Mission and History
Music of Remembrance fills a unique role throughout the world by remembering the Holocaust through music. With concert performances, educational programs, recordings, and commissions of new works by some of today’s leading composers, MOR honors those of all backgrounds who found the strength to create even in the face of persecution, and those who had the courage to speak out against cruelty. We tell stories that communicate urgent moral lessons for today with a scope that extends beyond the Holocaust itself to the experience of others who have been excluded or persecuted for their faith, ethnicity, gender or sexuality.
Since its inaugural 1998-99 season, MOR has presented at least two mainstage concert programs each year at Seattle's Benaroya Hall. An annual fall concert marks the anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass), and a spring concert marks Holocaust Remembrance Day. These concerts combine music from the Holocaust era with contemporary works – many of them world premieres – by today’s leading composers. The programs balance serious classical works with music in popular cabaret and traditional folk styles. Over the years MOR has commissioned over thirty new works, ranging from instrumental chamber pieces, songs cycles, choral music, original choreography, musical dramas, and two fully-staged operas. MOR’s stellar ensembles, drawn largely from the ranks of Seattle Symphony, are joined by world-class guest artists. Since 2015, MOR has brought its programs to the Bay Area with an annual major concert in San Francisco.
Through its Sparks of Glory outreach initiative, MOR has brought free programs to community settings like the Frye Art Museum and Seattle Art Museum, and presentations and performances to students and educators at schools and colleges across the region. Since 2015, MOR has also presented a free community-wide concert at Benaroya Hall every January to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. MOR has reached people around the world with its seven CD recordings on the Naxos label. Its documentary The Boys of Terezín has inspired people at film and cultural festivals on four continents.
Music of Remembrance: A History of Firsts
- MOR was a pioneer in its mission of musical witness, discovering and introducing beautiful and important works representing a precious legacy. Over our first twenty-two years, we’ve performed works over 150 works honoring Holocaust-era composers through their art, highlighting their courage to resist and create even in the face of unspeakable cruelty.
- MOR’s commissioning program is the first and only one of its kind in the world. Beginning in 1999 with David Stock’s A Vanished World, we have commissioned and premiered over 30 new works by composers including Jake Heggie, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Lori Laitman, Tom Cipullo, Thomas Pasatieri, Paul Schoenfield, Gerard Schwarz, Betty Olivero, Christophe Chagnard and others.
- These varied commissions include chamber works, choral music, song cycles, musical dramas, fully-staged operas, film scores, and choreography.
- In 2007, MOR introduced For a Look or a Touch by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, the first musical work ever to relate the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.
- In 2006, MOR staged Hans Kr
sa’s iconic children’s opera Brundibár, and produced the first recording of the opera with Tony Kushner’s new English libretto for our own times. (Opera News named the Naxos 2007 CD as one of the year’s ten best opera recordings.) á
- In 2010, MOR introduced Lori Laitman’s Vedem, the first musical work to tell the true story about a group of teenage boy prisoners and the secret magazine they created under the noses of their captors in Terezín.
- Based on Vedem and the story it tells, MOR produced a documentary film, “The Boys of Terezín,” that has been viewed by audiences on four continents.
- In 2015, MOR unveiled After Life, Tom Cipullo’s opera imagining a confrontation between the ghosts of Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso over the role of art and artists in troubled times. (The opera received the National Opera Association’s prestigious Domenick Argento Chamber Opera Award for best chamber opera.)
- In 2017, MOR introduced Mary Kouyoumdjian’s to open myself, to scream, the first musical work to explore the fate of the Roma in Nazi-occupied Europe.
- In 2018, MOR introduced Christophe Chagnard’s Gaman, telling of the wartime incarceration experience of Japanese Americans through the words and images of people who were there.
- The new works commissioned by MOR have been performed around the world. Many of them have also been experienced by people everywhere on the eight CD recordings that MOR has produced for the Naxos label. MOR has also produced three documentary films and one opera DVD (Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness.)
- MOR is the first and only organization in the world with a young artist award established to support the education and careers of young musicians with an interest in music from and about the Holocaust, and music addressing questions of human rights and social justice today. The David Tonkonogui Memorial Award has nurtured major talents. Cellist Julian Schwarz has launched a prestigious solo career, Marié Rossano, the 2008 recipient, is now a member of the New York Philharmonic. Takumi Taguchi, who’s performing at this concert, received the award in 2013 at the age of 12, and now is studying at the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.