Saturday, October 31, 2020

A SONG FOR HALLOWEEN


For me, outside of Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash", "It's Halloween!" exemplifies the holiday more than any other, mainly because of it's minor-key, slightly creepy tune and one that was played on a turntable (yes, an actual turntable) when I was in elementary school in the early 1960's. I recall the recording was sung by a man, the melody, and some of the lyrics -- the rest is just a fading, pleasant and nostalgic memory.

The song seems to have survived as a perennial favorite for kids as I have seen references from people on forums who mention hearing it in school as late as the 1990's.

The lyrics were written by Harry Behn and the music was by Milton Kaye. "Halloween" is included in the songbook, "Music Now and Long Ago", published in 1956.

Here is Behn's bio from the Library of Congress:

Harry Behn was born September 24, 1898, in Yavapai County, Arizona. He graduated from Harvard University with an S.B. in 1922. He worked as a scenario writer for motion pictures and was chiefly associated with King Vidor’s films. Behn taught writing at the University of Arizona from 1938 to 1947 and founded the University of Arizona Press in 1960. He published his first book of poetry, Siesta, in 1931, and, at the urging of his children, began writing children’s books. In 1949, he published The Little Hill, a book of poetry for children. Behn wrote and translated poetry for children, especially haiku, and drew on the poetic heritage of Robert Louis Stevenson in his use of the “child’s voice,” as well as on what critics called “a thread of transcendentalism.” He also wrote fiction for older children and young adults, including The Faraway Lurs (1963). Behn illustrated many of his works and received several graphic arts- awards for his artwork. He died on September 6, 1973.

These are the lyrics, as accurately as I can ascertain:

It's Halloween!
by Harry Behn

Tonight is the night
When dead leaves fly
Like witches on switches
Across the sky,
When elf and sprite
Flit through the night
On a moony sheen.
It's Halloween!

Tonight is the night
When leaves make a sound
Like a gnome in his home
Under the ground,
When spooks and trolls
Creep out of holes
Mossy and green.
It's Halloween!

Tonight is the night
When pumpkins stare
Through sheaves and leaves
Everywhere,
When ghouls and ghost
And goblin host
Dance round their queen.
It's Halloween!

If you want to play it yourself, here is a sample of the sheet music from singingamesforchildren.com:


And here is the song performed by Dany Rosevear on YouTube, who looks like a kindly old schoolteacher! There are other versions of the melody out there, but this one is from the original songbook.



BONUS! Here is another Halloween poem by Behn that I came across on the web (punctuation mine):

Ghosts
by Harry Behn

A cold and starry darkness moans
And settles wide and still,
Over a jumble of tumbles stones,
Dark on a darker hill.

An owl among those shadowy walls,
Gray against gray,
Of ruins an brittle weeds, calls
And a soundless swoops away

Rustling over scattered stones,
Dancers hover and sway,
Drifting among their own bones
Like the webs of the Milky Way.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYBODY!

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