At academy, great music for an eerie evening; Halloween means it's time for organist's annual chapel concert


Costumes are ready, and candy is bought, so it's time once again for Monte Maxwell's annual Halloween Organ Concert at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel.

Over the past three years, Maxwell's creepy and colorful musical extravaganza has become the area's most artful, delightful and popular celebration of the October holiday.

Last year's concert brought a record-breaking number of people into the chapel for an evening of great music, evocative lighting, spooky, smoky special effects and many other surprises.

This year's concerts take place at the chapel tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. and 8: 30 p.m. and promise more of the same. Selections from "Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables" and "The Lion King" will be offered along with Maxwell's expert renditions of organ classics like J. S. Bach's magnificent, ever-shocking Toccata & Fugue in D minor.

Maxwell's keyboard expertise might get overlooked amid the costumes and eerie special effects, but it has been the essential ingredient in the success of the series.

Not only is he a showman who brings off the Draculesque aspects of his role with consummate flair, he is a master organist whose flying fingers and vast technical knowledge combine to make "the king of instruments" speak with uncommon eloquence and authority.

What I also admire about these concerts is that a powerful, uplifting message has been appended to them in a natural, undidactic way. When Maxwell plays Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" toward the end of his program, the ghoulish elements abate, and the sacred overwhelms the profane.

Darkness is defeated by light. Lasting good triumphs over transitory evil. And the witches, hobgoblins and black cats of All Hallow's Eve give way to All Saints Day on Nov. 1.

Tickets to the Halloween Organ Concert are on sale at the Naval Academy ticket office in Rickett's Hall or at 800-874-6289.

Adult tickets are $5. Children age 12 and younger are admitted free, but require a ticket for admission.

Information: Naval Academy music department, 410-293-2439.

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