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Explore our guide to Kansas City's most spellbinding music and arts events this month

Kansas City Ballet dancers in 'Giselle.'
Steve Wilson
Kansas City Ballet dancers in 'Giselle.'

This story was first published in Classical KC's "Take Note" newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox the first Wednesday of every month.

The darkening nights of October are primed for frightful fun and devilish delights. Along with costumes and candy, no Halloween celebration is complete without terrifying tunes to set the mood.

Want a spooky soundtrack to send shivers down your spine? Check out what lurks inside your radio. Classical KC’s upcoming programming throughout the holiday weekend includes a special Halloween-themed Local Feature, eerie selections by host Frank Byrne for From the Archives, and unworldly works sure to set you howling during Sound Currents.

Around the metro (and beyond the airwaves), there’s a monstrous amount of chilling classical music-and-arts-adjacent Halloween events sure to thrill.

Dance Macabre

Gallivanting in the moonlight is a time-honored tradition, whether begging candy door to door or reveling in a midnight dance.

The Kansas City Ballet presents the ethereal “Giselle,” the tragic story of a young woman who dies of a broken heart, joining the ghostly wilis who dance unfaithful suitors to their deaths. The wraithlike troupe, all dressed in white, set the standard for classical ballet in an otherworldly performance. See the Kansas City Ballet at the Kauffman Center October 14-16, 21-23.

For spellbinding cirque, Quixotic presents “Dark Forest” at Powell Gardens. Described as an “immersive, multimedia walkthrough installation,” movement, music, and visual effects are woven into the shadows of the natural world as brave souls wander through the midst of this supernatural experience. Timed entry tickets are limited. October 21-23 & 27-30.

Quixotic's Dark Forest.
Quixotic's Dark Forest.

Spooky Stories

Ghost stories told around a smoky fire serve as one of the timeless experiences of autumn.

Kansas City Repertory Theatre presents Ghost Light: A Haunted Night of Songs and Stories from KC’s Cultural Crossroads in Roanoke Park. This free family-friendly event includes musical performances and storytellers from around the region. Saturday’s event includes craft activities and a “haunted parade” before the performance, with food trucks available early in the festivities both evenings. It’s the third year for this event, happening October 21 and 22. RSVP recommended.

Also in its third year, KC VITAs vocal ensemble celebrates All-Hallows Eve with Octetoberfest in the allegedly-haunted St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. The event includes candlelit performances of seasonal music by living composers and ghost stories told by St. Mary’s clergy, along with Bavarian-style pretzels and specially-curated libations. Learn more about KC VITAs’ vision on the Kansas City Local Feature before getting your tickets for the October 28 performance.

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival (HASF) presents ShakesFEAR on the grounds of the Kansas City Museum. At this family friendly event, HASF stages scenes filled with the witches, ghosts, and ghoulies found in William Shakespeare’s plays. Performances also include music and fire skills. Family friendly costumes are encouraged, as well as picnics, blankets and chairs. Tickets must be purchased in advance. The show begins at 5:30pm on October 29.

Orchestra Occult

Classical music certainly doesn’t shirk from the morbid, with the supernatural world fascinating composers.

The Fountain City String Quartet performs a series of Halloween-themed candlelight concerts at the historic Gem Theater in the 18th and Vine District. The eclectic program is a mix of pop music, classical, and movie themes, arranged for string quartet. Hear a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” alongside Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8, the theme to “Ghostbusters” paired with Camille Saint Saëns’ “Danse macabre.” Sixty-minute performances (only ages 8 and up allowed) are on October 13, 26, and 27 at 6:30pm and 9pm.

A quartet of musicians posed
Courtesy of artists
Fountain City String Quartet.

The Kansas City Symphony performs one of the stalwart hits of the Romantic era with Hector Berlioz’s "Symphonie fantastique." The work includes the goosebump-inducing “march to the scaffold” and the gruesome “dream of a witches’ sabbath,” complete with tremulous winds, quavering strings, thundering percussion, and boo-ming brass. Guest conductor Domingo Hindoyan joins the orchestra and symphony chorus for performances that also include work by Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms October 28-30.

KCS also hosts Petite Performancesfor their littlest fans on October 29 at 9:30am and 10:30am. With the musicians in costume (the audience can dress up as well), they’ll play Halloween-themed chamber music perfect for the family crowd.

Whether you're a trick person or a treat person, ready yourself for a spooktacular season of spectral sights.

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen is a freelance writer in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. Learn more at Proust Eats a Sandwich.