People often ask me how I plan MOR’s musical programs, and I try to describe the delicate balance that is required to make our events meaningful for all members of our varied audiences. Some audience members have deep personal connections with the Holocaust, or have studied and read extensively about this tragic chapter of history. Others, however, come to our concerts with little previous exposure or knowledge. Some of our concertgoers are serious followers of chamber music, while many others have limited experience with classical genres. Some are comfortable with contemporary music, while others prefer more traditionally melodious styles. Our goal is to include music for everyone.
And there are balances that are even more challenging and far more important. The Holocaust is profoundly painful to contemplate, almost too much to bear. We must remember it honestly, but also in a way that offers hope without minimizing the Holocaust’s evil. We do this by honoring the spiritual strength of Holocaust-era composers who managed to continue to create even in the face of catastrophe, and by highlighting the extraordinary courage of musicians who used their art as vehicles of protest and resistance.
In addition to performing music that originated during the Holocaust, we premiere at least one Holocaust-inspired work each year that we have commissioned from a leading composer of today. This commissioning program is unique in the world, and it gives us a priceless opportunity to discover and tell new stories that need so much to be heard. In our upcoming 2011-2012 Annual Report you may read about our most recent commission: Another Sunrise by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, perhaps the most important creative team in contemporary opera today. This searing musical drama portrayed the experience of Polish resistance member Krystyna Zywulska and the agonizing moral dilemmas she was forced to confront in her struggle to remain alive. We were reminded, once again, that numbers and statistics – and categories like “survivor” and “victim” – cannot begin to capture human experience.
In planning each concert, I seek a balance that will bring something to everyone who attends. And while I want everyone to be engaged with the music, my real goal is to challenge audience members to reflect about themselves and their world. After a recent concert, one attendee came to me and said that the program had helped her to see history in a new way. Hearing a comment like this makes me feel that MOR’s accomplishments over the last fourteen years have been worth all the effort.
Mina Miller, Artistic Director