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Green-Wood Cemetery performance
Photograph: Courtesy Green-Wood Cemetery/Maike Shulz

Green-Wood Cemetery is hosting an immersive storytelling event set to live music

Walk through the historic cemetery and hear the stories of its residents at The Angel's Share.

By
Shaye Weaver
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The Angel's Share live music series is coming back to Green-Wood Cemetery this fall to celebrate and ruminate on America through song, poetry, dance and storytelling.

The series will include A Lament for Troubled Times (September 19 and 26), To America (October 22-24), and six virtual performances, From the Catacombs (dates to be announced), at a time when in-person performances are at a minimum.

The highlight of the series, To America, will allow visitors to walk through the cemetery and hear the stories of those buried there, including Margaret Pine, the last slave in New York state; Clarence MacKenzie, a 12-year-old drummer boy who was Brooklyn’s first casualty in the Civil War; and others. As distanced visitors walk through the gravestones, they'll also see live dance, hear classical covers of songs written by Carlos Simon, H. Leslie Adams, Caroline Shaw, Leonard Bernstein, and George Walker, and take in the poetry of James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and Terrance Hayes.

The experience is inspired by the poetry of James Weldon Johnson, in particular. The poet, who is buried in the cemetery, is best known for his anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which is widely known as the "Black National Anthem."

This immersive, cemetery-wide performance is meant to be "a lament, a love song, a plea, and a prayer to a nation in a time of deep uncertainty," organizers say. 

"I’ve thought long and hard about what America means to me, and tried to understand how my beautiful and terrible country has reached this howling pitch of anger, injustice, and indifference," said The Angel's Share curator Andrew Ousley. "The grounds of Green-Wood and the stories of the people buried there represent this nation in all of its endless complexity, and as we hurtle toward this pivotal moment in history, I can think of no better place to take a moment to remember all that America has been, and all that it can be."

You can purchase tickets for $95 here.

The series kicks off this month with A Lament for Troubled Times, which are free live performances by a quartet of members of the Harlem Chamber Players performing George Walker’s String Quartet No. 1 and Florence Price’s String Quartet in G major. The performances will take place on Green-Wood’s Hill of Graves, from noon to 3pm, with the program repeating three times each day at the top of the hour at noon, 1pm, and 2pm. (Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.)

You can RSVP for the free performances here.

Right now, it's worth taking advantage of any chance to see live music you can—so make sure to RSVP as soon as possible. Otherwise, you can catch free livestreams of concerts, including ones from Conrad Tao, Jennifer Koh, Jeffrey Zeigler & Helga Davis, the Harlem Chamber Players Quartet, Ulysses Quartet, and Parker Ramsay, from the cemetery's catacombs soon.

For more information on all the great live events at Green-Wood, check out its website. While it may feel weird to take in entertainment at a cemetery, it has been a source of comfort for generations and allows visitors to reconnect with their shared humanity.

"Since its founding, Green-Wood has been a place of respite for mourners and visitors alike," said Harry Weil, the director of public programs at Green-Wood. "In a year marked by a pandemic, wildfires, and social unrest, we look to the healing power of music to renew the Cemetery’s core mission: to provide sanctuary and comfort to those during uncertain times, offering the opportunity to contemplate the complexities of life and death."

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