Last Words Cemetery Concert series back for 3rd year in Portland

Finding comfort in community – that’s the idea behind the Last Words Cemetery Concert series, which is back again for its third year.
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 9:53 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Finding comfort in community – that’s the idea behind the Last Words Cemetery Concert series, which is back again for its third year.

On Tuesday, FOX 12 met up with musicians at their last rehearsal ahead of the concert series this weekend.

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“Our mission is to build community around death, loss, and grief and I think that we are doing it,” Crystal Akins, the Last Words Cemetery Concert organizer said. “We have our past singers and we’ve added more folks on. We’ve gotten a lot of interest in the last two years. You’ll hear some beautiful new voices, our dancers are coming back, and we also added a second line brass band. When you come to the concert we are going to do a celebration of life procession after our set. I’m going to invite people to bring pictures of loved ones or wear something of a loved one who has passed. I’m going to be wearing my auntie’s scarf. We’ll have some art supplies where people can write the name of their loved one, some special words, or a wish. We’re going to march around and dance around at the end of our show.”

There are several who are returning, like Kina Lyn Muir, who is back for her third year.

“It was really something else,” Muir of last year’s concert series said. “I myself was experiencing a lot of grief and unfortunately, I am again this year as well. Those things don’t just go away. It was pretty overwhelming to see the number of people who were completely taken aback by this kind of invitation to open up and be in community around death and grief. I think we saw a lot of feedback come after the concerts about folks who wanted to reach out further and find out more about community. It really opened people’s hearts about the unknown and in a different way, to celebrate life and remember the joys. In a lot of ways I think it helps folks to experience joy despite the losses they’ve felt.”

There are also some new faces, like singer JerMichael Riley.

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“I am so excited to be a part of something that brings encouragement, hope, joy to the community and people who have lost loved ones,” Riley said. “It’s a way of celebrating, commemorating, and remembering our loved ones with a few laughs. When you think about it, people who have been a part of your live and are no longer here, you often laugh about the memories you remember when they were here physically with you. It’s just a good time of what I feel is healing. Music has that ability to get where words and other actions don’t get to. Music can get to the root, get to the soul.”

The concert series will be held in Lone Fir Cemetery Aug. 26 and 27 from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Those involved invite everyone to come out.

“I invite people to bring family so it’s intergenerational,” Akins said. “Everyone is welcome. It’s a free concert and it’s accessible to anyone who wants to come. We invite people to bring some snacks, bring a picnic, bring a blanket to lay out or camp chairs. Whatever is comfortable. Bring loved ones. I’d love for them to feel more connected to the people they love and be able to feel they can reach out to people. Reaching out to each other, making new relationships, and making connections. Because we need each other through this stuff.”