You know when something just clicks with you? And the incredible satisfaction that comes with it. That’s how I feel about the music of Bernard Herrmann.
Recently, I’ve noticed that Herrmann has a special quality that sets him apart from his contemporaries. And I’ve gone on a quest to find out what that is.
I’m still completing that task as I’m about half way through his biography by Steven C. Smith which is fabulous. If you’re interested in taking a deep dive into the man, I highly recommend it!
One of my favorite features on the blog is Classic Movie Travels where I get up close and personal with classic movies in the form of visits to museums, landmarks, star’s birthplaces, etc.
Today, I’m retracing my steps and taking you along with me to New York to the final resting place of this incredible and influential composer.
Beth David Cemetery
About a thirty minute drive from New York City where Herrmann was born, lies the Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, New York.
The town holds no glamour for its most celebrated patron. On a busy road bustling with public transportation and businesses lining the sidewalks, pedestrians scurry about probably having no idea of the legend beyond its gates.
Upon entering Beth David Cemetery it was not too difficult to find the Herrmann family plot. According to The Bernard Herrmann Society, Section BB2 and the Old Konstantine Benevolent Society can easily be found at the intersection of Beth Israel and Washington Avenues (the small roads within the cemetery).
With his huge tombstone, I was quickly able to find the patriarch of the family, Abraham Herrmann. But then the search was on. You see, this was the most packed cemetery I’ve ever seen, making the search for the composer a lengthy one.
Just when I was about to quit, I found Ida, the matriach, and directly across from her was Bernard.
Note: For those who are wondering, as I did, the PC sticker on the stones signify “perpetual care” for the groundskeepers.
The moment I saw his headstone was a sobering one. Here was one of my idols – the man who wrote the music for some of my favorite movies, those which have formed me into the fan and person I am today.
Fully immersing myself in the moment, I began thinking about the music he’s written and what it means to me. I silently thanked him for staying true to himself and writing the music that was on his heart instead of adhering to the tried and true methods of film composing or the fads that were calling with their siren song.
When I approached Bernard’s tombstone from the left side, something caught my eye. Beside the bush directly in front of his grave, an admirer left a copy of the soundtrack from Vertigo!
In that moment, I had goosebumps all over. The fact that someone was so touched by his music and left his masterwork in appreciation was a surreal experience.
Immediately, I wished I had brought a token of my appreciation, but then my husband so wisely said, “I don’t think you could have done better than that,” as he pointed to the Vertigo album. And you know what? I don’t think I could have either.
I was surprised and a little sad that Herrmann had been laid to rest in such an unassuming location.
In my mind, he should be alongside the great talents of yesteryear in the big, fancy celebrity cemeteries of California; but for a man who hated Hollywood, though it gave him great success, I’m sure this is the way he would have wanted it, to be beside his family in his home state of New York.
I will be forever grateful to Herrmann for his individualism, chutzpah, sensitivity, and beautiful gift that he continually gives to our world.
His music always feels “real,” not manufactured (I don’t believe he ever wrote a note he did not feel), truly encompassing the essence of humanity in all its complexity, fragility, horror, and beauty.
June 29, 1911 – December 24, 1975
This post is my contribution to The Bernard Herrmann Blogathon hosted by myself! For more musical treats, head on over HERE and read the rest of the contributions celebrating this great composer.
Ready for another adventure? Here’s more of my Classic Movie Travels!
- Desilu Studios
- The Lucy Desi Museum
- Lucy Desi Murals
- Lucy’s Birthplace
- Lucy’s Childhood Home
- Lucille Ball Memorial Park & Statues
- Lucy’s Final Resting Place