By Robin Hazard Ray , Volunteer Docent
A number of visitors to the Cemetery this summer were fortunate enough to happen upon an impromptu concert out on the grounds , or echoing from one of the chapels . They were hearing the work of Mary Bichner , an award-winning musician who is Mount Auburn Cemetery ’ s composer-inresidence in 2016 – 2017 .
Mary ’ s unusual gift of synesthesia — for her , colors have sounds — allows her to create richly-colored compositions that delight both classical enthusiasts and pop fans . During 2016 , Mary composed ten new works inspired by Mount Auburn ’ s breathtaking landscape and landmarks , using her synesthesia to select the musical components that best “ match ” the natural color palette of each location . She also performed with the 2015 incarnation of “ A Glimpse Beyond ,” the lyrical , ever-changing performance held annually across the Cemetery grounds .
In 2017 , Mary Bichner and the Planetary Quartet , her double-viola string ensemble , will record the compositions
“ It is amazing to see how quickly the scenery changes from month to month in the form of falling flower petals , changing leaves , and different types of birdsong . It is an honor to be composing pieces inspired by Mount Auburn .” and present her Mount Auburn — inspired music to the public with a year-long series of public programs and concerts .
Since her residency began , Mary has presented a series of 20-minute “ pop-up ” concerts at different sites within the Cemetery ’ s landscape , and in 2017 she will present four more of these short concerts . In the spring and fall of 2017 , Mary Bichner and the Planetary Quartet will perform two full-length concerts at Mount Auburn ’ s Story Chapel . In addition , there will be two free hour-long lunchtime talks at Mount Auburn , where Bichner will perform ; discuss her compositions and the history of composers drawing inspiration for their music from nature , landscape , and place ; and talk about her own synesthesia and its role in her work .
Mount Auburn ’ s new artist residency program gives the Cemetery an opportunity to support artistic creativity without compromising the tranquility of our landscape . Your help is needed to support our mission to inspire all who visit and to continue our long legacy of artist support that began with the Cemetery ’ s founding .
2017 Volume 1 | 13