Boston Pops, Berklee Students Breathe New Life into Nosferatu

They are giving the horror classic's score a 21st century makeover.

Photo by Michael Spencer

Keith Lockhart with a class at Berklee College of Music Photo by Michael Spencer

The Boston Pops and Berklee College of Music have a special treat planned for horror movie fans this Halloween weekend.

The organizations recently joined forces to create a new score for F.W. Murnau’s 1922 classic Nosferatu, which will be presented at Symphony Hall on Friday, October 30. Dubbed “A Symphony of Horror,” the concert is a huge first for the Pops, as they’ve never performed a score to a full-length silent film before.

The event is a big deal for the famed orchestra, but it will also be a pretty significant evening for the eight Berklee students who composed the music for this project.

Under the watchful eye of professor Sheldon Mirowitz, the handpicked class of budding composers worked nonstop for almost four months on their contemporary reimagining of the score. While the Berklee professor crafted the main themes and motifs, the majority of the work was done by the students.

“I don’t remember sleeping too often,” says Matthew Morris, a Berklee senior.

Despite the many sleepless nights, the hard work has clearly paid off.

Not only are they set to hear their music live at Symphony Hall, but they’ve also impressed Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, who worked closely with the group on this collaboration.

“It’s a pretty mammoth project for eight young composers and their teacher,” says Lockhart. “I think the work is very strong and it certainly captures the moods. Lots of suspense, lots of tension.”

Photo by Michael Spencer

Keith Lockhart Photo by Michael Spencer

Mirowitz and his students took a number of steps to update the film’s score.

The bulk of the music still relies on traditional symphony sounds, however, contemporary instruments like the theramin and a vintage synthesizer panel were also used to give it a more modern yet spooky feel.

Lockhart says music plays an integral role in making a film like Nosferatu truly terrifying for today’s audiences.

“A score to a film like that really makes or breaks the film,” he says. “It changes it from everybody looking at it like, ‘Oh isn’t that cute, funny, and a hundred years old,’ to ‘Wow, that can still really scare the blank out of you.’”

Mirowitz’s class usually works with the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra when they compose a score, so getting a chance to collaborate with the Pops at Symphony Hall is an honor for students like Hyun Soo Nam.

“I never expected that my music would be there,” says the Berklee senior. “Boston Symphony Orchestra is really one of the top orchestras in the world. I never expected this moment would be coming this early.”

As the big day looms, the young composers are confident that their score will scare the pants off of concert goers.

“I definitely think so,” says senior Joy Ngiaw. “Every time I watched it I was like, ‘Uh, that’s pretty scary.’”

‘Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror’ plays at Symphony Hall on Friday, October 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at