On a presumably dark night the Friday before Halloween, a small church in Canajoharie will be shaken to its foundations by Eric Stroud, his pipe organ, and Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.”
“It’s the piece everyone thinks of when they think of Halloween,” Stroud said, humming the opening notes.
It’s an imposing, instantly recognizable melody and will kick off the upcoming Halloween recital at the old St. Peter & Paul Church.
After a little Bach, local singers and classical musicians will take over, playing such favorites as Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, the theme song from the television classic “The Addams Family,” and even “Dem Bones,” “to get people in a Halloween mood,” Stroud said.
The old church, already fairly imposing with its rough gray stone construction, will be made a little extra spooky by some deep red lighting.
Stroud expects a good turnout, pointing out that “people get really excited about Halloween,” especially the opportunity to get into costume. For Stroud though, it’s all about the music.
“The organ is the king of instruments,” he said. “It can go from the most intimate whisper to shaking people in their seats with the twitch of an organist’s foot. Having that power is awesome.”
That power fits very well with the dramatic nature of Halloween music.
“I don’t normally get to play spooky orchestral stuff in church,” he said.
Stroud owns the former church building, but back home in New Jersey he’s the organist for his church. Shortly after the Halloween concert, he’ll have to dive into Christmas music practice. The happy carols and uplifting scores are a staple of the season. Last year, the old St. Peter & Paul building was jammed with 260 people, 10 over capacity, for Stroud’s Christmas concert.
The holiday cheer is all well and good for listeners, but between the congregation in New Jersey and his own recitals, Stroud will be playing happy music for months. Friday night’s recital is the last chance for a while for him to unleash the full power of his instrument — Christmas music is not nearly as loud or dramatic as Halloween music.
The power of the organ is what led Stroud to buy the old church in the first place. Back in 2010, the Call to BE Church initiative of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese led to a merger of St. Peter & Paul in Canajoharie, St. Patrick’s in St. Johnsville and St. James in Fort Plain, forming Our Lady of Hope Parish.
The consolidation left the old building in Canajoharie empty. At the time, Stroud was frustrated with his lack of practice time and wanted his own organ. He liked St. Peter & Paul’s organ, but it was built in, so he just had to buy the whole building.
Now, many from the old congregation turn out for his concerts. Some, like the Hallows Eve Singers, actually the Our Lady of Hope choir, will sing at Friday’s Concert.
The Halloween recital starts at 7 p.m. Friday and will run for about an hour. It is free and open to the public. Costumes are welcome.