Jazz violinist to honor late Black musician in Violin Vigil

Charlie Burnham. (Provided photo)

LAKE PLACID — Jazz violinist Charlie Burnham will visit Lake Placid on Saturday to perform as part of a Violin Vigil for Black Lives celebrating the life of Elijah McCain, who died after an encounter with Aurora, Colorado, police officers last August.

Burnham will be joined by electric bassist Fred Cash for a concert held in the Memorial Field for Black Lives, an art installation by Karen Davidson at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site. After the duo’s performance, Burnham will lead local string musicians in performing three selections chosen for the occasion: “Amazing Grace,” “We Shall Overcome” and “Let My People Go.”

“When we participate in the violin vigils honoring Elijah McCain, we make room to reflect deeply on our country’s unique problems and how they make us feel,” Burnham said in a statement. “In that moment, we are free to grieve, to wrestle with our anger and despair. And then we can find a way to move in a better pattern in our future.”

McCain, who was 23 when he died, was walking home, unarmed and listening to music when he was taken in by police. He died in the hospital several days later. Several violin vigils, inspired by McCain’s habit of playing violin to stray cats, have been held around the country since he died.

“I hope the songs we choose to use give us some historical context to the moment we’re in,” said Burnham. “They’re all cherished and well-used songs from the repertoire of the American freedom movement.”

Musicians interested in playing in the “string-along” should contact info@johnbrownlives.org to register and get sheet music.

The vigil will be heldat 4 p.m. Saturday. The rain date is Sunday. Masks and physical distancing will be required at the event. The installation will be up until Nov. 1.

The Violin Vigil for Black Lives is sponsored by John Brown Lives and Lake Flower Landing, and made possible in part with funds from the Decentralization Program, a program of the New York State Council on the Arts. Both the vigil and the installation are supported with funding from the New York State Park and Trail Partnership Grants and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund.


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