Twenty years ago, I walked across the Benaroya Hall stage, introducing myself and Music of Remembrance. The occasion for MOR’s inaugural concert – November 9, 1998 – was the 60th anniversary of Kristallnacht. With the extraordinary support from our community and the passionate dedication of our
musicians, we are now celebrating our 20th anniversary season.
In two decades of remembering composers who experienced the Holocaust, we’ve performed nearly two hundred works. The scope and diversity of this repertoire are astonishing. We’ve played music by composers who were banned by the Third Reich either for their ideas or their Jewish identities. We’ve played music that was created, miraculously, in the horrific conditions of ghettos and concentration camps. We’ve played music by activist composers who used their art in protest. We’ve played works that sample the cultural traditions of different groups – not only Jews – that were targeted by the Nazis. Some of the composers and their works were already known, but others were not, and part of our mission was to help rescue them from obscurity. All of these composers had the courage to continue creating even in the darkest of times. Their stories and their music were different, but they all found ways of standing up through their art to the evil they saw and the cruelty they faced.
And preserving this precious legacy is only part of what we do. We’ve commissioned and premiered over 30 new works by some of today’s leading composers. Our commissioning program is unique in the world, and it offers new ways of exploring the lives of people who experienced the Holocaust in different ways and in different places. It also gives us a chance to honor the Holocaust’s lessons by looking at the experience of other people who have faced persecution because of their ancestry, beliefs or sexuality.
These two decades have been an exciting journey, with many unexpected turns along the way, and this history is the subject of an hour-long documentary film “Hear Our Story Now” by Emmy award-winning filmmaker and journalist John Sharify. We hope you’ll join us for the premiere screening on October 14, 2018 at the Frye Art Museum.
Our special birthday concert at Benaroya Hall on November 4th will recall some of MOR’s unforgettable milestones. You’ll hear selections from Jake Heggie’s heart-stopping Out of Darkness, and from Tom Cipullo’s award-winning After Life with its dramatic confrontation between the ghosts of Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso. There will be excerpts from Lori Laitman’s stirring Holocaust oratorio Vedem and Paul Schoenfield’s riveting Camp Songs. The amazing Northwest Boychoir returns with haunting Yiddish songs that Viktor Ullmann arranged in Terezín. Donald Byrd and members of Spectrum Dance Theater will reprise dances for Joel Engel’s atmospheric music for The Dybbuk. And after the concert, we’ll throw a 20th birthday party!
At Benaroya Hall on May 19, 2019 we unveil our newest commission: The Parting, a bold new opera by composer Tom Cipullo and librettist David Mason, the same creative team that gave us After Life. Four days later, we bring this chamber opera to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on May 23rd. The Parting is based on the art and short life of the great Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti, widely considered one of the great literary witnesses to the Holocaust. Radnóti was murdered on a forced labor march and buried in a mass grave. When his body was exhumed after the war, his jacket revealed a notebook with his final poems. The Parting illuminates Radnóti’s urgent quest for truth, beauty and love.
Being part of such a vibrant arts community has given us opportunities to partner with some amazing talents over the years. In a new collaboration, we’ll be part of Seattle Theater Group’s presentation of “Die Stadt ohne Juden” (The City Without Jews), a newly-remastered 1924 silent film based on a dystopian novel anticipating the rise of Nazism. At the Paramount Theater on April 15, 2019, MOR’s instrumentalists will join STG’s screening of the film to perform the stunning new musical score that STG has commissioned from Guenter Buchwald. Buchwald is a pioneer in the renaissance of music for silent film, and he’ll conduct the performance and perform in it. (Buchwald, you might remember, led our 2008 and 2015 screenings of “The Golem” with Betty Olivero’s klezmer-infused score.)
When we search for meaning in the unspeakable tragedy that was the Holocaust, we’re looking not just back in history, but also at the lessons we need to draw for making a better world today and in the future. We’ve evolved in the kinds of stories we tell, and in the kinds of music we play. We’ve recognized how the world has changed, and we’ve tried to grow to reflect those changes. We’re proud to be constantly finding new ways of giving voice – through music – to those who speak out against the persecution and exclusion of people in today’s world. Our 20th anniversary season is filled with memories, dreams, legends, stories that need to be told and questions that need to be asked. My hope is that you’ll be moved by what you hear and elevated by what you experience.
Mina Miller, Artistic Director