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To America: A Live Performance in Green-Wood Cemetery

The Harlem Chamber Players

Originally Aired: Friday, October 30, 2020

Credit Steven Pisano


How would you have us, as we are?
Or sinking ‘neath the load we bear?
– James Weldon Johnson, To America

Join us in Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery for a night of performance inspired by the poetry of James Weldon Johnson, who is buried at Green-Wood and best known for his anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Curated by Death of Classical and Green-Wood, it will blend music, history, literature, and dance into a single sweeping, shuddering cry into the night.

Featuring poetry by Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes and Terrance Hayes; stories from the lives of Margaret Pine, the last enslaved person in New York State, a young drummer boy killed in the Civil War, former NY Governor DeWitt Clinton, and others; and music by The Harlem Chamber Players, violinist Lady Jess, singers Danielle Buonaiuto, Freddie June, Paul Grosvenor and many more talented souls. It is a lament, a love song, a prayer, and a plea to America in a time of deep uncertainty, in remembrance of all that this nation has been, and all that it can be.

Join us after the performance for a discussion about the creation of “To America” with Liz Player, Executive Director and Artistic Director of The Harlem Chamber Players and Death of Classical Founder and General & Artistic Director Andrew Ousley. Hosted by WQXR’s James Bennett.



Historic Chapel

  • “Inhale, Exhale” by Terrence Hayes
  • “Lift Every Voice And Sing” (arr. Patrick Cannell)
  • “An Elegy—A Cry from the Grave” (Carlos Simon)

Dedicated to those who have been murdered wrongfully by an oppressive power; namely Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

  • “Sence You Went Away” (H. Leslie Adams, arr. Patrick Cannell)

Kenneth Overton, baritone & reader 

Ashley Horne, violin

Claire Chan, violin

Amadi Azikiwe, viola

Wayne Smith, cello 

DeWitt Monument

  • “Deep River” (traditional)

Paul Grosvenor, bass-baritone

 Charlotte Canda Monument

  • “In Manus Tuas” (Caroline Shaw)

Robert Burkhart, cello 

Selina Hack, dancer 

Margaret Pine

  • “Ombra Mai Fu” (George Frideric Handel)
  • “Strange Fruit” (Abel Meeropol/Billie Holiday)

Jules Biber, cello

Danielle Buonaiuto, soprano 

Freddie June, singer 

Civil War Lot

  • “Beauty That is Never Old” by James Weldon Johnson
  • “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (arr Kenneth Abeling)

Harlem Chamber Players Brass Quintet, led by Eric Davis 

Dan Blankinship, trumpet.,Hugo Moreno, trumpet, Eric Davis, horn, Burt Mason, trombone, Marcus Rojas, tuba

David Beck, reader

Weeping Beech 

  • Improvisation

Lady Jess, violin


  • “To America” by James Weldon Johnson
  • “Adagio for Strings (from String Quartet, Opus 11)” (Samuel Barber)
  • “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes
  • “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (a cappella) 

Ivan Thompson, tenor & reader

Ashley Horne, violin

Claire Chan, violin

Amadi Azikiwe, viola

Wayne Smith, cello 


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