Welcome to the concluding concert of Music of Remembrance’s sixteenth season. In this evening’s program you’ll experience the exciting combination of klezmer music and the silver screen.
Our concert features a complete screening of the 1918 silent film The Yellow Ticket, and we’re honored to have performing with us Alica Svigals, one of the world's leading klezmer fiddlers. Many of you may recognize her name as the founder of the Grammy Award-winning Klezmatics. Tonight she will be performing in the world premiere of her expanded musical score to The Yellow Ticket, commissioned by Music of Remembrance. She will be joined by collaborators Canadian pianist Marilyn Lerner and clarinetist Laura DeLuca, a Seattle Symphony standout and a long-time MOR artist. It is a great privilege to present these three amazing artists this evening.
The Yellow Ticket, starring Pola Negri, tells the story of a Jewish girl forced to hide her identity in order to attend medical school in czarist St. Petersburg, and it illuminates her indomitable spirit to overcome all obstacles. The film explores social issues such as human trafficking, ethnic and religious discrimination and poverty. It is based on Abraham Schomer’s 1911 Yiddish melodrama Afn Yam un “Ellis Island” (At Sea and Ellis Island). The Yellow Ticket was filmed partly on location in German-occupied Warsaw during the last year of World War I, and includes some rare documentary footage of Nalewki, Warsaw’s bustling Jewish district, before the neighborhood and the majority of its residents were destroyed by Nazi Germany. In addition, the film is a curious example of propaganda used to portray the Russian regime as inhumane and heartless.
SHOPPING STREET IN NALEWKI, Roman Vishniac, 1938 (International Center of Photography, © Mara Vishniac Kohn)
Svigals has noted that this wondrous and strange work is a story about Jews, but made by and mostly for non-Jews. Through her musical score, Svigals bridges the gap between those two worlds. She perceives her role as the Jewish artistic collaborator. By creating authentic sounds, “as, if drawn from the Jewish soul,” Svigals builds an emotional connection between today’s audiences and those of nearly a century ago.
Our concert also features two world premieres by American composer Lori Laitman. Laitman’s In Sleep The World Is Yours, commissioned by Music of Remembrance, is a song cycle based on the poignant poetry of Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, who died at 18 in a Nazi labor camp. Selma was a first cousin of the famous poet Paul Celan, and tonight you’ll also hear Celan’s haunting Todesfuge in the premiere English-language performance of Lori Laitman’s dramatic song setting. Celan was deeply scarred by his Holocaust experience and took his own life 25 years after the war. Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger did not survive the war, but her poetry remains as witness to her talent, her sensitivity and her deeply-held principles. We’ll never know what she might have created in a longer life and in a normal world, but her moral courage can inspire us all and challenge us to understand the extraordinary depth of human capacity. It is a unique privilege to present musical settings of her and Celan’s poetry together this evening. Selma’s surviving relatives Helene and Irene Silverblatt have made this possible by their permission and encouragement to share Selma’s words through music, and we are honored to have them with us this evening.
We open our concert with Bohuslav Martinu’s Serenade No. 2 for Two Violins and Viola. This vibrantly spirited work was composed in 1932. Martinu, born in Bohemia near the Moravian border, was living in Paris when he composed this piece. With the German invasion of France in 1940, he was forced to flee because of his associations with the Czech underground. Escaping through the south of France, Spain and then Portugal, he reached the United States in 1941.
Through music, Music of Remembrance strives to broaden everyone’s understanding of the Holocaust’s many dimensions. We hope that tonight’s concert will help us advance this purpose.
Mina Miller, Artistic Director