As with many other traditional activities in the United States, Halloween will have to unfold in a different fashion as long as the risk of coronavirus spread continues to be a public health concern in 2020. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a set of guidelines for families who plan to exercise the utmost safety not only for Halloween but also for Day of the Dead and All Saints Day celebrations in Hispanic as well as Roman Catholic communities.
Unfortunately, the current risk of COVID-19 contagion has prompted the CDC to advise against the trick-or-treat tradition of Halloween, and it is easy to understand why public health officials consider this to be a risky activity. Imagine children and parents from different social pods gathering to go door-to-door and then returning to their households; this would be a perfect storm for spreading the virus.
At Prodigies Music, we fully support the idea of foregoing the trick-or-treat tradition this time around. We are all hopeful that treatments and vaccines will be developed in the near future so that SARS-CoV-2 will be a manageable risk instead of uncertainty, and so that we can get back to normal. In the meantime, the best we can do for our children and our neighbors is to closely follow the recommendations of public health agencies; to this effect, here are seven recommended activities you can organize this year in order to keep Halloween and music in the forefront.
Introduce Spooky Classical Music Pieces
What makes some classical pieces sound scarier than others? Some scholars believe that it has to do with religious celebrations. In various centuries, composers were commissioned to create musical pieces to play during Mass, and some of them were specifically tied to mysteries; these works became church traditions, but they inspired other composers to think about motifs such as scary folk legends. The arrangements and melodies of the classical music pieces below evoke intrigue as well as ominous feelings, but they are all variations of pieces that used to be played during religious services:
* Der Vampyr by Heinrich August Marschne: This opera dates back to 1828, and it was composed at a time when European society was obsessed with vampire lore.
* A Night on the Bare Mountain by Modest Músorgski: If your child has previously enjoyed the 1940 Walt Disney film “Fantasia,” chances are that he or she is already familiar with this piece, which was inspired by Russian witchcraft folk tales.
* Jaws by John Williams: The masterful American composer was inspired by old pirate films and the works of Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy.
* In The Hall Of The Mountain King by Edvard Grieg: The Norwegian composer thought that scary Viking legends reflected a hard life and misery, which were his inspirations for this haunting piece.
* Ghost by Maurice Jarre: When this French composer was approached to score the 1990 romantic film “Ghost,” the producers only wanted romantic ballads, but Jarre insisted upon including scary passages based on his knowledge of incidental music composed for horror films.
All the pieces above can be found on YouTube. To make them more informative, be sure to explain their origin and inspiration.
Musical Symbols Notations With Jack-o-Lanterns
This is a Halloween activity usually practiced in classrooms where introduction to music theory is taught; it is fun, informative, and can also be conducted with just one student. You need a chart with music symbols and some colored paper and other crafts supplies so that students can make jack-o-lanterns. Each paper creation should match a symbol.
After explaining what each symbol represents in terms of musical notation, the next step should be to select the notes of a simple children’s song or lullaby such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The goal is for the children to match the corresponding jack-o-lanterns to the notes of the song as it plays. This is a game that you can play with Desk Bells or the Prodigies Music Desk Bells mobile app.
Dancing to Halloween Music Videos
Halloween is one of the happiest and silliest celebrations of the year; it is important for children to enjoy this holiday and understand that it is not scary nor gloomy. Through the years, popular music artists have recorded Halloween songs that are not only fun but also irresistible in terms of dancing. Point your browser to YouTube and look for the following videos:
* Sheb Wooley’s Purple People Eater
* Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters
* Bobby Pickett’s Monster Mash
There are various music video versions for the songs above. Choose the ones with dance moves and challenge your child to pull them off. Additionally, you can also review some of the lyrics to sing along with the chorus.
Keep the Beat With a Halloween Stuffed Toy
This game is for the youngest musical students; we are talking about toddlers who need to understand basics such as keeping the beat. Head to the toy store and look for Halloween-themed stuffed animals such as teddy bears with vampire capes. You will only need one stuffed toy and a bouncy children’s song, which does not have to be related to Halloween, but it should be get the attention of your student. As you play the song, find the beat or clap to it before giving the toy to your student; show how the beat can be matched by either bouncing the toy on one hand or against the knees.
Play Some Halloween Films for Children
Music scores are crucial in every film made for the enjoyment of children. Since you will have to stay home instead of going out on a trick-or-treat route this year, this could be a good time to view some Halloween classics that kids have learned to love. Some recommended titles include:
* Super Monsters Save Halloween (2018)
* Goosebumps (2015)
* Fun Size (2012)
* Paranorman (2015)
* Coraline (2009)
Of the films above, the one with the most engaging musical score is probably Coraline, but you should let your student be the judge in this regard.
The Pumpkin Patch Song
This activity is ideal for students who are in the first and second grades. Pumpkin Patch is an old song that teachers of early music education have transformed to fit into their curricula; it is a good solfege exercise because the tune goes like this:
Sol (x2) mi, sol (x2) mi, do (x3) re mi (x2) sol fa mi re do (bis)
The lyrics can be sung as below
Pumpkin patch, pumpkin patch: Sol (x2) mi
Looking for a pumpkin in a pumpkin patch: Sol (x2) mi
Here is one, nice and fat. Turn into a Jack-o-lantern, just like that: do (x3) re mi (x2) sol fa mi re do (bis)
You really want to stick to the tune of Pumpkin Patch instead of allowing students to deviate or get creative; after all, the goal is to become more familiar with solfege.
Match the Rhythm With Pumpkin Patterns
Listening and memory retention are the cognitive skills promoted with this activity, which you can create using solfege or musical notation. Make up a series of rhythms with four beats; you want to keep them simple enough for students to listen and either sing or play on toy instruments. If you choose solfege, for example, you can go with sol-fa-mi-re.
Have your students either sing or play each rhythm before writing it on the back of paper pumpkin. Each rhythm will be written on two pumpkins. Once you have three or four sets of pumpkins with the rhythms facing down on a table or on the floor, shuffle them around so that you can play a memory matching game. Play or sing the rhythm, have the students repeat it, and then ask them to start flipping over pumpkins until the rhythm is found. Each time a match is not made, the student should flip the pumpkin over before playing or singing the rhythm and turning over the next pumpkin.
BONUS ACTIVITY: Prodigies Halloween Episode – Montagues & Capulets (Dance Of The Knights)