Welcome to Music of Remembrance’s 20th season. This milestone year concludes two decades of presenting music that represents the Holocaust’s vast reach and tells stories that the world needs to hear today. Our 2017-18 programs feature music by composers whose lives and art were touched by the Holocaust, and who dared to speak out even in the bleakest of circumstances. The Holocaust’s legacy also calls on us to honor the experience of all victims of war, and of people who have been excluded or persecuted because of their nationality, ethnicity, faith or sexuality. This season’s Voices of Witness concerts include four world premieres of new works inspired by Japanese and Japanese American wartime experience. Drawing on poetry, music and art by victims and survivors of the incarceration camps and nuclear bombings, these MOR commissions make eloquent statements about our common humanity.
At our November concert, you’ll experience the first of two new works by Ryuichi Sakamoto, who has had a unique impact in Japan and around the world as a composer, musician, film actor and peace activist. Snow Falls, a musical setting of Kiyoke Nagase’s moving poem of the same name, draws on melodies from Sakamoto’s film score “Nagasaki: Memories of My Son.” Actress Naho Shioya will narrate the poem both in Japanese and in an English translation by Empress Michiko. We’ll also unveil Keiko Fujiie’s Wilderness Mute, a setting of texts in English translation by victims and survivors of the atomic bombs. Ms. Fujiie, a Nagasaki native and one of Japan’s most noted and frequently-performed composers, has been honored twice with the NHK Symphony Orchestra’s coveted Otaka Prize. Both works make an eloquent plea about the urgency of preventing nuclear war.
Our fall concert reprises Paul Schoenfield’s powerful Sparks of Glory, based on the memoires of Polish-Israeli journalist Moshe Prager. Baritone/actor Robert Orth brings fiery passion to the work’s four true stories of courageous defiance, taken from the words of heroes who themselves did not realize that they were heroes. Orth has captivated MOR audiences as Picasso in the world premiere of Tom Cipullo’s After Life (2015), and as Gad Beck in Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness (2016). And you’ll also discover little-known gems created by Émile Goué, William Hilsley and Marius Flothuis -- French, British and Dutch composers respectively - in prison and concentration camps.
At our spring concert on May 20, 2018, we unveil Ryuichi Sakamoto’s second MOR commission, NAMÉ, a work honoring the memory of those from all nations who perished in WW II. Additionally, we premiere French-born American composer Christophe Chagnard’s Gaman. This multi-media work explores the experience of people of Japanese ancestry, most of them US citizens, who were forced to incarceration camps during the war. The work’s title refers to the struggle to endure the unbearable with patience and dignity. At this concert, you’ll also experience the power of the audacious Erwin Schulhoff, who perished in the Wülzburg concentration camp. A daring artistic innovator and political radical, Schulhoff was an important composer of his day who had a major impact on the emerging musical styles between the two world wars. Our performance of his Five Pieces for String Quartet (1923) includes a newly discovered sixth piece. You’ll also marvel at the resilient spirit in the Terezín concentration camp in a medley of songs – ranging in mood from defiant to bitterly ironic to sadly nostalgic – that offer a glimpse of life in the camp through the hearts of its prisoners.
In his visit to Hiroshima, President Barack Obama remembered the dead whose mourning he had come to join: “Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.” MOR’s 20th season, Voices of Witness, recalls the atomic bombing victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and remembers the experience of people in America deprived of liberty because of their ancestry. There are many ways of learning about these chapters of history, but music has a special power for sharing personal memory and witness. I hope you’ll join us for these programs that communicate history’s lessons through the experience of people who lived through events that changed the world.
Founder and Artistic Director