Updated September 7, 2021
As clarinetists, we are lucky to have a veritable treasure trove of repertoire at our disposal. Throughout the years, I’ve curated quite the music library, including all the standard repertoire and some quirky gems I’ve found along the way.
I’m sure I’m not the only clarinetist who has purchased incidental music by title alone, and I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to share some of my favorites with you. I love planning and performing themed recitals, and I’d like to share some Halloween repertoire inspiration with you. Even though I haven’t performed all of these pieces, I’ve read through them and chosen them based on their evocative titles or musical styles. Although most of these were not written specifically for Halloween, I think the thematic titles and unique tonalities would create quite the spooktacular concert!
So, let’s continue the Jenny Clarinet Halloween festivities with my top Halloween-inspired repertoire suggestions:
- James Scott Balentine – The Devil’s Advice to Storytellers: If the title isn’t scary enough, wait until you have to perform this piece with the entire auxiliary army of clarinets!
- Alicia Grant – Trick or Treat for solo clarinet: This short unaccompanied piece from the Australian Music Centre is perfect for a thematic recital!
- Dosia McKay – Two Moods for clarinet and piano: The first movement, “Haunted,” is about the composer’s childhood fear of being left alone in the dark.
- Zander – The Devil’s Clarinet: I can’t find out much information about this piece, but the title seems very fitting for Halloween!
- Michael Ball – 4 Charms and a Curse for clarinet and piano: I haven’t heard a recording of this piece, but the title is certainly intriguing!
- Maurice Baron – American Gothic: I found this piece at a ClarinetFest years ago and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to program it.
- Eloise Koelling – Impressions of the Fairy Tale Age: Maybe you’re not looking for anything super spooky to play this Halloween but prefer something more whimsical. If so, this piece is for you!
- Alban Berg – Four Pieces: Hear me out – this piece has nothing to do with Halloween, but in the right setting, it can be very atmospheric, and dare I say frightening?
- Rob du Bois – Iguanadon: If the title alone doesn’t convince you, this piece is for six bass clarinets and three contra clarinets. I can’t think of a scarier ensemble.
- Simon Butter – Legends: I got this piece last summer at Vandoren and can’t wait to perform it.
- Mark Carlson – The Hall of Mirrors: Great title, great music – what more can you ask for?
- Scott McAllister – Devil Sticks: Grab four of your clarinet friends and get ready to rock out on your next recital! This title is derived from a nickname for the clarinet, but it also adds a macabre overtone to any concert.
- Olivier Messiaen – Abîme des oiseaux: Messiaen wrote his Quatuor pour la fin du temps during the Holocaust while he was a captive in a prisoner-of-war camp. The chilling history of this piece’s creation combined with the desolate tonal landscape create quite the mood for a haunting concert.
- Justin Merritt – The Day Florestan Murdered Magister Raro: Written for the same quartet instrumentation as the Messiaen, this piece is about the characters found in Schumann’s piano character music.
- Kate Soper – Voices from the Killing Jar: “A killing jar is a tool used by entomologists to kill butterflies and other insects without damaging their bodies: a hermitically sealable glass container, lined with poison, in which the specimen will quickly suffocate. Voices from the Killing Jar depicts a series of female protagonists who are caught in their own kinds of killing jars.”
- Krzysztof Penderecki- Prelude: While this piece has little to do with Halloween, it is a great choice for clarinetists who are beginning their journey into unaccompanied clarinet repertoire. Soft dynamics and plentiful rests create a sinister atmosphere.
- Paul Richards – Magic Forest Scenes: This is a great unaccompanied clarinet piece for advanced clarinetists looking to conjure images of various creatures and nature.
- Anže Rozman – Tale of the Naughty Gypsy: Loved the title, bought the music, waiting for the perfect opportunity to perform this piece.
- Adolf Schreiner – Immer Kleiner: You have the treats, now add this musical trick to your next Halloween concert.
- Anthony Wakefield – Hauntings: Could you ask for a more perfect title in your Halloween concert?
- Dan Welcher – Dante Dances: Invite your audience on your clarinet voyage through Dante’s Inferno.
- John Williams – Viktor’s Tale from The Terminal: Here’s a bombastic and jaunty opener or encore for your next concert. Also, is it even a proper concert without John Williams??
- Halloween Collection: Scary Compositions for Clarinet and Piano: This collection includes arrangements and transcriptions perfect for any Halloween recital!
- Cult Classics for Clarinet: Music from Cult Films: This collection includes music from The Exorcist, Halloween, and other cult classic films!
Spooky duets & trios:
- Mimi the Multicoloured Mummy for two clarinets by David McKeown
- Polly the Polyrhythmic Poltergeist for two clarinets by David McKeown
- Wendy the Wonky Witch for clarinet and soprano saxophone by David McKeown
- Scott the Scatterbrained Skeleton for clarinet and soprano saxophone by David McKeown
- Haunted House for clarinet trio by Cohen
What clarinet repertoire would you program on a Halloween concert?