Yalies search for the “Holy Ale” at 2021 YSO Halloween Show
The Yale Symphony Orchestra returned to an in-person Halloween Show format this year with modern and classical pieces accompanied by a silent film.
On Oct. 31, Woolsey Hall hosted the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s annual Halloween Show at 11:40 p.m. Though public health restrictions only allowed for 275 audience members, with tickets selling out in seconds, students tuned into the live streamed concert.
Thursday night’s musical festivities began with an opening performance by Low Strung — a rock-cello group made up of 12 classically-trained Yale student musicians — and was followed by the YSO Halloween Show. After costumed orchestra members greeted the audience, the lights went down, and a silent film titled “YSO and the Search for the Holy Ale” began to play. The film followed a pair of Yale undergraduates on a mission to find a cup that would free them from ever studying for classes again. The soundtrack for the film, played live by YSO, included modern pieces by artists including Britney Spears, Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eillish, along with classical music, such as Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird,” Wolfang Amadeus Mozart’s “Magic Flute Overture” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9.”
“What I enjoyed the most about the show was the joy and enthusiasm everyone associated with the show put in,” said Supriya Weiss ’24, one of the co-producers of the show. “All of us in the YSO are so excited to have in-person shows back, and everyone involved with the project really gave their all, so that was such a great experience to get to be a part of.”
Weiss co-produced the show with Aria Harris ’24. According to Weiss, the script was pitched by Francis Fedora ’24 and selected from a group of script ideas sent to the producers in spring 2020. Fedora’s script was intended to run as the 2020 Halloween Show, but once the YSO found out about University COVID-19 restrictions, it decided to table Fedora’s script for Fall 2021 and produced “The Virtual Bachelorette” for last year’s performance instead.
Lucy Wilkins ’22, the film’s director, wrote the show with Fedora. When the script was finalized, musical director Jacob Miller ’22 scored the show based on the script and later worked with conductor Jun-Davinci Choi ’23 to line up the score with the movie.
According to Wilkins, directing the silent film was “interesting” given University mask requirements, since acting in silent films is reliant on how actors’ mouths move. Wilkins was forced to pay special attention to directing actors’ gestures and hand movements — an experience very different from her previous directing endeavors.
According to Alec Chai ’22, the film’s lead actor, transitioning back to an in-person Halloween show format was a struggle after last year’s show was screened entirely virtually. This was the first Halloween show for several members of the orchestra, and they were not familiar with the production process. Chai noted there are aspects of production that can be overlooked, such as actors having to acquire their own costumes and orchestra members coordinating section entrances. Despite these challenges, Chai said the show turned out “really well” and that YSO members were “very happy” to perform in-person.
“It is always very difficult to manage to put together a huge process of filming, script writing and directing, but the product turned out really well,” Chai said. “This was probably the best Halloween show we’ve put together in the four years I’ve been here, so I was really excited to be a part of that.”
Audience member and first-time Halloween show attendee Kostas Markopoulos ’25 said that the film reminded him of the early years of cinema — when films were silent, a live band played an accompanying soundtrack and actors’ lines were displayed on the screen, forcing them to use expressive body language to convey emotions. For Markopoulos, the show merged the “old movie vibe” with modernity, which he thought fit “perfectly” with the play.
“I liked how they made the show contemporary by adapting modern popular songs… [and] movie theme songs like that one from Indiana Jones,” Markopoulos said. “The movie plot was very funny and included different inside jokes among the students, showing that this show was clearly aimed towards them.”
Another audience member, Carrie Zhou ’23, a former arts staff reporter for the News, expressed similar sentiments.
“The film itself was super well-made, the storyline was creative and entertaining and the references to life on campus — like having to put your mask on before going into Commons — made it really funny,” Zhou said.
The Yale Symphony Orchestra’s next concert will be on Nov. 13 at Woolsey Hall.