With the music beckoning them, a few dozen concertgoers head to a historic chapel inside Green-Wood cemetery for a powerful instrumental performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the Black National Anthem, written by James Weldon Johnson who is buried at the cemetery.

What You Need To Know

  • Andrew Ousely and his Death of Classical company have produced many concerts at Green-Wood Cemetery, but a recent series was inspired by the pandemic and police violence

  • Mini concerts throughout the cemetery featured music that spoke to the tumultuous times including "Lift Every Voice And Sing," also known as the Black National Anthem

  • James Weldon Johnson wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and is buried in the Green-Wood Cemetery

  • Many concertgoers had tears in their eyes listening to the live performances including a rendition of "Strange Fruit," a Billie Holliday song from the 1930's about racism and the horrific practice of lynchings

The concertgoers then walk in the dark to mini performances throughout the cemetery. The concert is one of many that Andrew Ousely and his company Death of Classical have produced here. "I just feel like my hearts been Broken over and over. The sirens of the pandemic, the people just killed for no reason, the political cacophony, and so we put this together to try to have a reckoning with this moment, a sort of a communion, a catharsis of it," Ousley said as he walked along with the audience.

The concert was called "To America." Liz Player's Harlem Chamber Players provided the music. "The mood in the church and the art behind them, I thought it was beautiful," she said.

The music, visual art and poetry of the night dedicated to victims of the coronavirus and police violence were well-received. Some had tears in their eyes. "The pieces were so beautiful and I just found it to be so moving and powerful," Christina Bianco said about her emotional response.

Many are drawn to the event because of the unique setting, but for some it’s simply a chance to share a live music experience with others. "I think we were all so moved we didn't even clap in between pieces we just sort of sat with the silence and let the music ring in our ears," said Lucy Duda.

At the end evening, the darkness that descended on the cemetery made it impossible to see the performers, but that did not diminish the impact of the music. "I think it makes us feel something that's more than the sum of its parts, more than notes on a page, but when played right by the right people in the right place it communicates something so much greater than ourselves," said Ousley as he walked along in complete darkness.

Death of Classical will stream videos of its performances during the winter, and hopes to have more live events like this in the Spring.