- Holidays and Celebrations
Halloween History from Music for Kids and Adults: A Broom With A View
Music Based on Halloween's History & Traditions
Although we enjoy listening to the carols that play at Christmas, it has been disappointing to many that there are few selections of lovely music to sing about the Autumn season with it's rich history and traditions. There needed to be original Halloween carols written, not just Christmas songs with silly Halloween words, and who better to write Halloween carols than classically trained organist, Kristen Lawrence.
The music in Lawrence's album A Broom With A View is based on Halloween history and the traditions that traveled from the British Isles to America. One fan described it this way: “It’s an alluring mix between a pipe organ in the most haunted of houses and wicked classical music… The unique music appeals to all those who love Halloween, fancy the dark side a bit, and are enchanted by classical counterpoint music and ethereal voices.”
Kristen's compositions are unique for several reasons. Because of her experience as a church organist, she first writes the music in four-part carol style and then arranges it, adding layers of piano, organ, strings, guitar, drums, and vocals. She calls them her Halloween Carols.
Imagination is important in writing music, but she has also spent time researching and reading about the cultural customs and lore of Halloween throughout the world. For this A Broom With A View album, she found two old English tunes associated with the tradition of praying for the dead on All Hallows, which she incorporated into her two versions of "Souling Song."
One of the tunes was familiar as "Hey, ho, nobody home." The other was unfamiliar and is known as the Cheshire tune. Kristen recounts that as she played around with the second tune, she had an epiphany; the beginning notes are the same as the medieval plainchant, Dies Irae - "Day of Wrath" or "Day of Judgment." Historically, it made sense and she wrote one version with cathedral bells ringing with Christians praying for the souls of the dead, and the other from the viewpoint of the dead - since the pagans thought the dead came to visit on the eve of Samhain.
It is interesting that Kristen released her two versions - "All Hallows" and "Samhain" - on her Halloween album the same year that super star Sting released his own version of "Soul Cakes" ... but his was on a Christmas album! This further illustrates another one of her research findings, that there was some blurring and overlap of All Souls and Christmas traditions.
The songs for A Broom With A View were written to paint pictures in your mind and remind you of the FUN and imagination you had as a child and explain the background of Halloween. The words and music of the songs can bring you as much pleasure as the Snickers and Butterfingers you collected in your pillowcase on those magical Halloween nights.
Rue Morgue Magazine's music critic, Trevor Tumiski said, “With sweeping string arrangements, handsome lyrics and layers of her own graceful voice, Lawrence spins ethereal tales with a balance of macabre elements and kid-friendly whimsy ... that give her creations an instantly classic, fun-for-all-ages feel."
For for more Trick or Treats, Teacher Lesson Plans with activities about Halloween History, and free downloads, visit Kristen Lawrence's Website: (www.HalloweenCarols.com).
"This is the most unique Halloween music I have ever heard! These Halloween Carols are nothing less than fantastic. This music will appeal to all ages from small children to seniors.
Brace yourself for when you first listen. These songs are not at all what you expect. Great music with amazing vocals. You will catch yourself playing these tunes over and over. Great for Halloween parties."
Larry McKenzie, The Halloween Network
About the Songs
One can get a taste of the fun treats in store by just reading the titles of the songs on the album, A Broom With A View.
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Mostly Ghostly - A maudlin but mercurial ghost bemoans the lack of physical brains, wailing with a massive pipe organ.
A Broom With A View - The intriguing Halloween night sky invites a sensory-appreciating witch out for a joy ride on her broom. Organ, piano, and strings set this witch ablaze as she takes in the beauty and wonder of October.
Souling Song - All Hallows Version - Traditional English melody and lyrics about the practice of souling, that is, offering prayers for people's beloved departed in exchange for soul cakes. Cathedral bells and organ ring out on All Souls Day (November 2) as the soulers go about this Christian custom.
Souling Song - Samhain Version - A different take on the traditional song, describing the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain, where the dead were believed to visit the earth, accept food offerings, and share their magic. Drums, organ, electric guitar and bass, and voices dance together like wild pagans around a Samhain bonfire.
Dark Glass - Written about a mesmerizing dream Kristen had with surreal Halloween imagery. Windy sounds and distant voices set against organ and strings give the impression of floating through the sky.
Cats In The Catacombs - A xylophone-bone-clinking romp with organ and piano where cats lurking around the catacombs get "spooked to poofs of nerves and fur." Featuring a feline-esque cello.
Sleeping Dust (The Death Lullaby) - A sweet, plaintive lullaby about death to sing to the dead or the living. Organ, piano, celesta, and humming take us from simple beginnings to simple endings with a world of intensity in between.
Flappy Bat - The old Samhain bonfires attracted insects, which in turn attracted bats. In medieval times, burning witches at the stake attracted bats for the same reason, deepening the Halloween association. This carol's vocal duet and patterns in the strings sound like the flapping wings of bats.
Vampire Empire - A saucy invitation from a vampire to a mortal to become one of the blood-hungry undead. A majestic organ and wicked harpsichord waltz together while two kick drums thump like heartbeats.
(with permission by author)
Kristen Lawrence's YouTube Music Channel - Vorswell Music
Besides just viewing Lawrence's official YouTube videos, people have also used music from her albums to create their own fan videos or provide background music for original content. Her music lends itself to the dramatic. So whether you want to be a Cecil B. DeMille on your own project or a viewer, enjoy the show!
For your listening pleasure, the following are some of the A Broom With A View album's songs found on her music channel, Vorswell Music.
A Broom With A View
Souling Song - All Hallows Version
Souling Song - Samhain Version
Sleeping Dust (The Death Lullaby)
Cats In The Catacombs
Music for Themed Halloween Weddings
Halloween music is being used for more than mere yard displays and at parties. Who would guess that the "something old and something new" of traditional wedding music would become a new tradition with the music from Lawrence's Halloween Carols. People who love to dress up and use their imagination are now creating their dream Hallowedding by walking down the aisle to the classically-based music of Kristen Lawrence. Make your own history.
Have a penchant for Vampires? Use "Vampire Empire" or "Blood Waltz" (from Arachnitect).
If you are a bit of a Witch? Swoop down the aisle to "A Broom With A View".
Love ghostly organ music? "Sleeping Dust" will thrill you.
Here is a list of unique and dramatic music that can be used. Choose what you want; it is YOUR special day!
Other Albums by Kristen Lawrence
These other albums are available as physical CDs or Digital downloads through Amazon and CD Baby, and digitally through iTunes.
The first album's title song, "Arachnitect," is reminiscent of the story A Spider and A Fly, complete with a chase across a web. The elegant "Blood Waltz" brings to mind a Vampire Ball with waltzing undead. The album also includes two versions of American folk tune, "The Ghost of John."
Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven
The Raven - Kristen Lawrence's musical setting of all 18 verses follows the feelings of the narrator as he falls progressively deeper into the maelstrom of despair over his lost love, Lenore. Each verse was composed as a musical vignette to illustrate the growing madness as Poe’s character is tormented by the presence of the raven. Kristen’s pure soprano sings the narrative, as if sung by the ghost of Lenore. The album also contains vocal and instrumental versions of the American folk tune, "The Ghost of John."
Bite-sized music candies for the radio or short attention spans! Compiled from the A Broom With A View and Arachnitect CDs. This album also contains the full instrumental version of "Dark Glass."