Musical Revue “What a Life!”—Born in British Internment Camp—Has West Coast Premiere at Music of Remembrance

MOR’s November 7 Concert Features Music of Musical Émigrés to Britain

SEATTLE, WA—October 3, 2011—Music of Remembrance’s mainstage season begins November 7, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. The mission of the Seattle-based chamber music organization is to introduce Holocaust-era artists, their lives and works to new audiences through performance of rarely heard pieces and new commissions. The fall concert’s centerpiece is What a Life!, the Austrian-born composer Hans Gál’s musical parody about life in a British detention camp.

“Each artist’s story we tell has a different ending,” MOR Artistic Director Mina Miller said. “Those musicians who fled the Holocaust immeasurably enriched the musical lives of their adopted homelands. We consider them fortunate to have survived, but we often overlook the unexpected obstacles they faced in rebuilding their lives and careers.”

Many people, especially in the Northwest, know about the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. The British wartime government also acted on fears of “enemy aliens,” and interned thousands of recent refugees from Nazi-controlled countries, including many Jews who had fled to Britain seeking a haven from Nazi persecution. Jewish refugees were housed indiscriminately with Nazi sympathizers.

The Austrian-born Jewish composer Hans Gál chronicled this experience in his satiric revue What a Life!, written and performed for the entertainment of Gál’s fellow prisoners in the Isle of Man detention camp during the summer of 1940. After a rollicking entrance march, more serious numbers such as the “Ballad of the German Refugee” mingle with the irony-laced “Barbed Wire Song” (“Why are human beings behind a wire?” the lyrics inquire) and “Song of the Double Bed.” Tenor Ross Hauck and baritone Erich Parce will sing, with the songs interwoven with readings from Gáls’ eloquent camp diary by ACT Theater’s Kurt Beattie.

The program also includes Gál’s Huyton Suite, composed in the Huyton Camp, near Liverpool, where his internment began. Gál scored the work for flute and two violins because he had access to only those instruments. Rehearsals in the camp were interrupted first when two musicians were deported suddenly to Canada, and a second time when some were transferred to the Isle of Man.

Coventry: A Meditation for String Quartet by Vilem Tausky, another composer who emigrated to Great Britain, is a musical meditation on the horrors of war. A student of Leoš Janáček, Tausky fled to France after the rise of the Nazis and later volunteered for the Free Czech Army. After the fall of France he reached Great Britain, and as a member of the Czech Army in Exile he was called into Coventry the day after the cathedral was destroyed and helped to search the ruins for survivors. The courage of the people of Coventry in the blitz inspired him to write this haunting quartet. After the war, both Gál and Tausky remained in Great Britain and became leading figures in the country’s musical life.

Marcel Tyberg’s lushly romantic piano trio, composed in 1936, is another West Coast premiere and an introduction to a Viennese composer whose works have only recently been rescued from oblivion. Only one-sixteenth Jewish, Tyberg perished nonetheless in Auschwitz, but he had handed off his works—ranging from popular dance music to Mahlerian symphonies—to a friend, Milan Mihich. In 1945, Mihich and his family fled to Italy with Tyberg’s entire catalogue, which was in turn entrusted to his son, Enrico Mihich. Enrico later moved to Buffalo, NY, and spent decades trying to fund the creation of performance-ready scores from the fading, handwritten documents. With the help of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies and Buffalo Symphony Orchestra’s JoAnn Falletta beginning in 2005, Tyberg’s music can now be heard by a new generation.

Fall Concert Ticket Information: Tickets: $36
Phone Orders: 206-365-7770
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Fall Concert: What a Life!
A concert to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht
Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, Seattle
7:30 p.m., Monday, November 7, 2011
Vilem Tausky
Coventry: A Meditation for String Quartet (1941)
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Leonid Keylin, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello
Hans Gál
Huyton Suite, Op. 92 (1940)
Zart Dombourian-Eby, flute; Elisa Barston, violin; Mikhail Shmidt, violin
Marcel Tyberg
West Coast Premiere: Piano Trio (1936)
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Walter Gray, cello; Craig Sheppard, piano
Hans Gál
West Coast Premiere: What a Life! (1940)
Kurt Beattie, actor
Ross Hauck, tenor; Erich Parce, baritone
Zart Dombourian-Eby, flute; Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Leonid Keylin, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello; Mina Miller, piano

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 outreach series Sparks of Glory has combined free public concerts with commentary by Artistic Director Mina Miller, reaching beyond the concert hall through performance residencies around Seattle. MOR has also produced six CDs—five on Naxos, the world’s leading classical music label—and two documentaries, both from award-winning filmmaker John Sharify. More information available at

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