Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

‘Play it By Fear’ brings Halloween to Seaport

Annie Zhou
Beacon Street Quartet, a string quartet, performs music at the “Play It By Fear” event.

Halloween lovers of all ages gathered for a night of haunted harmonies at The Rocks, one of Seaport’s newest event spaces. The “Play it by Fear” concert, a collaboration between the Seaport and Provincetown Brewing Co., featured some of Boston’s spookiest local businesses with the musical stylings of the Beacon Street Quartet.

As attendees entered the venue, they were welcomed by a collection of surrealist figures by multimedia artist Bill Crisafi and fashion designer Hogan McLaughlin. The sculptures resemble tall masked mannequins with animal heads created by Cristafi and extensive, flowing robes designed by McLaughlin.

The unsettling beauty of these sculptures starkly contrasted their surroundings. The trees enveloping the area formed a secluded green space amidst the bustling Seaport district. Transitioning from a busy urban space to an eerie tree-lined sculpture exhibit was the first of many tonal shifts guests experienced throughout the night.

The show began at 6:30 p.m. with a rendition of “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saëns, a composition from 1875. This piece, although frequently used in Halloween-themed media, isn’t widely recognized by general audiences. What it lacks in recognition, though, it makes up in its captivating allure. Saint-Saëns’ haunting violin melody draws listeners in with a sense of temptation that made it unpopular upon its debut. Its musical depiction of a dance held by the devil himself unsettled critics. The piece still retains that forbiddingly hypnotic feeling with every performance, and a noticeable hush fell upon the audience until its dissonant conclusion.

After a brief introduction by Ashlee Feldman, host of the JAM’N 94.5 radio show, the quartet propelled the audience 200 years into the future with the iconic “Jaws” theme. Following “Danse Macabre” with “Jaws” highlighted the repetition and dynamics that cause both songs to invoke fear and intrigue, demonstrating the similarities between suspenseful music old and new.

Combining classic and modern styles has been a core philosophy for The Beacon Street Quartet since their founding in Aug. of 2021. The group, consisting of Bree Fotheringham and Nikki Naghavi on violin, Oliver Chang on viola, and Timothy Paek on cello, performs regularly in Boston’s Candlelight Concerts and many other events in the city. They focus on music that appeals to a wide range of audiences, which fit the event’s goal of attracting concertgoers of all ages.

This goal was also reflected in the event’s free admission and selection of local vendors that participated. Provincetown Brewing Co. provided beverages for the evening, and catering company Puffy Clouds Boston provided complimentary popcorn to all concertgoers. Brave Daughters, a local fine jewelry store, set up a face painting booth behind the stage for all attendees to enjoy.

Claire Kilcullen, senior manager of culture and experience for Boston Seaport by WS Development, planned to make the night enjoyable for all by combining those elements into one event. While there are many Halloween-themed events in Boston, Kilcullen felt that they rarely attract both older and younger crowds.

“We wanted to make something that felt fresh, new, and like a good time no matter who you are or what age you are,” Kilcullen said in an interview with the Beacon. “We wanted to do something that you could bring your kids to but still go to with your 27-year-old girlfriends or your fiance.”

After “Jaws,” the quartet went into full swing with classical renditions of popular songs the audience knew and loved. When the familiar melody from “The Addams Family” filled the air, the iconic theme song’s snap echoed from hands big and small all over the venue. Children and grown men chanted along to the quartet’s rendition of “Ghostbusters” as emerald smoke billowed from the stage. 

The audiences remained engaged as Feldman encouraged them to guess the titles of the pieces played. The themes from “The X-Files,” “Stranger Things,” and “Beetlejuice” immediately elicited a response. Although the themes from “Friday the 13th” and “Hocus Pocus” were not recognized as promptly, the quartet brought everyone back together with the fan favorite “This is Halloween” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” “The Time Warp” from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” highlighted the quartet’s masterful conversion of the piece from a rock-and-roll instructional dance to an equally infectious classical arrangement. 

The quartet elevated the energy with the famous piece “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” characterized by its recognizable melody and accelerating tempo. Much like “Danse Macabre,” which was composed in the same year, it has an entrancing timeless quality that attracted new renditions from many different artists. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” brought the concert to its peak in terms of energy, leaving the audience stunned from the piece’s speed and crescendo.

The quartet concluded with “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter, paying homage to recently deceased actor Michael Gambon. The ballad added a somber tone to the performance’s otherwise jubilant and catchy themes, changing the mood to melancholy upon its conclusion. It made an impact on 27-year-old Alyssa Kauffold, who felt it was a great way to kick off the Halloween season.

“It was so fun to hear Halloween classics played in an orchestra [and] watch the interactions of the musicians and hearing the crowd get into it.” Kauffold said. “The vendors here were also super fun to check out … It was a great start to October.”

“Play it By Fear” showcased the range of the Halloween season, highlighting the holiday’s versatility in media through song. The Beacon Street Quartet expertly portrayed this versatility by performing both catchy themes and unsettling classical melodies. The iconic music combined with the support of local vendors and event organizing staff created a perfect harmony that exemplified the spirit of October.

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