E. Elmhurst cemetery to shatter solemn stereotype with concert

By Rebecca Henely

Cemeteries are typically associated with peace and solemnity, but when St. Michael’s Cemetery’s annual Scott Joplin Memorial Concert rolls around May 14, the East Elmhurst resting place will become a live entertainment venue.

“We operate on the premise that we’re here to celebrate life,” said Ed Horn, spokesman for St. Michael’s.

The cemetery has been holding the event, which is often attended by Queens officials, for six years now. Joplin, a black Pulitzer Prize-winning composer known as the “King of Ragtime,” was buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery April 5, 1917, after his death due to complications from tertiary syphilis.

The event, free and open to all, will begin at 2 p.m. and takes place on the cemetery grounds at 72-02 Astoria Blvd. in East Elmhurst.

This year two bands specializing in music of Joplin’s era will provide the live entertainment. The Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra, led by clarinet and saxophone player Dan Levinson, specializes in “rag-a-jazz,” a style of dance music popular when ragtime was starting to turn into jazz and that was popular during the early 1920s. The Victorian Vaudeville Barbershop Quartet, which has recorded with Canary Cottage, will perform a Scott Joplin song in barbershop quartet style.

In addition to the concert, Horn said Astoria’s Gullwing Motor Cars Inc., at 24-30 46th St., will bring antique cars over to the cemetery for visitors to see.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls from other people who are collectors of antique cars,” Horn said.

As always, the cemetery will provide free hot dogs and hamburgers to attendees. Horn said last year the cemetery gave out more than 1,000 hot dogs and hamburgers and expects to provide even more this year.

The cemetery will honor the American Cancer Society at the event, which will have representatives present. Michael Cumella of WFMU will also record the concert to be broadcast later, Horn said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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