Most cemeteries are silent.
But Raleigh’s Oakwood Cemetery wants music among its headstones. So it is recruiting a musician.
The cemetery bills the initiative as support for the arts. It has had a photographer-in-residence for five years. It also has had an urn competition. But Oakwood is a cemetery that describes itself as “a cemetery full of life” on its website.
Now it’s looking for a volunteer to be its musician-in-residence, starting in April.
Oakwood, at 701 Oakwood Ave., was founded nearly 150 years ago as a cemetery for Confederate soldiers. It was expanded shortly after to accommodate civilian graves.
Today the cemetery stretches across 102 acres and provides historical tours. It has its own app, too.
But Robin Simonton, executive director of the cemetery, says it could use some tunes to go along with all that history.
The musician’s year-long residency will include a small number of short pop-up concerts, Simonton said, and a few cemetery events – “not funerals!”
“This special person will be playing music in the most sacred of places,” Simonton said. “Picture a memory from a long time ago. Do you hear a song that goes with it? I can picture my grandmother humming under her breath as she prepared Christmas Eve dinner. It makes me miss her and remember the times with her ... We hope to evoke those beautiful memories, not out of sadness, but out of remembrance and joy with our musician-in-residence.”
The position isn’t for a singer – it’s strictly for musicians who play instruments, including jazz, guitar, stringed instruments and others, Simonton said.
The purpose of having a musician-in-residence at the cemetery, according to the application, is to translate the meaning of the cemetery into music, add to the peaceful atmosphere and help create “a haven from a busy world.”
Oakwood isn’t a silent cemetery. Music is played or performed during funerals, Simonton said, and wind chimes sound in the breeze.
“It’s not uncommon to have music out here,” Simonton said. “As strange as that sounds.
“People come through the cemetery to walk, to reflect, to journal. Why not give them an opportunity to come in on their lunch break and listen to beautiful instrumental music and reflect on life and the beauty of the cemetery?”
Simonton said the musician will help with “providing a refuge for families and community members” and increase the cemetery’s presence “as a place of art in all forms.”
“Music is the soundtrack to our souls, and music in a cemetery provides the opportunity to partner history, family and remembrance,” Simonton said. “I see Oakwood Cemetery as the most sacred place in Raleigh. The person who fills this role will have a wonderful opportunity to explore remembrance, grief and a celebration of life through the music he or she chooses to play for us.”
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett