May 8, 2017
Detroit Free Press preview: 'Defiant Requiem': How prisoners of Nazis used Verdi to cope
Murry Sidlin
Murry Sidlin
Jeff Roffman

David Lyman, Special to the Detroit Free Press

Murry Sidlin always considered himself a very worldly man. As a conductor, he had led orchestras all over the world. He had cofounded the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen and spent nearly a decade as resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. He was highly regarded for his concert dramas — presentations that added various media to orchestral performances to enhance the dramatic presentations of the works.

But sometime in 1994, while wandering along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, a book in an outdoor display caught his eye. It was called "Music in Terezín, 1941-1945," written by Czech-American musician and educator author Jo┼ża Karas.

“I’d heard of the town of Terezín,” says Sidlin of the small Czech town about 40 miles north of Prague. “I certainly knew something about Czech composers and the musical life there. But Terezín — it was not very well-known to me.”

There was a two-page entry about a young Czech conductor named Rafael Schächter who had been imprisoned at Terezín when it became a German concentration camp during World War II.

“I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” says Sidlin. “In the last paragraph, it said that while he was in Terezín, he put together a chorus of 150 and taught them the Verdi ‘Requiem’ by rote. I thought to myself, ‘impossible.’ ”

You can still hear the disbelief in his voice now, more than 20 years later.

Read the entire here

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