Just seconds into conducting “Ride On, King Jesus!,” New Haven Chorale conductor Ed Bolkovac sensed that something was different. A Rastafarian, Midsummer’s fairy, and shellshocked soldier smiled back at him from the front row, lifting their black music binders high as their mouths filled with joyous song. A little further back, Caesar and a skeleton chef swayed to the infectious melody. Red Riding Hood and Cleopatra looked on from the wings. Three or four rows back, two nearly-frozen Elsas and a pint-sized witch looked on with glee.
Bolkovac looked down for his baton. Instead, he found that a spooky transformation was underfoot: Mr. Spock’s customary blue garb, trimmed with black piping, had replaced his button-down and black trousers. His tails and baton were in sight, but so was the looming reminder of Halloween, just hours away.
That was the scene Saturday afternoon at Trinity Church on the Green, where the New Haven Chorale presented its third annual Happy Halloween Concert to around 50 families from around the Elm City. Free and very family-friendly, the 45-minute concert was intended to spread classical and chamber music to New Haven’s youngest citizens in an informal setting.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids that might not otherwise be exposed to choral and classical music to experience it,” said Don Hackettt, the Chorale’s business manager, before the concert.
And it was. Performing with the scarily good Trinity Girls’ Choir, the Chorale and transfixed and tickled, sharing their love of pieces like Franz Haydn’s “Welcome All,” with which they open every concert, and Michael Praetorius’ jaunty, rich round “Viva la Musica,” holding a choir warm-up and conducting demonstration, as well as sharing the church with some truly chilling tunes from the Girls Choir, who — with the excellent guidance of conductor and resident Spider-Man Walden Moore, regretted to inform the audience that John Rappaport’s Fred of “Here Lies Fred” was, indeed, very dead.
Listening to the concert and noshing on Halloween-themed baked goods afterward, members of the audience didn’t seem to mind his absence. Instead, their minds were turned toward a fresh knowledge of classical music, and the possibility of two concerts next year, when Halloween falls on a Monday.
“The best part of this is classical music for kids, and getting them involved” said Bolkovac after the concert. “Classical concerts can be snooty and off-putting. All concerts should be like this in some ways ... it wasn’t meant to be more than 45, 50 minutes, and we were constantly changing things so any one mood wouldn’t get stuck.”
“We put a lot of our efforts into this concert — this is what we tend to focus on,” he added.