BY OLIVIA MARBLE ’21
Abbey Chapel was decorated with skeleton bones, cobwebs and spiders last Saturday for the annual Monsters Ball. The outer space-themed concert, put on by the Mount Holyoke Orchestra, was, featured celestial music and the orchestra’s conductor, Tian Hui Ng, wore an astronaut suit. Members of the orchestra and many audience members also dressed up for Saturday’s two performances, The Kids’ Monsters Ball and Monsters Ball.
The Kids’ Monsters Ball, a tradition since 2014 meant to give back to the community, took place in the morning. “We really wanted to fill whatever gaps we see in the provision of that kind of music, classical music in particular, in the area,” said Ng. “There wasn’t really a casual setting for kids to come in contact with classical music in a relaxing way because often the… ritual of going to a classical music concert is pretty severe.”
In an attempt to stray from the rigidity of a classical music performance, the concert was shortened and kids were allowed to wander around the chapel, dance and make noise during the Kids’ Monsters Ball. The concert also featured an instrument “petting zoo,” in which children had the opportunity to interact with orchestra members and their instruments.
The second Monsters Ball performance began with a piercing rendition of “Interstellar,” which featured the soprano section of Mount Holyoke’s Glee Club. The rest of the concert alternated between Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” and popular waltzes that had a connection to space. Composer Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” is an orchestral suite that features a movement for each of the planets, excluding Earth. According to Ng, the decision to perform the suite came from a student’s suggestion and in fact that, this year, the orchestra had the right musicians for the piece. While the orchestra played “The Planets,” a slideshow created by Mount Holyoke’s astronomy club was projected on the chapel wall, displaying facts about each of the planets as the corresponding movement played.
The orchestra also played popular waltzes, such as Strauss’s “Blue Danube.” During the waltzes, Ng encouraged audience members to dance. Despite the limited space of Abbey Chapel, there were handmaids, witches, characters from Stranger Things and even a banana waltzing to the music. “The fact that everyone’s in costume and actually dancing in the middle of the aisle really says something about our school,” said audience member Ilana Goldin ’21.
During intermission, there was a short costume contest. Contestants signed up beforehand and ran down the aisle while judges looked on. The winners of the contest were Shaeleigh Hopkins from Easthampton dressed as a cat, Lauren Hirth ’21 dressed as Marie Antoinette’s head and Melissa Carney ’19, Katie Armstrong ’19 and Aron the service dog dressed as Elsa, Anna and Sven from Frozen. Contest winners received gift cards for Thirsty Mind, Atkins Farms and Tower Theaters.
Admission to the event was free for any Five College student, which was a change from past years when the orchestra used to charge three dollars for admission. According to orchestra treasurer Alexandra Brennan ’17, this change occurred because the orchestra is partially funded by the Student Activities Fee.
This year’s Monsters Ball was one of the most popular, according to Relyn Myrthil ’19, a co-president of the board. Ng said almost 400 people showed up. The rise in attendance may have been a result of the free admission and the board’s changes in publicity. “We doubled our publicity efforts and tried to make them more personable,” said Myrthil. “We [handwrote] letters to certain business and schools in the community, and we also [promoted] the costume contest.” The next orchestra concert, The Orchestra Celebrates Musical Friendships!, will take place on Dec. 7.