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The Divine Hand Ensemble brings a haunting concert to Laurel Hill Cemetery — June 2, 2018

 Laurel Hill Cemetery (Steven Ujifusa/For NewsWorks)

Laurel Hill Cemetery (Steven Ujifusa/For NewsWorks)

Story Highlights

Music for the Hearing Eye by the Divine Hand Ensemble
Saturday June 2 at 6 p.m., gates open at 5 p.m.
Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Gatehouse entrance, 3822 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia
Tickets: $20; BYO picnic, blankets, chairs, etc.

If I were looking for an instrument to set the mood in a cemetery at twilight, the theremin would no doubt be my pick. An early electronic instrument, the theremin not only sounds ethereal, but it’s played without being touched. Musicians wave their hands between two antenna to produce an otherworldly hum, making a theremin performance resemble a conjuring act.

So it’s fitting that the theremin will indeed be featured prominently in a concert this weekend in a twilit cemetery. The Divine Hand Ensemble will perform “Music for the Hearing Eye” Saturday in front of the oldest mausoleum in Laurel Hill Cemetery in North Philadelphia. The ensemble, led by theremin player Mano Divino, also includes a string quartet, two harps and a glockenspiel. The slightly spooky evening starts at 6, but the gates open at 5 p.m., so you’ve got a little time to wander amid the crypts. It’s BYO picnic, chairs, blanket, drinks, you name it. Just don’t get stuck inside the gates after dark.

Mano Divina plays a rare theremin at the Franklin Institute. Only 500 were built in 1929 and are based on the original design by Leon Theremin. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

And if one haunting evening isn’t enough for you, Laurel Hill Cemetery will be hosting other concerts, performances, and tours all summer long. Before you get too weirded out at the thought of hanging out in a cemetery, know that Laurel Hill was founded explicitly to welcome the living. Librarian John Jay Smith created it in 1836, when the death of his daughter made him aware of the crowded, unsanitary conditions of Center City burial yards. Laurel Hill, well outside city limits at the time, provided a more picturesque, permanent resting place for the dead — and a more scenic place for the living to visit them.

Here are a few other ways to appreciate the cemetery this summer.

Cinema in the Cemetery
June 8, July 13, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m.
Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Gatehouse entrance, 3822 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia
Tickets: $12

Whoever curates Laurel Hill’s Cinema in the Cemetery series has a great sense of humor — and atmosphere. On June 8, you can catch Tim Burton’s dark romantic fantasy flick “Edward Scissorhands,” about a loner human-machine hybrid who finds love and snips some fantastic hairstyles. On June 13, it’s ‘90s cult favorite “The Craft,” about four teenagers who delve into witchcraft with dangerous repercussions. On Sept. 28, the cemetery is teaming up with The Not So Silent Cinema to screen the silent 1922 German horror classic “Nosferatu,” with a live accompanying klezmer quartet.

The Ghostly Circus
Aug. 10 and 11 at 8 p.m., arrival by 7 p.m. strongly encouraged
Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Gatehouse entrance at 3822 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia
Tickets: $30 in advance, $40 on the day of, $15 for children under 12

A crowd favorite will return to the cemetery this summer with the Ghostly Circus, now in its fifth year of serving up aerial and fire theater at Laurel Hill. As performers from entertainment agency 7textures put on a Dante-inspired show amid the tombs, a bar and food vendors will be on site. Also catch Shakespeare in the Cemetery for two weekends in July, and a Graveyard Cabaret in September.

Tours, tours, and more tours

Laurel Hill runs themed tours multiple times a week. There’s a tour focused on Philadelphia’s dearly departed abolitionists, lawyers, and even — in conjunction with the Philadelphia Obscura Society — serial killers. A June 30 tour looks at the cemetery as a sculpture garden. An especially depressing-sounding July 15 tour tells the stories of children buried at Laurel Hill. Also intriguing: an Aug. 2 tour focused entirely on the role of water in the untimely deaths of various victims. See all tours here.


This article is part of a new effort recommending things to do in the Philly region.Tell us what you think.

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