top of page

Death of Classical: Classical Music in New York City’s Crypts

By Lori Perkins

Credit: Steve Pisano

When I graduated from college my parents sent me to Italy as a present and I was fortunate enough to see a performance of the opera Aida in the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. I thought I was the luckiest woman in the world at that moment and that I would never have another experience like that again, certainly not in America.

Years later, I accompanied Ray Manzarek to Paris on the 30th anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death and heard him perform on an 18th century organ in an old French church. Again, I thought this was a unique experience that I could only have in one of Europe’s major cities, where history and culture meet.

So, you can imagine how shocked and delighted I have been by the series of musical and performance events that Death of Classical have presented where contemporary artists perform classical music in outdoor cemeteries or indoor crypts. This is by far the most outstanding musical series going on in New York City at the moment. There is wine and cheese, or food pairing, which is thoughtful, and creative (Tacos and Tequilas was a night I attended in the summer), but the least important part of the evening.

Last week I was delighted to attend an intimate performance by Adam Tendler on piano playing the eight-piece composition of John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes bathed in a violet glow in a crypt beneath the Church of the Intercession in Washington Heights. Magical does not begin to describe the experience. My plus one said she went into a trance.

Tendler wrote that he had been playing this piece since his early 20’s and knew this hour-plus performance by heart and soul. It showed. He had rigged the concert piano with nuts and bolts, which the audience was encouraged to see after the performance, to increase sounds and resonance. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I used to be jealous reading about performances like this from writers who lived in Paris in the 20’s and 30’s. If they could, they would all attend this series now. You should too.

Please go to and buy tickets right away, as they are selling out quickly. You will never be disappointed.

September 20-22 - Calidore Quartet - Beethoven Op. 130 with Grosse Fuge (Catacombs of the Green-Wood Cemetery) - The Calidore Quartet - four of today's leading musicians who "speak, breathe, think and feel as one” (Washington Post) - will give perform Beethoven's op 130 with the Great Fugu

October 3-4 - Joseph Parrish - Songs and Spirituals (Crypt Chapel of Church of the Intercession) - Bass-baritone Joseph Parrish will perform Songs and Spirituals, a program comprised of both sacred and secular music, with Parrish accompanying himself on piano for the second half

October 10-12 - Maxim Lando - Three Dances from Frankenstein (US Premiere) (Crypt Chapel of Church of the Intercession) - Pianist Maxim Lando will give the US Premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s Frankenstein Suite for solo piano based on the composer's ballet interpretation of Mary Shelley's novel

October 19-20 - Nightfall (Green-Wood Cemetery) - Our annual sprawling, cemetery-wide celebration of life, death, and all that's in between, with film, musicians, and performers stretching across the winding paths, deep into the darkness of the Green-Wood Cemetery

October 24 - Hanzhi Wang - Goldberg Variations, The Accordion Version (Crypt Chapel of Church of the Intercession) - Hanzhi Wang will perform her arrangement of Bach's transcendent Goldberg Variations for solo accordion

November 28-30 - Sybarite5 - Crypt Lab Series (Crypt Chapel of Church of the Intercession) - Three nights of strings from quintet Sybarite5, including premieres each night with compositions by Curtis Stewart, Mikael Karlsson, Kamala Sankaram, Andres Martin, Kebra Seyoun, Laura Kaminsky, & Jackson Greenberg

December 8, 11 & 12 - Ekmeles - David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion (Crypt Chapel of Church of the Intercession) - Vocal ensemble Ekmeles will perform The Little Match Girl Passion, David Lang's Pulitzer-winning choral work based on Hans Christian Andersen's story of hope and suffering.


bottom of page