Sunday, September 27

Big Band Concert In A Cemetery?

When my friend Lisa said she'd like to attend Sunday's
free concert in Memorial Park cemetery, I wasn't
the least surprised by the idea, only that it had
taken so long for anyone to come up with it

After all, Memorial Park is not your "normal" cemetery. It's a favorite venue for walkers and joggers, so much so that signs at forks in the drives tell which way to go for "short" and "long" routes. But its main attraction is the duck pond near the main gate.

For as long as anyone can remember, Topeka parents and grandparents have been bringing small children to the pond, children clutching bags of day-old bread to feed to the ducks that inhabit it.

Sadly, the ducks now have to compete for bread chunks with a flock of Canada geese, but children, toddlers especially, are fascinated that such huge birds fly!

But back to the concert...

Memorial Park is the property of Penwell-Gabel-Topeka, whose owners conceived Concert In The Park as a way to make cemeteries less "creepy" to people who only venture into them to bury a loved one or visit a loved one's grave.

But where in Memorial Park would a live
dance band perform 1940s "swing" music?

Surely not near the duck pond where, thanks to that flock of Canadas relieving themselves wherever they happen to be, the walks and nearby grounds are known as the "poopy part of the park" .

I could find nothing about the concert by googling "King of Swing" (singular), only because the band's name is Kings of Swing (plural). But Lisa thought it started at 2:00 or 2:30. To be on the safe side, we arrived at 1:45, which turned out to be 45 minutes before the scheduled start at 2:30.

We were happy to learn the concert would take place on a grassy slope in a part of the cemetery set aside for future expansion.

Seeing no designated handicapped-parking areas (there were some, but they weren't obvious), I parked the LisaMobile in the shade of a tree just off the drive at the top of the slope. (Lisa has MS and the LisaMobile is a conversion van equipped with a power lift for her electric wheelchair.) That neither of us owns a folding chair wasn't a problem; I sat in her "extra" non-electric wheelchair.

The stage from where we were at the top of the slope.
The pond is barely visible above the gentleman in the hat.

This being the first-ever Concert in the Park, no one had a clue how
many people would show up, and at first it seemed like not many.
But little by little, they trickled in.

The lime & white van at the far left brought handicapped residents
from Atria Hearthstone, a retirement and assisted living facility a
block from the cemetery. The drive it's parked on was blocked
off for handicap parking, but we didn't know that until later.
(Forgive the photo quality - I had to shoot into the sun.)

The weather was almost perfect for an outdoor concert. Clear sky,
temp in the high 70s, low 80s. However, it was windy enough
to topple a speaker stand while the band was setting up,
and later on, turn even large umbrellas inside out.

Taken next to the Atria van, as close to the stage as politeness allowed.
If memory serves, this was during "Moon River", one of
the "newest" tunes Kings of Swing did that day.

Even though I spend a lot of time in cemeteries, and even though the concept of live music in a cemetery didn't seem "weird", actually being there was. But only for a little while.

As soon as the Kings of Swing began playing, I couldn't help but chuckle thinking what a shock this must be for people visiting graves across the way who had no idea this normally-quiet cemetery would be "swinging" to the sounds of Glenn Miller, the Dorseys, and Les Brown, with a bit of Dixieland and Country thrown in for good measure!

From under a huge (walnut?) tree on the
other side of the drive from where we were.

As some of you know, I love gnarly trees.
Isn't this one a beauty?

Now a bit of humor for students of human nature:

This couple obviously wanted to be alone...

...but a second couple only wanted to be sort of alone!

The first couple should've followed the example
of these two ladies. (Yes, there were two.)

That's the mausoleum in the background...

...and again in the distance to the right of the stage...

..and one more time a bit closer. Notice the
map of the cemetery and jogging routes.
Definitely a visitor-friendly cemetery.

The concert was a huge success,and a good time was had by all!


~ Topeka Capital-Journal article by Bill Blankenship

~ Concert photos by Bill Blankenship at CJonline

Have a great day!

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Nina P. said...

What a wonderful idea! It sounds like you had a fantastic time! Thanks for sharing the music. Love and Light, Nina P

Thomas MacEntee said...

Wow! You outdid yourself with this post - great photos and I agree, a great concept. I get upset when I see "unfriendly" cemeteries. I think there is a balance to be achieved between having an environment that is respectful to the dead but also one which welcomes the living.