Gavin Guerrette, Photography Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to wipe out beloved traditions, putting pressure on student groups to successfully reintegrate iconic events back into the Yale consciousness. Now, the Yale Symphony Orchestra is prepared to defend their most popular concert of the year: the YSO Halloween Show. 

The YSO Halloween Show takes place at midnight on Halloween every year. The event is centered around a student-made silent film, with a soundtrack that comprises classical and pop music. From the three producers to the actors — excluding the director and cinematographer — the YSO Halloween Concert is a product born entirely from the YSO. 

This year, tickets will cost $10 each to help fundraise for the YSO’s spring tour in Peru, while the show will be livestreamed on the YSO website for free. Tickets for the YSO Halloween Show will go on sale at 10:31 pm on Oct. 16.

Much information regarding the concert, from the content of the movie to the music, is completely secret until the concert. The show is famous for selling out fast and amassing a rowdy costumed audience. 

According to Ryan Zhou ’23, the director and writer of this year’s film, most people on campus have yet to go to an “actual” YSO Halloween Show. For the past two years, the show has either been virtual or enforced strict capacity limits. But this Halloween, the show is back to full capacity. 

“It’s weird because I’ve never experienced the full Halloween show,” Derek Song ’25, co-producer of the show, said. “And even last year with COVID-19, the [strict] capacity guidelines were the same [as other concerts], so it just felt like a slightly more full concert — it didn’t really feel like anything was missing.”

Song believes that the secretive nature of the show is central to its status as a tradition. It builds hype and expectations, while keeping the event “fresh,” he said. But heightened expectations also creates pressure — Song and the rest of the team have spent from 30 to 100 hours working on the show.

Former YSO president Supriya Weiss ’24 produced the show the past two years, during which the pandemic prevented a normal show. At her first Halloween show, which was pre-pandemic, she remembered feeling like a “rock star,” walking on stage in front of a massive, raucous crowd. While YSO shows are usually well-attended, the Halloween show is different; people get up out of their seats, shouting and cheering. 

Alexandra Galloway ’23, having watched the show her first year, recalled the excitement when the lights dimmed right before the start of the show. The whole audience and the orchestra members were in Halloween costumes, with Woolsey Hall being “absolutely packed,” she said. Her Yale tour guide had mentioned the YSO Halloween Show as his favorite tradition — to her, it had lived up to those expectations.

The following year’s show was completely virtual due to the pandemic, while the one last year allowed for only 10% of the usual in-person attendance. Though it was “great being in person,” the audience was much smaller and therefore the show did not quite have “that indescribable feeling,” Weiss said. 

“Last year, when we had that crazy limited audience, there was this thought that if we don’t pull this off, then this tradition will just be lost,” Weiss said. “Like [if we fail], nobody at Yale will remember what the Halloween show was supposed to look like.”

From Zhou’s perspective, the film he created will be a reflection of his time here, and will provide insight for younger students. Though most details are secret, he did reveal that this year’s film was adapted from a movie he is fond of and that it is “Yale-centric.” Song spoiled that “no one ends up dying in the film,” per Yale policy, and that it will be light-hearted yet “a little bit dark” in the spirit of Halloween.

Atticus Margulis-Ohnuma ’25, the music director, is in charge of the film’s score, which is also secret. The YSO only hosts a few rehearsals for the Halloween show, with the pop arrangements being less technically demanding than the orchestra’s usual repertoire. 

“I definitely feel the pressure to create something that I’m proud of, that everyone else is also proud of,” Margulis-Ohnuma said. “The purpose of [film-scoring] is to elicit certain reactions from the audience, make them feel a certain way…and I have 100% faith that this group this year is going to pull off the Halloween show with no problem.”

According to Zhou, the intention of the rehearsals is not so much musicality as it is getting everyone “on the same page.” While YSO concerts tend to be a bit more serious, “there will be mistakes made” at the Halloween show, Zhou said, where the whole point is to “just have fun.”

“When you go to a symphony orchestra, a lot of the time it’s serious,“ co-producer Nadira Novruzov ’25 said. “You sit there and you have to be quiet the whole time and you can’t clap and you have to listen. And that’s fine, that’s a traditional conventional thing. But this is us throwing a party — it’s a YSO Halloween party.”

The YSO was founded in 1965.

KAYLA YUP
Kayla Yup covers Science & Social Justice and the Yale New Haven Health System for the SciTech desk. For the Arts desk, she is covering the Humanities. With an interest in the intersections of the humanities and STEM, she is majoring in Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology and History of Science, Medicine & Public Health.
JANE PARK