Exquisite “Hymn to The City” at Greenwood Cemetery With More Live Performances to Come!

The Catacombs Lucy Dhegrae sings Goin’Home

New York Philharmonic filled the air with grace at Green-wood cemetery recently. One of the finer moments emerging from the pandemic is to hear live music again, albeit with small recitals of 3–6 players per performance including musicians, singers, and a dancer; nonetheless moving than the celebrated bounty of a multitude of notes played by the full orchestra, which no doubt will return eventually.

Just to behold Green-wood’s impressive gates and walk through the stunning Victorian entrance with its fantastical pointed towers adorned in necklaces of thick green parrot nests is enough to five sense the WOW of its historic beauty.

We were reminded by signs welcoming people to write the names of loved ones they may have lost on sheets of paper posted on the fence outside. This makes the concert series Hymn to the City an inaugural return to arts and culture for Green-wood and a memorial for the 52,000 New Yorkers we have lost to it, as well as a tribute to our first line workers. Thoughtfully mitigating the audience numbers in groups rather than in crowds, the curators took careful consideration as they created this event. A collaboration between prolific Death of Classical (never, ever dull) the New York Philharmonic and Green-wood Cemetery events. Apropos for all New Yorkers transitioning from the silent days of Covid, this was the perfect night on every level of five unforgettable concerts to initiate us back into live performance.

As the sunset, the city lights enveloped the headstones with a faint glow; on the other hand, thank goodness for the light on my cell as it guided me from one dimly-lit place to the next in the mysterious darkness. Our tour guide began at the memorial for the Brooklyn Theatre Fire Monument of 1876, in which 300 souls perished and recited a poem by James Weldon: My City.

Then we walked up a hill to the Pilots Monument, which was lovingly placed there in honor of Thomas Freeborn, a nautical pilot who drowned during a terrible storm along with 40 passengers only 300 yards from shore in Brooklyn during the 1800s. Two extraordinary composer’s works were played: Arron Copland’s, Simple Gifts and Sergio Ortega’s, El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido! And it was fabulous.

At the Hill of Graves Americans and the British fought against each other. Three hundred troops died in 1776 fighting for democracy. Appropriately Leonard Bernstein, an icon of American creativity and political ethics modest grave was there. With only his name engraved and the year of birth and death on his footstone; tokens, trinkets, and rocks to symbolize having been visited by many lay scattered about the awesome burial spot with reverence. We sat in the grass and heard West Side Story. Glorious! The musicians took us right to it!

At the Hill of Graves, where 150,000 immigrants are buried with and without headstones, Marco Foster sang Paul Simons: American Tune tenderly, and Kinan Azmeh passionately danced, invoking an immigrant’s life.
At the Chauncey Family Mausoleum, we heard an impressive new piece by Florence Price, and Paul Grosvenor sang a beautiful spiritual called: Over My Head. For the finale, we went to the catacombs. There, with its marvelous acoustics, we heard Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue played by Adam Tendler. We listened to Lucy Dhegraeshare’s exquisite mezzo-soprano voice bounce off the arches and trail through the extended passage marked by family vaults of the deceased middle class and, for the most part, no longer used crypts.
The musicians were angels, and if I could point to each one, it wouldn’t mean as much as it would if you heard them in person. It was a heavenly “live” performance! You cannot beat that, EVER! It was stirring and invigorating, and exhilarating. I have never seen anything produced by Death of Classical that didn’t make a difference, but especially when the set design is by aspiring spirits. Check the Greenwood schedule of events as well as Death of Classical to see whats up next. So worth it!

I am an art and culture writer/adviser. You can find my work on HuffPost, The New York Daily News, Artlyst, NY Lifestyle Magazine, Culture Sonar, and Medium.

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