog machine worked overtime, there were television and movie tunes of a supernatural bent, the "Star Wars," "Munsters" and "Addams Family" themes among them.

They were great fun, although next year the organizers might consider situating the drummer in the same time zone as the organ. Rhythmic coordination left something to be desired.

Even Scott Joplin's music from "The Sting" made a jaunty appearance.

The loveliest interlude occurred as Maxwell played the sumptuously spiritual "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber.

Fog and colored lights disappeared as, magically, the setting once again became a church, and one was reminded that All Saints' Day does indeed follow Allhallows Eve.

I definitely recommend that you place Monte Maxwell on your calendar for next Halloween.

He's gifted, he's spooky, he's fun, and he won't rot your children's teeth.

No trick, his concert was a great treat.

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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