Dead center: Green-Wood Cemetery has all the action this summer!

Dead center: Green-Wood Cemetery has all the action this summer!
Emily Hawkes

This graveyard might be the most lively spot in Brooklyn!

Green-Wood Cemetery will be filled with music, movies, and merriment this summer. The dozens of tours and special events taking place among the graves are a new evolution of a tradition stretching back to the 1860s, when up to 500,000 visitors came to the boneyard each year for picnics, carriage rides, and to admire the elaborate mausoleums, said the man behind the modern events.

“We’re already an outdoor museum,” said Harry Weil, Green-Wood’s director of public programs. “What we’re doing in these programs is a way to engage people in different aspects of Green-Wood.”

The events focus on three pillars: artwork, the cemetery’s history, or the natural world included in its 478 acres, said Weil, and new events are added each year. One of the newest events will happen this weekend: the “Burgers, Bourbon, and Beethoven” festival on May 25. The tasting and music event takes the “Angel’s Share” concert program from an underground tomb into the great outdoors.

“Our catacombs are limited in space, and that limits our audience size,” said Weil. “This is the best way for providing our music to a larger group.”

Here are a few highlights from the many events

Unless otherwise noted, all events start at Green-Wood Cemetery’s Gothic Arch [500 25th St. at Fifth Avenue in Greenwood Heights, (718) 210–3080, www.green-wood.com].

Walking dead

The cemetery’s Twilight and Moonlight Tours, which take visitors tromping across the landscape with a flashlight in hand (BYOF) seem to sell out every time, so plan your nocturnal visits in advance! The tour of notable graves ends with a stop at the underground Catacombs, which are normally off-limits, if you really want to explore the darkness.

“Who doesn’t want to be in the cemetery at night?” said Weil. “It’s the best place to watch twilight in New York City — you get to have this intimate experience.”

Twilight Tours on May 24, 31; June 15, 21; July 5–6, 19–20, and 26–27 at 7:30 p.m. $25.

Moonlight Tours on June 14 at 8:30 p.m. and Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. $25.

Anatomically correct!

The Morbid Anatomy Museum has found an ideal —though temporary — home inside Green-Wood Cemetery’s Fort Hamilton Gatehouse. The recently renovated structure, located on the opposite side of the graveyard from the usual entrance at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, now holds an exhibit titled “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Visions of the Afterlife in the Catholic Tradition.”

The show, open on weekends through June 30, showcases art and artifacts that portray the three resting places where souls are traditionally thought to travel after death. Upstairs, the Gatehouse holds the Museum’s usual collection of books and strange artifacts. The exhibit will go out with a bang, at the Morbid Anatomy Summer Garden Party, where you can mingle with the show’s artists and curators, hear some music, and sample refreshments while you check out the show one last time.

Morbid Anatomy Library Museum at the Fort Hamilton Gatehouse (Fort Hamilton Parkway at Micieli Place in Windsor Terrace). Open through June 30; Sat–Sun, noon–5 p.m. Free. Summer Garden Party on June 27 at 7 p.m. $15.

Spirited performances

Now in its second year, the Cemetery’s “Angel’s Share” concert series brings classical music into one of Brooklyn’s most exclusive underground spaces — the Catacombs. Each evening starts with whiskey samples from a local distillery (the series in named for the portion of whiskey that evaporates in the barrel), followed by a candle-lit walk through winding paths to the performance space.

The series launches this weekend with the “Burgers, Bourbon, and Beethoven Festival” on May 25. This kick-off event will vary the formula a bit — visitors can sample four different sliders, a variety of whiskeys, and then enjoy an outdoor show, as the String Orchestra of Brooklyn performs Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony just inside Green-Wood’s Gothic Arch. Tickets are $80, and it kicks off at 7 p.m.

June 4, 5, 7, and 8: “Dido and Aeneas.” Henry Purcell’s tragic opera about a queen abandoned by her lover, with excerpts from Christopher Marlowe’s play on the same subject. $80. 7 pm.

June 24, 25, and 26: “Epilogues and Epitaphs.” Augusta McKay Lodge and her ensemble Voyage Sonique ensemble perform Baroque chamber works and arias. $85. 7:30 pm.

Sept. 24, 25, and 26: “Poetic and Religious Harmonies.” A pair of pianists perform all ten movements in Franz Liszt’s song cycle. $85. 6 pm.

Oct. 8–10: “Stabat Mater.” The String Orchestra of Brooklyn performs Pergolesi’s musical adaptation of a medieval poem about the suffering of Jesus’s mother Mary. With film projections on the walls of the Catacombs. $85. 6 pm.

Funereal films

The Rooftop Film series kicked off its summer season in Green-Wood Cemetery on May 17, and has a brace of non-fiction films lined up for the rest of the summer. The movies are projected onto a giant, inflatable screen set up in the road just a short walk from the front gates. Most viewers settle into folding chairs, though a few spread blankets among the graves on either side of the road.

Each night, the gates open at 7:45 p.m., a local band starts playing at 8:30 p.m., and the film starts at 9 p.m. It is usually followed by a dance party outside the Green-Wood Chapel, complete with free drinks from sponsors Corona and Ketel One Vodka. Tickets are $16.

Rooftop organizers are still finalizing dates for the season, but here is what we have so far:

Friday, June 14: “New York Non-Fiction.” A collection of short documentaries shot in the Big Apple, focusing on cab drivers, delivery men, an Olympic fencer, and more New York characters.

Saturday, June 22: “Strange Negotiations.” A documentary about musician David Bazan, who left the successful band Pedro the Lion to tour solo. Followed by a discussion and performance by Bazan.

Friday, July 19: “The Pine Barrens.” A portrait of New Jersey’s inhospitable swampland, presented with a live score from the Ruins of Friendship Orchestra.

Garden variety

The magical event “A Night at Niblo’s Garden” returns! This is actually a two-night spectacle of 19th-century entertainment from Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, including fire eaters, musicians, contortionists, and more, performing both on and around the Crescent Water lake. The night is named for nightlife empresario William Niblo, owner of Niblo’s Garden theater, who purchased a mausolem for himself at Green-Wood and held picnics and performances in front of it.

“A Night at Niblo’s Garden” at Green-Wood Cemetery, July 12–13 at 7 p.m. $40 ($75 VIP).

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at broundy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Hard to swallow: The sword-swallowers, fire-eaters, and contortionists from Bindlestiff’s Family Cirkus will recreate a 19th-century performance during “A Night at Niblo’s Garden,” at Green-Wood Cemetery on July 12-13.
Maike Schulz