“The numinous setting of Crypt Sessions lends emotional power to the series’ genre-bending programs.”
“The numinous setting of Crypt Sessions lends emotional power to the series’ genre-bending programs.”
It sounded ominous, at the very least: Something called “Death of Classical” was presenting a concert in a graveyard.
If this thing we call “classical” is perpetually endangered, it is also constantly being reborn, thanks to enterprising composers and performers, and also outside-the-proscenium presenters such as Death of Classical’s Andrew Ousley.
The coolest place for music in New York is the catacombs in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, where Death of Classical — which presents music in unusual spaces — put on the premiere of Watching Birds at the End of the World, 14 songs by Aaron Siegel for countertenor (Anthony Roth Costanzo) and vibraphone (Sae Hashimoto).
Extraordinary, rich, luxuriant. these are some of the words Andrew Ousley, creator of non-profit Death of Classical—an immersive, avant-garde music experience— uses to describe the downright bone-cutting, skin-chilling, transportive show. After experiencing the performance firsthand, I know just what he means.
"Giving a voice to underrepresented composers and performers, while allowing the art form to keep growing, DoC is showing classical music is much more than we might have been led to believe, allowing some of us who might have never engaged in classical music still be moved by it, affected by it, and understand it."
The impresario Andrew Ousley has proved adept at finding unlikely spaces for musical performances
Our fearless leader @andrewousley was selected to @pepsi’s #PepsiNYCLocal #ad campaign, for his work at DoC!
It’s a rarity to make out any constellation in New York City, so when the Big Dipper appeared, tilting down above the six-piece “pocket orchestra,” it was hard not to be arrested by the simple pleasure of live music under the night sky after a difficult year. As for concert settings, this one brought the drama. Pink and blue lights gently illuminated the shadowy stonework of the Gothic Arch towering behind the performers, making it seem like a Gothic Magic Kingdom made especially for the event.
"The performance itself was transcendent, with the setting providing a sense of sepulchral Zen as Gil Shaham and the Knights delivered an energetic, playful and well-paced Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61."
The renowned New York Philharmonic symphony orchestra has been on hiatus for the past year due to the pandemic, but has now finally gotten to play in front of an audience last weekend in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery.
Death of Classical, The Green-Wood Cemetery and the New York Philharmonic partnered up to present "Hymn to the City" on June 3-5, where attendees will walk around the Brooklyn cemetery to hear stories of those buried there and a collection of music, dance and poetry.
"'As a native New Yorker, this is a celebration of the city I love, and an expression of gratitude to the people of NYC for the way that they always rise to the occasion,' Andrew Ousley, Death of Classical's founder."
For the last few years, New York’s classical music scene has had the distinct suggestion of death about it. You can thank Andrew Ousley for that. As the founder and mastermind of Death of Classical, Ousley has brought classical music and opera events to characterful, unconventional spaces in the city with exemplary acoustics. These spaces just happen to have been originally intended for the dead.
"Having the twilight walk through the cemetery before the concert, and the moonlit walk back, creates a beautiful bookend of anticipation and release that surround these emotionally-charged musical experiences."
An ensemble from the New York Philharmonic plays Green-Wood Cemetery.
The unique setting will be home to the third season of The Angel’s Share, a series produced by Death Of Classical in partnership with Green-Wood.
"The non-profit has the very specific (and very cool!) mission of producing classical music and opera performances in crypts, catacombs and cemeteries."
A cool location is one thing, the concert experience another. What Ousley puts in front of the audiences is mostly new music, including the world premiere of David Hertzberg’s opera The Rose Elf, directed by R.B. Schlather, in the catacombs, and the Attacca Quartet playing the string quartet music of Caroline Shaw in the crypt (their Nonesuch recording, Caroline Shaw: Orange, won the 2020 Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance).
"To me, classical music is never going to die. It's something that our industry puts so much time and energy and anxiety into, and that's not the problem."
You enter through fantastic arches, designed by Richard Upjohn during the Civil War ... the arches make a perfect entrance for a grand cemetery, especially as night falls, as it is doing now.
"The evening has been fortifying, reaffirming, somehow. Kind of funny: Come to a cemetery, feel more alive."
Concert halls will stay closed through June at the earliest, but Andrew Ousley, the resourceful publicist and impresario behind the presenting organization Death of Classical, realized he could have an entire historic necropolis at his disposal. With its hilly paths and flamboyant variety of trees, its quiet remove and accretions of history, Green-Wood Cemetery is the perfect site for a pandemic concert.
"A sensitively programmed, lovingly produced, meticulously safe two-hour concert came as an exhilarating shock."
“To America,” a musical walking tour of Green-Wood Cemetery, is one of the few opportunities to experience live performance in New York this fall ... music, the cemetery’s holdings and our country’s conflicted racial past came powerfully together.
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.
"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."
Six extremely talented performers came together to present a unique all-Britten programme on the anniversary of the composer’s death at the Crypt Sessions.
Lee’s first violin cadenza was stunningly well-played and led to an intense and powerful ending.
On a chilly evening in November, 49 people had made their way into the Gothic crypt underneath the Church of the Intercession in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood where they were surrounded by the ashes of those who had been cremated and interred there since 1915. Only this time, they hadn’t come to visit the dead—they were there to listen to the transcendental melodies of Beethoven, Liszt and Schumann played by Israeli pianist Matan Porat
"Both the church’s crypt and the cemetery’s catacombs provide intimate environments for the music, with candlelight and an air of mystery. At the crypt, arches and candelabras frame the artists."
Deep in one of New York's most prestigious cemeteries the eerie vibrations of a string concerto ricochet off catacomb walls, a seance of sorts invigorating the spirit of classical music.
Curator Andrew Ousley presents the cheekily named "Death of Classical" concert series at the Brooklyn historic site.
Before playing an unusual — some would say radical — recital in an underground crypt in Harlem, the pianist David Greilsammer explained his thinking to the audience. “Labyrinth,” this 60-minute program, played without a break, was intended to evoke a state of mind common to us all: the feeling of being lost, disoriented, in search of a safe route.
"When the music broke into a wistful melody, like some Moravian folk song, in this context and setting it sounded like a consoling hymn drifting from the church sanctuary."
Staged in Green-Wood Cemetery’s famed catacombs, the series “The Angel’s Share” invites the living to mingle with the dead.
“I think given half of our audience are people who have never been to classical music shows, that intimacy is such a powerful way to convert people to the art form.”
Performances and recordings of the 10-movement cycle, nearly an hour and a half of music for solo piano, are rare. Few performers are willing to take on not only its daunting scale, but also its grueling restraint — a cohesion held together in a delicate tension of wild Romanticism and controlled transparency ... far from Carnegie, in a much more intimate space: the catacomb of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. It’s the latest installment of The Angel’s Share, a series organized in the cemetery by Andrew Ousley, of the wryly named organization Death of Classical
... popular classical concert series “The Angel’s Share” is bringing new life to a place that’s usually pretty dead.
"Although the environment is encapsulated by death, there is no better place to celebrate the beauty of life."
New York-based classical music company Death of Classical staged Dido and Aeneas in a crypt this summer as part of its Angel’s Share series.
"And when I saw it, I finally realized exactly what opera is supposed to make me feel."
Rarely will the aria be heard in a more fittingly sepulchral setting than when the hour-long opera, composed in the 1680s, is performed this week in the catacombs of Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery.
“Rather than do anything too spooky, too macabre, we let the space do that for us,”
A hip group of concertgoers dressed mostly in black met on a chilly spring evening at the border of Harlem and Washington Heights for the latest iteration of The Crypt Sessions.
"Witty, zippy, and fun, this work put a smile on my face that stayed from the very beginning through to the final, understated pizzicato cadence."
Head to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn for a cook-off between two competing burger recipes, a whiskey tasting and a performance of Beethoven’s "Fifth Symphony" by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn.
“Beethoven is one of the reasons why I work in classical music. It was the first classical music that grabbed me and appealed to me and told me a story… it’s incredibly emotional and yet still rich, complex and powerful.”
The evening was the brainchild of Andrew Ousley, who created a new concert series, the Angel’s Share (building on the success of an earlier project, the Crypt Sessions, held in the Crypt under Harlem’s Church of the Intercession), and curated site-specific programming with the artists
"One of the most riveting and unusual chamber music performances of my lifetime."
On June 6, 2018, the opera, “The Rose Elf” by David Hertzberg will premiere in the cemetery’s catacombs which are usually closed to the general public. It’s the first performance in the classical music series also debuting called “The Angel’s Share,” curated by Andrew Ousley.
The impressionistic piece is based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, in which a young woman mourns her murdered lover. The opera is staged in the catacombs at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn—a setting that is designed to enhance the dark theme of the story.
A new series, opening with David Hertzberg’s “The Rose Elf,” will produce classical performances in the narrow catacomb at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
“The Met and Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall put on what for a long time was an extraordinary experience,” said Mr. Ousley. “But what people of my generation expect out of a cultural experience has changed. They want a larger experience than just the performance."
In Manhattan, beneath a graveyard where Mayor Edward I. Koch, John Jacob Astor and more than 100 other New York City notables are buried, there lies a crypt. And in that crypt — a cavernous space with dark corners, vaulted ceilings and the ashes of past parishioners — you may listen to classical music.
Andrew Ousley, curator of the Crypt Sessions, first heard about the space from a friend who had seen Feist perform a private concert in the subterranean room at 155th Street and Broadway.
“I went up to check it out and was smitten by the gloriously creepy and characterful nature of the space, and the utterly unique acoustics that manage to be rich and reverberant while still incredibly intimate and detailed.”
You almost certainly weren’t there in the crypt where the mezzo-soprano sang morbid lullabies and songs of murder — so few people were. (Living people, anyway.) Had you been tempted, you would probably have been excluded; the 50 slots were snapped up almost as soon as the concert was announced.
"Here, the gothic vaults that harbor the ashes of the dead also enliven sound, coating melodies in a reverberant glow while leaving a core of clarity."
It’s hard to imagine a space further removed from a concert hall than the basement crypt of Church of the Intercession in Harlem. Yet there on Wednesday night, the prodigiously gifted pianist and composer Conrad Tao, 22, played a recital for an audience of 50 people.
"Something about this stony space, with ash remains interred in the walls, made it a hallowed atmosphere for listening."
At the Church of the Intercession, a grand Episcopalian pile way uptown, “The Crypt Sessions” draws capacity audiences.
The mood seems a central draw to the Crypt Sessions concert series, organized by Unison Media. The semi-underground crypt chapel we waited to enter hosted several classical concerts in its first season.
The unlikely venue of the crypt of Hamilton Heights’ Church of the Intercession suggested a[n]... intimate and offbeat future for the art form.
"If staging The Tell-Tale Heart in a crypt sounds like a trick, this piece turned out to be a treat as well."
A crypt, they thought, would be an appropriate setting to perform their version of the song. So we took our cameras and microphones — and a lovely piano — deep into the active crypt below the historic Church of the Intercession in Harlem.
"You can feel the weight of death, you can feel the sting. It adequately captures the atmosphere, the somber mood that we are trying to capture with this song."
If Le Poisson Rouge is cool and Roulette is edgy among New York's alternative venues, where does that put the crypt at the Church of the Intercession at 155th Street and Broadway? Slightly underground, with a performance area framed by discreet stained glass, dramatically vaulted ceiling and intimate seating capacity for 100, in the inaugural season of The Crypt Sessions.