The annual Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ Halloween bash, at Merrill Auditorium on Tuesday evening, struck a balance between the scary and the silly. Part concert, part party, the event began with cookies and candy in the foyer, and a costume contest on the stage.

But the main event was a screening of the 1925 version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” a horror classic of the silent era, with Lon Chaney in the title role and Mary Philbin as Christine Daaé, the operatic ingenue with whom the Phantom is obsessed. Tom Trenney, an organist based in Lincoln, Nebraska, and a frequent guest of the Friends for these film programs, provided a live score.

“The Phantom of the Opera” was a scary film in its day, and it still is, if you can forget about the modern horror films you’ve seen, overlook the primitive lighting and makeup and the actors’ exaggerated gestures, and imagine how these images looked to audiences of the time.

That gets harder as the decades roll on, and perhaps a Halloween party is not the time to try to embrace these productions as serious art. In any case, neither Trenney nor the audience seemed inclined to do so: Trenney’s accompaniment was packed with tongue-in-cheek musical references, mostly from the classical canon, and the audience laughed along, adding effects of its own, including applause when the opera audience on the screen applauded, for example, and occasional called-out wisecracks, particularly toward the end, as the crowd makes its way to rescue Christine from the Phantom’s clutches.

Even so, works of art inevitably take on the spirit of the time in which they are seen. So, when the Phantom establishes his power at the opera house (ignoring his casting suggestions can result in the house’s chandelier crashing down during a performance) and, seen as a shadow, reminds Christine that he is the force behind her success – for which he expects her to forsake her fiancé and give herself to him – it was hard not to imagine a remake, with the Phantom reconfigured as Harvey Weinstein or any of the other power-wielding sexual predators who have lately taken a fall.

Trenney’s score was essentially reactive. Since the film is set in Paris, “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, was a recurring theme, sometimes offered in a minor key variation, or with melodramatic effects. When Christine’s rival, Mlle. Carlotta, is seen onstage with a mirror during a production of Gounod’s “Faust,” Trenney quoted Leonard Bernstein’s “I Feel Pretty,” and when the Phantom leads Christine through his underground lair, Trenney returned to “West Side Story” for the opening passage (“there’s a place for us”) from “Somewhere.”

A moment later, in the same scene, he presents a stretch of Baroque counterpoint, but as the Phantom takes Christine across the underground lake, Trenney added “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as a contrapuntal strand, but in a minor key variation. Along with Bernstein, Bach was among Trenney’s go-to sources: The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, long associated with this film, makes a couple of appearances, and Trenney mined the potential spookiness of the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, as well.

Bach’s “Sleepers Awake” chorale and Grieg’s “Morning Music” made it into the score as well, during Christine’s captivity in the Phantom’s lair, and both Mendelssohn’s and Wagner’s wedding marches are quoted when a bridal veil is shown, or marriage is discussed.

You get the idea, but Trenney is a fine player, and his score was more than an extended version of “Name That Tune.” While he was unabashedly (and successfully) playing for laughs some of the time, he also kept the drama in view, weaving his quotations into a dark, reedy score, with ominous and sometimes brashly dissonant harmonizations that suited the film. He used the Kotzschmar organ’s resources effectively, drawing on various of its bell-like sounds and other colorful timbres, without overusing them.

One piece of interesting news emerged from the evening. When Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ’s sponsors and coming events flashed on the screen before the concert, the organization listed a previously unannounced recital, on April 18, by James Kennerley, the newly-appointed municipal organist.

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kozinn