Halloween is many things — tricks, treats, parties and costumes — but music is also an essential part of the holiday. As I experienced Halloween in Oxford this year, Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” is one example that was on my mind.
It’s a famous 18th century piece that has been used prominently in early horror films and shows how music can sound dark and foreboding even when it was composed hundreds of years ago. It’s composed of three movements: a toccata, a fugue and a coda.
In the spirit of Halloween and in keeping with Bach’s spooky season staple, here’s the story of a 2020 Halloween in Oxford, as told in three parts.
(a free form opening to the piece; an extended theme of foreboding)
The student was wearing a onesie that was modeled off Lucky, a character from the children’s show “Care Bears.” He was talking about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on Halloween for Miami students.
His friend, dressed similarly in a bald eagle onesie, concurred.
“It’s not the same Oxford that we knew,” he said.
Due to the coronavirus, they were going to hang out with friends at houses, as opposed to actively participating in the mobs that were quickly forming around Fiesta Charra, Skipper’s Pub and Brick Street.
They were not alone in their decision. As day turned into dusk, one could see many small groups of students breaking off and going their separate ways in order to enjoy Halloween on a smaller and safer scale.
Another pair of students preparing to leave uptown expressed similar sentiments about the effect of the coronavirus on Halloween.
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“It’s kind of a bummer, but I don’t mind,” said one of the pair, a girl dressed as Tony the Tiger from the Frosted Flakes commercials. “We’re just going to play cornhole and watch some movies tonight.”
The theme of eventually spending the majority of the night with a limited number of friends as opposed to big groups was a common one among students that were interviewed.
“I normally go to parties, but tonight I’m going to friends’ houses,” one said. “This year, I’m sticking to the people I know.”
While the effect of coronavirus added a macabre tone to the holiday this year, there were many that seemed to be willing to take the risk and have a good time despite the danger of getting sick.
For every student that was walking away from uptown to party in a more isolated environment, there were 10 who were standing in groups, getting food, chatting with friends and not practicing social distancing. The rate of masked partygoers to unmasked ones was incredibly low, giving a whole new meaning to a spooky uptown Halloween experience.
Despite these issues, the festivities went on and led to a scene that was unforgettable to many, especially me (I’m a first-year at Miami, and I had never experienced a college Halloween before.)
(composed entirely of 16th notes; a sense of urgency and excitement)
The streets were lined with cars on every side. The cool fall air served as the perfect environment for Halloween — not too hot for people wearing onesies and comfortable enough for the scantily-clad angels and devils that took over uptown in throngs of five to 20.
Moving toward Brick Street, almost all locations were filled to the brim with boisterous students, the laughter and music flowing into the street where many more were congregated in clusters, having a good time and enjoying the atmosphere.
Skipper’s Pub was no different, with students talking animatedly among themselves amid a sea of people, food and spirits.
The action didn’t stop at street level, however. Pedestrians going at the right time could witness spectacles such as students aggressively drinking shots at the top of a fire escape, or a shouted conversation between a group of people on the street and a gathering of students that had somehow gotten onto the roof of a building.
Moving on from uptown, evidence of partying was reduced, yet still present. Driving around in the surrounding streets, I was treated to the sight of 15 people crowded together in a small driveway drunkenly singing “You Give Love A Bad Name,” a pair of white sneakers suspended on a phone cable in front of a shuttered room lit up by flashing neon lights and two girls singing and dancing alone on top of a table in someone’s front yard, waving their phones to the tune of an imaginary concert that only they were a part of.
This was but a mere sampling of what I experienced while walking around uptown. For the sake of health and safety I did not attempt to attend any parties, but it goes without saying that hijinks and further revelry were practiced behind closed doors and shuttered windows.
(a short conclusion; a powerful free form closing)
Best Costumes: A large group of guys dressed completely in blue who walked around angrily exclaiming that “We’re not the blue man group,” a cow angel (a “holy cow,” if you will), a living embodiment of the Soviet Union flag and three individuals who were dressed up as the Crawfords.
Best Quote: “My pants are split open!”
Best Moment: The Happy Kitchen restaurant had a small takeout box filled with ginseng candy for anyone to take, which has been shown to alleviate the effects of hangovers.
Spookiest Situation: Walking around in an area filled with almost no following of rules or regulations in the middle of a pandemic. The deer that eerily stared at me without moving for three minutes straight while I was returning to my dorm was a close second.