BURGERS, BOURBON & BEETHOVEN FESTIVAL | New York, Green-Wood Cemetery

The Gothic gateway guarding the entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery is worth a second look, especially when it becomes clear that the central spire atop the structure has a birds nest at its base. Pausing to take in the retiring light on the horizon —as well as the monk parakeets returning to their nest— ears adjust to hear the muffled jazz on the other side of the arches and noses start to pick up on the unmistakable scent of smoke and meat. What an invitation to the senses.

Crossing the threshold into this rather unconventional concert setting, the first musical treat of the evening comes into focus: The Wayfairs contributing a jazz/blues/swing soundtrack entirely in keeping with the evening’s Gatsby-esque escapism. It’s also clear that there are morsels that are in high demand: there are three prominent queues immediately visible, the sort that say ‘join me, there’s goodness at the end’. Waiting at the end of two of these are burgers prepared by purveyors of delicious meats: Harlem Public and Madcap Cafe. Of these, whoever had the idea to combine peanut butter, honeyed bacon and beef over at Harlem Public deserves the burger equivalent of a knighthood.

As for the third queue, this is the first of at least 6 bourbon tasting stations positioned throughout the grounds. The first taste is delicious and the colourful array of people attracted to the event are starting to share tips in the queues. Apparently there’s a string trio (The Three Bs as it turns out) playing up the hill near two other liquor dispensaries. This leads to yes, more delicious samples of bourbon, including Ragtime Rye which NY Distilling Co inform us is the oldest Rye whisky in the state. Another wandering pathway leads past Jacob Nordlinger’s Bach cello suites and before long it’s time for the main event: The String Orchestra of Brooklyn performing Beethoven’s Fifth (with some complimentary Schubert thrown in for good measure). WQXR’s Matt Abramovitz contributes humorous compering (and syphilis trivia) that keeps things both comic and macabre for an audience reclining on rows of neat chairs as well as the banks of the manicured graveyard. It’s peculiar and it’s absolutely delightful.

As the tarpaulin of the main performance space flapped against the dusk breeze the orchestra sent Beethoven up into the air making up for open-air acoustics with jubilant gusto. It was reminiscent of those idyllic moment in a green field music festival when appetites for all the good things in life have been perfectly met. It was as if a May Ball had come to Brooklyn for a single evening — for all our sakes, let’s hope it returns for a second.

Find out about the next Angel’s Share concerts at the Catacombs here.

Photo credit Kevin Condon

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