Boys Imprisoned In Nazi Concentration Camp Inspire "Vedem," Music Of Remembrance’s Fifth CD On Naxos

Lori Laitman’s Vedem Oratorio Features Northwest Boychoir, Led by Joseph Crnko

 SEATTLE, WA—May 24, 2011—Known for its performances of Holocaust-era chamber music by composers banned or murdered by Nazis, Seattle’s Music of Remembrance also commissions and records new music that illuminates artistic resistance to the Reich’s oppression and genocide.

Vedem (Naxos 8.559685) is the group’s fifth CD with Naxos, the world’s leading classical music label, and it includes two works by award-winning American composer Lori Laitman: the MOR-commissioned oratorio Vedem, and her song cycle Fathers in a new version for mezzo soprano. (In the U.S., the CD is available now through online retailers such as Amazon and iTunes, and will be in stores as of May 31, 2011.)

“It’s tragic that the Holocaust took the lives of nearly one million children,” said MOR Artistic Director Mina Miller. “About 15,000 children were deported to the Terezín concentration camp between 1942 and 1944, and nearly all of them were eventually sent from there to death camps. But a small group of teenage boys left us a rare, priceless gift: their lives in their own words, in the pages of a secret magazine they called VEDEM. When I discovered their poetry, I thought of Lori Laitman.”

Every Friday night for the two years between 1942 and 1944, the boys in Terezín’s Building L417, Home One, shared poetry, essays and illustrations for VEDEM (Czech for “In the Lead”).  About 800 pages of the original manuscript were buried then rescued, after the war, by Sidney Taussig, the only boy from the group to remain in Terezín until the camp’s liberation. In 1995, selections from VEDEM were compiled in the book We Are Children Just the Same.

Composer Lori Laitman set six of their original poems for Vedem, sung on the disc by Seattle tenor Ross Hauck and Portland Opera mezzo soprano Angela Niederloh. Librettist and poet David Mason wrote lyrics for a chorus that speaks of the boys’ deportation and their lives in Terezín, of their hopes and fears, and of their will to create beauty even in the face of unimaginable suffering.  “The soul cannot believe that we will die / so we make beauty to delay our death,” goes one couplet. The performance also features Joseph Crnko’s much-recorded Northwest Boychoir.  Boychoir members were inspired by the opportunity to meet the four Terezín survivors who traveled from around the world to Seattle for the oratorio’s premiere.

“I was immediately captivated by the courage of the boys of Terezín, and by the depth and beauty of their art,” said Laitman about her experience composing the work. “And David’s libretto captured not only the tragic aspects of the boys’ lives, but also their humanity—their little worries, their spirited response to adversity, their yearnings, and their humor. Listeners will hear the theme from Dvorak’s Humoresque in the setting for ‘Love in the Floodgates’. This was inspired by a story from survivor Emil Kopel, who told us that he endured a death march to Buchenwald by replaying this tune over and over in his head.”

For Fathers, sung by Niederloh in this new version, Laitman set poems by Sri Lankan poet Anne Ranasinghe and the late Russian poet David Vogel. The song cycle explores the Holocaust’s lasting impact on the bonds between fathers and their children. Ranasinghe’s father was murdered by the Nazis. After David Vogel’s arrest by the Nazis, he disappeared forever. Fragments from the short, hopeful last song, “Don’t Cry,” are foreshadowed throughout the larger work, balancing the darkness of the other songs. Laitman intended the completion of this theme, “with its soothing and repetitive nature,” as a “healing balm.”

CD Information:

Vedem (Naxos 8.559685)
For review copies of this disc, please contact Raymond Bisharbisha@naxosusa.com
Online orders:www.musicofremembrance.org/recordings, Amazon, iTunes, and everywhere Naxos recordings are sold.
CD artwork credit: Cover collage by Chava Pressburger, sister of Petr Ginz, the 14-year-old editor-in-chief of the Terezín journal, VEDEM. Courtesy of Chava Pressburger.

Lori Laitman: Vedem (2010)

Libretto by David Mason
Commissioned by Music of Remembrance, Mina Miller, Artistic Director
 
Part One: THE TRANSPORTS
Hear My Story Now
Memories Of Prague
 
Part Two: HOME NUMBER ONE
Home Number One
Five

Part Three: VEDEM
Vedem
Just A Little Warmth
In Terezin The Mind Was Free
Thoughts
Like Leaves About To Fall
Love In The Floodgates
We Were Alive, Approximately

Part Four: A MODEL GHETTO
A Model Ghetto

Part Five: THEY ARE GONE
They Are Gone
Farewell To Summer
We Were No Different Than You

Ross Hauck, tenor; Angela Niederloh, mezzo soprano
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Walter Gray, cello; Mina Miller, piano
The Northwest Boychoir, Joseph Crnko, Conductor

Lori Laitman: Fathers (2002, revised 2010)
Poems by Anne Ranasinghe and David Vogel

Don’t Cry, fragment 1
You, Father
Don’t Cry, fragment 2
Last Night I Dreamt
Don’t Cry, fragment 3
I Saw My Father Drowning
Don’t Cry

Angela Niederloh, mezzo soprano
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Walter Gray, cello; Mina Miller, piano

Recorded at Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, on May 15, 2010 (tracks 1-15) and May 3, 2010 (tracks 16-22).

Recording Engineer and Producer: Albert G. Swanson
Vedem, ©2010, Lori Laitman. Enchanted Knickers Music, BMI. All Rights Reserved.
Fathers, © 2002 (rev. 2010), Lori Laitman. Enchanted Knickers Music, BMI, All Rights Reserved.

About the Composer & Librettist
Lori Laitman, composer, is one of America’s most prolific and acclaimed composers of vocal music. Her oeuvre includes two operas, one oratorio and over 200 songs, setting the words of classical and contemporary poets, among them the lost voices of poets who perished in the Holocaust. Her MOR premieres include Holocaust 1944 (November 2000), Fathers (April 2003) and her first MOR commission, The Seed of Dream (May 2005). Cleveland Opera premiered Laitman’s one-act Holocaust-themed opera, Come To Me in Dreams, in 2004. In 2008, Laitman's full-length opera, The Scarlet Letter, to David Mason's adaptation of the Hawthorne classic, was commissioned and presented by The University of Central Arkansas; its next appearance will be at Opera Colorado in May 2013. Laitman was a “Featured Composer” on Thomas Hampson’s website, songofamerica.net. Laitman and Mason are collaborating on Ludlow, a new opera based on Mason's epic verse novel. Laitman's music has been released on Albany, Naxos, Channel Classics, and other labels. She received her B.A. and M.M. from Yale University.

David Mason, librettist, is an award-winning poet whose books include The Buried Houses, The Country I Remember, and Arrivals. His verse novel, Ludlow, was published in 2007, and named best poetry book of the year by the Contemporary Poetry Review and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and was featured on the PBS News Hour. His poetry, prose, and translations have appeared in such periodicals as The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, and Poetry, among many others. His memoir, News from the Village, has just appeared. He was the librettist for Lori Laitman’s opera of The Scarlet Letter, and recently won the Thatcher Hoffman Smith Creativity in Motion Prize for the development of a new libretto. He was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in July 2010.

About Music of Remembrance
Music of Remembrance (MOR) fills a unique spiritual and cultural role in Seattle and throughout the United States by remembering Holocaust musicians and their art through musical performances, educational programs,  musical recordings and commissions of new works. Since its 1998-99 inaugural year, MOR has presented two major concerts annually at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, marking the anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) each fall and Holocaust Remembrance Day each spring. Since 2005-06, MOR’s Sparks of Glory outreach series has combined free public concerts with commentary by Artistic Director Mina Miller, reaching beyond the concert hall through performance residencies around Seattle. Vedem is MOR’s fifth CD on Naxos; the others are Schoenfield & Schwarz (Naxos 8.559641), For a Look or a Touch (Naxos 8.559379), Brundibár (Naxos 8.570119), and Letter to Warsaw (Naxos 8.559219). More information available at www.musicofremembrance.org.

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