A Haunting Good Time

In 1977, a U-M conductor combined music and Halloween revelry to create a new October tradition.
By Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10

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Encountering a fiddling, devilish figure on an October night could be a portent of doom, but not at U-M. This violinist is simply dressed for the occasion as he performs in the first University Symphony Orchestra Halloween Concert on Oct. 31, 1977, at Hill Auditorium.

One of many traditions initiated by Gustav Meier — the acclaimed conductor who served as a professor and director in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance from 1976 to 1996 — the annual Halloween Concert invites its student-performers and audiences alike to dress up for a night of fun, frights, tricks, and treats.

While holiday-appropriate compositions, such as Mozart’s spooky finale from “Don Giovanni” and Berlioz’s “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath,” may please the ear, it’s often the antics and pageantry of the performers that command attention. From mysterious shrieks and invisible conductors to witches running down the aisles to conjure an on-stage performance, audiences never know what will happen in Hill Auditorium each year.

While the 2020 Halloween Concert has been canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, it will surely rise to delight and fright attendees when it is safe to gather again.


Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10, is senior assistant editor of Michigan Alumnus.

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