Brooklynites celebrate Memorial Day with concert at Green-Wood Cemetery


On Monday, May 27, Brooklyn residents flocked to the 21st annual Memorial Day concert at Green-Wood Cemetery featuring the New York City Symphonic Band.

Hundreds of concertgoers sat in folding chairs or on the shady hillside while the band, led by Conductor Paul Corn, played under Green-Wood’s landmarked gothic arch. The program featured patriotic standards like “Battle Cry of Freedom” and “America the Beautiful,” as well as music composed by some of the cemetery’s permanent residents, including Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Grafulla and James Weldon Johnson.

Broadway star Caesar Samayoa and jazz vocalist Renée Manning were the concert’s featured soloists. U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Assemblymember Felix Ortiz were in attendance, and both delivered remarks honoring New York’s veterans before the start of the show.

“New York and Brooklyn have a long history of service to our nation and sacrifice in defense of our freedoms. There are more than 190,000 veterans from all our nation’s wars living throughout the five boroughs, and we owe them a debt of profound gratitude,” said Velázquez.

This was Green-Wood’s 21st annual Memorial Day concert. The first was conceived to honor Louis Moreau Gottschalk, a 19th-century composer who entertained troops during the Civil War and is buried at the cemetery along with an estimated 5,000 Civil War veterans.

The cemetery has a long history of being used for recreation as much as a burial ground, and Green-Wood President Richard Moylan said hosting concerts on the grounds is in line with that tradition.

“As we become less and less of an active burial site we’ve started thinking, this is 478 acres of beautiful landscape that people need to see and know about,” said Moylan. “Between the programming and the attention we’ve paid in the last 10 years to the horticulture and the trees, it’s a reason to come here just to walk around these days.”

Fort Greene resident Laura Fiesel sat on the hillside surrounded by tombstones and enjoyed the music on Monday afternoon.

“It makes a different kind of atmosphere than a concert at Prospect Park,” she said. “I feel like everybody here has respect for the dead, and that feeling of respect extends to the music and to the holiday.”

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