Spooky Jazz

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett looking Creeeepy

Portland is getting ready for Halloween! Houses are getting decorated, shops are selling costumes, and entertainment is taking on a decidedly eerie feel.

Last Friday, we all went down to the Clinton Street Theater, a movie house built in 1915 at SE Clinton and 26th, for a “Ghostly Gala” put on by the Ne Plus Ultra Jass Orchestra.

Before we even got into the show, we knew it was going to be fun. We had dressed up, and others had, as well. The poster was old-timey spooky and looked like someone with a sense of humor had designed it.

A Fellow Costume wearer

The Ne Plus Ultra Jass Orchestra is a band of ten, plus a visiting violinist. There was a drummer, pianist, banjo, three reed players, a coronet, trumpet, and trombone. This group, with band leader Samuel Murray Hawkins, brought the creepy popular music from the early twentieth century to life. Hawkins was dressed as Gomez Addams, and brought that sense of style and irony to the whole show.

Some of the tunes were very old, such as “At the Devil’s Ball”, an early Irving Berlin tune from 1913, and “Spooky Spooks” from 1916.  But a common musical motif in the tunes was even older. Chopin’s “Funeral March”, written in 1839, has that ominous phrase that all cartoons play when Death enters the picture.

Band Leader Samuel Murray Hawkins, with the Phantom of the Opera on piano

The show also featured dancers of the Washington Dance Collective, two young people who moved to the bouncy music while dressed as Pugsley and Wednesday Addams. During the evening there was a costume contest, where Grandpa Nelson, as Napoleon, stood between a flapper and Ra, the God of Egypt. Ra won, maybe because he was a tiny cute boy, and maybe because no one wants to irritate an ancient God.

The last song of the evening was one of Auntie Bridgett’s favorites, “Mysterious Mose”, so we left on a high note, caught a Lyft car home, and fell into bed. I wonder if I have energy for two and a half more weeks of pre-Halloween activities!


Grandma Judy

Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

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