It’s the perfect Halloween ghost story. Late at night and in poor weather, a father seeks medical attention for his young son, rushing against the clock, before his body and soul is taken over by a supernatural creature. 

Except this is no ordinary ghost story; it’s classical music. More specifically, the premise for Schubert’s Der Erlkönig, which served as the inspiration for the Linden Project’s upcoming concert Spirit, Hags and Hexes, premiering online via YouTube at 8:15pm on October 24. 

“There’s so much fantastic poetry about ghouls, elves, witches, the afterlife, etc. that has been set to music by incredible composers,” Linden Project Founder and performer Julie Ludwig said via email. “So the most challenging aspect for me as the programmer was deciding which songs to include and which ones we’d have to save for another recital in the future.”

The concert is the second this season for the artsong collective in a year that could be a ghostly tale- particularly for singers and music groups, who potentially transmit COVID-19 causing aerosols simply by performing. Many organizations reacted by shutting their doors temporarily. But for the Linden Project, whose mission is to share great music of all genres in unusual spaces, this was never an option. 

Although this Saturday’s concert was planned before the pandemic began, Ludwig admits that its future was uncertain. As the pandemic began and the planning process continued,  the collective watched, waited and planned on how to share their already planned season with audiences in a different way. Upon deciding to proceed with a virtual concert, recording engineer Ryan Harper was brought onboard; but a virtual, pre-recorded concert has different challenges than one performed live and in-person.

“It [A live concert] is a very special energy, and one that’s difficult to recreate when watching the performance on a screen. The performers know this, and they definitely upped their commitment, focus and energy during the recording session.”

The virtual experience has also provided the Collective with opportunities not always available during an in-person experience. The Linden Project frequently incorporates visual projections and translations into their performances to create strong connections between lyrics and music. Whereas a live, in-person concert would rely on a projection screen, the virtual concert experience has allowed the Linden Project to seamlessly integrate visual elements and subtitles into the final performance. As a result, a new attention is placed on the performers’ surroundings. In the case of Spirit, Hags and Hexes, the spooky Halloween atmosphere is heightened by the darkened stage, illuminated by candlelight. 

Performers in the concert are all from the nearby geographical areas. In addition to co-founder Jeremy Ludwig performing Schubert’s Der Erlkönig, the concert will also feature Toronto-based soprano Lyndsay Promane. Linden Project frequent collaborator Erika Reiman returns to provide piano accompaniment. 

The ability to bring people together is one of the greatest advantages that Ludwig sees in virtual performances- a silver lining to what might otherwise be a dark or scary season.

“We’re able to reach a much larger audience,” says Ludwig. “For the premiere of our first virtual recital, Songs of War and Peace, we had folks tuning in from all over Ontario, as well as Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Newfoundland, and British Columbia.”

Who: Linden Project
What: Spirit, Hags & Hexes
Where: Linden Project YouTube Channel
When:  Premiering Saturday, October 24 at 8:15pm
Tickets: Free, but $20 donation suggested

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