I love all those fun kooky-spooky stories that don't scare the kids too much, and they get a great work out this tme of year, but it's not often I get to bring out the really scary stories, the blood curdling stuff that earns me a reputation for being too scary.
These are the stories I spend a great deal of time crafting, working up language and imagery, making complex stories with moral ambiguity and adult themes. Unfortunately these stories only get used once every year or two, which is dissappointing when you consider how great they are.
This year I've got a couple of hours-long, adults-only gigs, perfect opportunities to bring out the best of the best. One of my favorite Halloween stories is Pie, the Piper of Out Est Fromage.
Being a musician, I like to tell stories that have a musical component, and a couple of years ago I was looking through a book of musical stories to find some to add to be repetory, and for the first time ever I read The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
I knew the story from cartoons and such, but I had never read it. I liked the story, it had a great musical component so I started to research it - I had absolutely no idea that the story was true!
It blew me away, I devoured eveything I could find on the subject.
My favorite character in the story is the Little Lame Boy. The Little Lame Boy (sometimes the Little Blind Boy) was added by the Grimms. When all the children are taken away by the Piper he can't keep up and is distressed that he doesn't get to go with them.
When the adults ask where they went, the Little Lame Boy is crying, distraught, "Didn't you hear the music, he was taking them away to a magical land of enternal playtime, candy and soda pop!"
In my opinion they were going to Pleasure Island and the Little Lame Boy was lucky to stay behind, but I can imagine this character, growing up in a medieval mill town, unable to work, he becomes a beggar, a raging alcoholic, forever plagued by what he missed. He begs for money, which he uses to buy cheese. The cheese he spreads throughout the town hoping to attract rats so that the Piper will return and take him away.
I decided to learn the story but I needed the right music. I have a recorder, and I figured I needed two songs, one in a major key, for the rats, and one in a minor key, for the kids. I don't really play the recorder very well, and I couldn't come up with two songs that worked the way I wanted, but I do play harmonica, and I had two perfect jazz songs, one in a major key: When the Saints Go Marching In, and one in minor key: Saint James Infirmary Blues.
But they're jazz songs, on a harmonica, they didn't fit the story. So, somehow I decided it would be easier to re-write the entire story around the music then to find music to fit the story. And in the process I turned a Grimm "Fairy Tale" into one of my favorite Halloween stories.
I haven't told the story in two years, but I practiced it up today and it's as good as ever, I can't wait for Halloween time!