Angel of Music debuts at Green-Wood

An Angel of Music now graces Green-Wood Cemetery, in the form of a stunning monument dedicated to 19th-century composer and pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk that was unveiled Saturday, October 13.

The bronze angel, which now resides on Gottschalk’s gravesite, stands atop the marble pillar that once supported another statue, which was destroyed by vandals in 1959.

In 2008, the Green-Wood Historic Fund requested artistic proposals for a new statue from 30 leading American sculptors. A year later, the proposals were narrowed down to five finalists, all belonging to the National Sculpture Society. Finally, the commission went to the sculpting team of Giancarlo Biagi and Jill Burkee, two artists very much inspired by the work of Gottschalk.

“We would listen to his music and learn about him,” Burkee said. “We also liked the Creole roots of the music, and tried to give her the look and feel of a Creole angel.”

The statue, 11½ feet high, stands with a hand to her ear and her dress blowing in the wind. “She’s listening, and inviting us to hear the life,” Biagi said. “[Gottschalk] is gone, but his music is alive and fresh.”

The ceremony included speeches from Green-Wood President Richard Moylan, Gottschalk expert Dr. Frederick Starr and Executive Director of the National Sculpture Society Gwen Pier, who were all thrilled by the new addition to the cemetery.

“Green-Wood is very proud to honor Louis Moreau Gottschalk – an extraordinary musician and composer who greatly influenced many different genres of music,” Moylan said. “By restoring the Angel of Music, the Green-Wood Historic Fund is fulfilling our obligation as a center of art and education to keep Gottschalk’s legend alive for generations to come.”

The ceremony also featured a performance of Gottschalk’s great works, including Bamboula and Ojos Criollos, by pianist John Davis. Davis also had much praise for Gottschalk.

“He was the first internationally renowned and respected musician,” he said. “And the first quintessentially American artist.”

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