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Sinfonia gets spooky over Halloween weekend

Sinfonia musicians take the stage at Richardson Auditorium. Photo is taken from the center-left balcony.

Isabella Dail / The Daily Princetonian

The drizzly, blustery evening of Oct. 29 set the tone for Sinfonia’s Halloween performance, an hour-long program held in Richardson Auditorium. Sinfonia is a symphony orchestra that is composed of undergraduate students, the graduate population, and members of the local community.

As musicians filed onto stage, the whimsical nature of the Halloween concert became apparent. Concertmaster Charlotte Defriez ’26 donned a pair of devil horns with her concert-black attire, while other musicians scattered throughout the ensemble wore pointed witch hats or pirate garb. One musician ditched the all-black dress code entirely, opting to instead wear a red beanie, a red-and-white striped shirt, and a pair of black circular glasses in an impressive rendition of “Where’s Waldo?” Staffers of Richardson Auditorium also participated in the costume party — the looks ranged from multicolored butterfly wings to a billowing cape.


Ruth Ochs GS ’18, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music and the conductor of Sinfonia, maneuvered around the stage’s Halloween decorations as she took her position wearing a pumpkin hat. Ochs has been a force for Sinfonia, transforming a group that once was a chamber orchestra into a full symphony orchestra. Upon taking the stage, she introduced both the ensemble and her love of the Halloween season, explaining that she even grew the pumpkins dotting the conductor’s stand.

The first few pieces included the full range of the orchestra and featured “A Night on Bald Mountain,” "In a Haunted Forest" and “Vltava,” more commonly called “The Moldau,” from Má vlast. The pieces focused on set topics that explained the quality of the music. For instance, “The Moldau” takes its namesake from the Czech river and starts with a tentative trickle of notes that then builds to mimic the rapids of a river.

Other pieces in the performance included “The Enchanted Lake,” “Op. 62,” as well as a piece performed by the Clarinet Quartet, a select group of 11 students who took the stage for a powerful performance of Albert Uhl’s “Divertimento: III. Allegro con brio.” All the pieces were linked by their connection to the Halloween theme, so eerie notes created dramatic representations of the natural world upon which the pieces were based. Ochs, between two of the pieces, explained that nature was a significant thematic choice that complemented the spooky throughline of the evening. She connected the ominous picture of nature presented in the music to the ongoing climate crisis. Ochs credited Sinfonia violinist Lauren Dreier GS for developing creative and environmentally-conscientious posters to accompany the performance, such as an overlay of backyard vegetation onto sunprint paper.

While much of the performance was rooted in classical music, Sinfonia also branched into modern territory by including a selection from the popular movie “How to Train Your Dragon.” The piece was dramatic, with swooping notes that mimicked dynamic flight patterns and immersed the audience in the fantasy and magic upon which the night was based.

Ochs then took the stage one more time to introduce the final piece, “Orpheus in the Underworld Overture” by Jacques Offenbach. The performance heavily spotlighted soloists — Derek Edwards ’26 on clarinet, Quinn Haverstick ’25 on oboe, Oscair Page ’26 on cello, and Ananya Chakravarti GS on violin. The final piece was a true culmination of the evening, including energetic moments of dance tunes that captured the hall. The performance concluded to a sustained round of applause from the audience with several concert-goers standing to show their support for the show.

Sinfonia’s Halloween performance was truly a magical evening that explores the spectral side of both music and nature. Stay tuned for Sinfonia’s next performance, which will occur on Dec. 10. Although the theme for the performance is yet to be announced, I’m hoping for some festive cheer and perhaps some homegrown Christmas trees as stage decorations.


Isabella Dail is a sophomore and an associate editor for The Prospect. She can be reached at

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