Together Facing the Clowded Sky
I write from the misty mountains of the Berkshires in Norfolk, CT where I’ll be spending the week making music at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Before embarking on the bus ride through the small towns of Connecticut, I flew into LaGuardia and spent the night with a friend in Brooklyn. Her neighborhood borders the historic Green-Wood Cemetery, home to the resting place of Leonard Bernstein. After taking the unending F train ride from upper Queens into Brooklyn, I opened my umbrella and ventured into the gentle, persistent rain.
The entrance to Green-Wood is an ornate and imposing structure, and passing through the grounds one is witness to all manner of extravagant burial structures: towering obelisks, stalwart mausoleums, and several historical markings to guide the visitor along their way. I had intentionally done no Google image searching prior to my visit and expected the grave of this internationally beloved musical icon to physically demonstrate the enormity of his impact. However, following the map to his gravesite, I found a unexpected simplicity.
A bench with the name BERNSTEIN inscribed across the front sits amidst a small garden. His grave marker sits adjacent to that of Felicia Montealegre Bernstein, his wife. Their headstones are flush with the grass, together facing the clouded sky. A collection of small stones placed by a previous visitor rested on his grave. Something in the simplicity conveyed a sense of comfort with death and assurance of peace. No formidable, gilded tower. Merely a headstone reflecting an untroubled gaze into the infinity of the heavens.
This fall, Verdigris embarks on a concert of Bernstein’s choral and solo work that respond to excerpts from his personal correspondence. His life brought deep joy and beauty to millions of people. On this concert program, we are highlighting a part of his life that holds greater complexity. In his personal correspondence, we see pain and confusion alongside forgiveness and understanding.
Rendered alongside all his complex humanity, Bernstein’s music will take on new, truer life. Join us on this journey.