Collaboration offers audiences a Hauntcert treat

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Photo Courtesy of: Jeff Christopherson

Prior to last year’s show,” Escape,” the Hauntcert had always performed one show, Siebenthal said. “The whole auditorium was just packed. People were sitting in the aisles. We decided last year,… that just wasn’t going to work. We went to the two shows. And then everybody [was] like, ‘Oh, this was so much better.'”

The monstrous melodies of Community’s 28th annual Hauntcert, the Orchestra’s yearly Halloween performance, are brought to life only through collaboration. 

This year’s two performances, Orchestra Director Mrs. Melissa Siebenthal said, will perform simultaneously at Normal Community and West on Thursday evening.  

While the Hauntcert was the brain-child of former Community Orchestra Director Herman de Augustine, West has been hosting its own Halloween performance after opening in 1995. 

“We make sure that it’s always on the same day and the same time in both buildings,” Siebenthal said, “so that anywhere the community shows up there’s no confusion. They just [need to] show up on the right day, at the right time.”

The high school orchestras collaborate on most major Hauntcert decisions, Siebenthal said, from music choice to the theme. 

The process starts, the director says, well before school begins. 

In the summer, “we start planning… and then picking the music and getting everything ready to roll,” Siebenthal said. “We hand [the music] out … immediately in the fall. We hit the ground running in August.”

This year’s nine-song “Judgment Day” set will feature pieces from Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast” and the Broadway musical “Phantom of the Opera” to the Halloween favorite “Monster Mash” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” 

“It’s really a hard push from day one to get through all of the material,” Siebenthal said.

This year’s show will focus on scarier, spookier pieces than the last three performances. 

“Every four years,” Siebenthal said, “we try to do… scary Halloween music.”

That’s where the title of the show, Siebenthal said, came from “and the direction that script went.”

Other than the music, Siebenthal said, students are responsible for “pretty much everything you see” — the show’s scripts, the special effects and lighting.  

“I’m kind of overseeing all that,” Siebenthal said, “but the kids… are doing the work.”

The orchestras are “putting in the time practicing to learn the music,” the tech crew is putting in the time to set … and hang lights and program the board,” Siebenthal said. 

Also putting in time this year are Siebenthal’s sister, who is emceeing the show; Choir Director Mr. Ben Luginbuhl and former Community principal Dr. Trevor Chapman.

“My sister is the judge,” Siebenthal said, “Dr. Chapman is [playing a character who is] suing us for a noise ordinance violations”

Parents, also, “are absolutely critical to what we do,” Siebenthal said. 

“I have one parent who’s working stage crew who doesn’t have a kid in the program anymore. She just volunteers to come back and help,” Siebenthal said. “There’s no way we could run the show without parents.”

The collaboration has paid off, as Siebenthal said, some families return to see the show year after year — they are “like, ‘Yeah, I used to bring my kids to this when they were little…and we still come.’”

“It’s kind of turned into a community kind of thing.”

Despite the scarier song selection, the show is aimed at children. It is an experience Siebenthal describes as a “pop concert.”

“We’re playing like lighter music. We’re not playing heavy classical music,” Siebenthal said. “We have all kinds of movie clips, special effects, all of that kind of stuff to keep the little kids engaged.” 

For the older audience members, the show’s script includes jokes and light innuendo aimed at adults.

Siebenthal hopes that during the 45-minute show, audiences “laugh at the jokes,” she said. “I hope the little kids have fun, that the parents have fun and see what our program is about.” 

 

The first of Thursday, Sep. 27’s two performances begins at 6 p.m., with the second show at 7:30 p.m. 

Performances are free of charge.