Defiant Requiem

LA Opus reviews Defiant Requiem with the Pacific Symphony

Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín, with the PSO

REVIEW

Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa
DAVID J BROWN

To quote directly from the history of The Defiant Requiem on its website
“The story ofDefiant Requiem began in Minneapolis, MN in the mid-1990s when noted conductor and educator Murry Sidlin, then on the faculty of the University of Minnesota, happened upon a book entitled Music in Terezín, 1941-1945 by Joža Karas. The book was stacked among many others in a sidewalk sale of used and out-of-print titles, and Maestro Sidlin opened to a short chapter about a man named Rafael Schächter.”

The rest, one might say, is history, and in more ways than one. The passage of time inevitably imposes distance between past events and the present, and brings with it the dangers of blurring, distortion, misinterpretation and, worst of all, denial of those events. However, it also can bring understanding, remembrance, honoring, and perhaps most important when those events were monstrous, a sustained determination that they should never again be emulated or repeated.

Terezín, or Theresienstadt, was a concentration camp established by the Nazis in 1941 as a holding-place for Jews before being sent on to their murders at Auschwitz and elsewhere. But it was also conceived as a propaganda tool, a seemingly self-governed Jewish community supposedly run on humane lines, where education and cultural activities were encouraged. Music was a particular focus of activity at Terezín as many Jewish composers and performers were interned there, among them the young Czech composer, pianist and conductor, Rafael Schächter.

It was the series of no fewer than 16 performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, composed 1868-1873, under Schächter’s direction at Terezín between 1942-1944 that caught Maestro Sidlin’s imagination and eventually altered the course of his life, leading him first to learn more about Schächter and the performances, then to seek out survivors’ eye-witness testimony, and finally to create the multi-media “concert-drama” Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín, first performed in 2002, which reached the Segerstrom Concert Hall this month.

Sidlin’s dramatic concept successfully walks the fine line between being true to the great masterpiece that so inspired Schächter by performing it complete, and surrounding it with visual and aural connective tissue that vividly tells the nature and circumstances of those performances three-quarters of a century ago. In addition, by the end the whole experience delivers a sledgehammer emotional impact quite aside from that of Verdi's music per se.

Video recordings of three surviving Terezín chorus-members, Edgar Krasa, Vera Schiff and Marianka Zadikow-May, projected on the big screen above the Pacific Chorale and the PSO, opened the evening and appeared later between some of the Requiem’s movements. After the first video, concertmaster Dennis Kim played part of the great Chaconne from Bach’s Partita in D minor for solo violin BWV 1004, and this led in to Maestro Sidlin’s scene-setting introduction from the rostrum.

A collage of sounds followed, representing Terezín’s teeming musical activity, to be suddenly broken off by a piercing whistle, and then the opening of the first movement, Requiem aeternam, on muted strings, with the chorus sotto voce. Sidlin drew this to a halt at measure 56 of the score, and picked up the microphone to speak again about Schächter’s character and charisma, his drive, and his motivation in mounting the work. From this point on, actors John Rubinstein and David Prather—playing, respectively, Schächter himself and a commenting “Lecturer” on spotlit podia set back left and right in the orchestra—added dramatic intensification to the documentary aspect.

All Schächter had to work with was a single vocal score of the Requiem, and the use of a damaged piano in the basement of the men’s barracks housing where he rehearsed, teaching the work by rote to his 150 singers. One of the most telling features of Sidlin’s concept was, from this point on, to introduce and conclude each section of the Requiem with just a piano playing the accompaniment, the orchestra being cued a few measures in and then giving way again to the piano shortly before the end of the movement.

Read the entire review at this link.

LA Times features Defiant Requiem: 'Nazi prisoners found humanity in music'

‘Defiant Requiem’: Nazi prisoners found humanity in music. This concert keeps the message alive

By SUSAN KING

APR 10, 2019

Among the estimated 140,000 Jews who passed through the Nazi ghetto and concentration camp in the Czech town of Terezin was conductor and composer Rafael Schachter, founder of the Prague Chamber Opera.

After Schachter was arrested in 1941 and sent to Terezin, about 30 miles north of Prague, he smuggled in one copy of Verdi’s Requiem, an 1874 composition for Catholic funerals. He taught it to a chorus of 150 — artists, scholars and others who staged concerts of opera, contemporary music and chamber music at Terezin. There even was a small jazz band called the Ghetto Swingers.

Schachter’s singers, accompanied by a pianist, went on to perform Verdi’s Requiem 16 times. The chrous shrank over the years, as members were sent to death camps. By the time they were forced to perform in 1944 as the agitprop of SS officials hosting a delegation from the International Red Cross, Schachter’s group had only 60 members.

The prisoners at Terezin were "starving, ill, living in terror, freezing,” and yet they mustered the energy to gather in a basement and rehearse because “they wanted to learn,” said conductor Murry Sidlin, creator of the concert “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin.”

The program combines a choral performance of Verdi’s Requiem with video testimony from surviving members of the Terezin chorus, clips from a rare propaganda film shot by Germans in Terezin and a live performer portraying Schachter. “Defiant Requiem” has its Los Angeles and Orange County premieres with Sidlin conducting the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale and Tony Award winner John Rubinstein (“Pippin”) playing Schachter; performances are Tuesday at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa and April 17 at Royce Hall at UCLA. The latter is presented by the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the Defiant Requiem Foundation, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Sidlin founded in 2008.

Read the whole article at this link.

Jewish Journal features Defiant Requiem

‘Defiant Requiem’: They Sang to the Nazis What They Could Not Say

BY ROBERTO LOIEDERMAN | APR 16, 2019 

In 1943-44, at Terézin, a hybrid ghetto/concentration camp in the Czech Republic, 150 Jewish prisoners, led by a remarkable conductor, sang Verdi’s “Requiem” as a private act of defiance against the Nazis. 

Two separate performances of “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terézin,”— on April 16 at Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa and on April 17 at UCLA’s Royce Hall — paid homage to those prisoners and to Rafael Schächter, the man who led the choir at Terézin, where the Nazis imprisoned many Jewish cultural figures, including classical musicians. 

“Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terézin,” which has been presented nearly 50 times around the world, performs Verdi’s Christian funeral mass in its entirety. The music is intercut with film clips, narration and taped testimonies from survivors. Much more than a concert or musical event, it’s a soul-wrenching testament to the power of maintaining one’s humanity in the most inhumane circumstances. 

In a phone interview with the Journal, Murry Sidlin, 78, who created, crafted and conducted “Defiant Requiem,” said that 25 years ago, when he was conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, he wandered past a table of used books. “I walked over and pulled a book from the middle. It was sticking out, almost beckoning me,” Sidlin said. “It was called ‘Music in Terézin.’”

The book, by Joža Karas, deals with music and the Holocaust. Sidlin was drawn to it because he is a noted orchestra conductor and music educator, and his grandmother was killed during the Holocaust.

“That book is about musicians at Terézin,” Sidler said. “I opened the book at random to a chapter called ‘Rafael Schächter.’ It said he had grown up in Romania and had excelled in music. In the last paragraph, it said that [at Terézin] he put together a volunteer choir of 150 singers and taught them Verdi’s “Requiem” by rote, because there was no score other than his own, and they performed it 16 times between September 1943 and June 1944.”

Read the whole feature at this link.

June 1: Defiant Requiem performance in Asheville

Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín

Saturday, June 1 in Asheville, NC

at US Cellular Center

Thomas Wolfe Auditorium

Complete live performance of Verdi's Requiem, interspersed with historic film, testimony from survivors and narration tells the moving story of courageous performances by prisoners in a WWII concentration camp

Praised by The New York Times as "Poignant...a monument to the courage of one man to foster hope among prisoners with little other solace," Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín will be performed in Asheville, NC at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (87 Haywood St.) on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 7:30 pm. Complete details below.

The "extraordinarily beautiful and moving" concert/drama commemorates the courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp during World War II who performed Verdi's Requiem 16 times, as an act of defiance and resistance to their Nazi captors. Defiant Requiem is a complete live performance of Verdi's Requiem interspersed with historic film, testimony from survivors and narration that tells this tale of audacious bravery.

Kym Verhovshek, a Weaverville resident, has been working with The Defiant Requiem Foundation and Carolina Jews for Justice to bring this program to Asheville. Kym’s father, George Baum, now a retired journalist, was one of the 15,000 children who were imprisoned in Terezín during World War II. To honor his legacy, Kym has been working with CJJ and other local groups and individuals to raise the funds needed for this program.

In the words of Ms. Verhovshek, “The story of Defiant Requiem is universal. As the daughter of a holocaust survivor and the mother of a 5-year-old boy, I am the bridge between my father’s legacy and my son’s future. It is through music and conversation that I am driven to make a difference.”

Led by Maestro Murry Sidlin, president of The Defiant Requiem Foundation and creator of this powerful concert/drama, Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín features the Asheville Symphony, Voices of Terezín Remembrance (a chorus comprised of singers from the Asheville Symphony Chorus, Asheville Choral Society, and other community members), and soloists Jennifer Check (soprano), Ann McMahon-Quintero (mezzo-soprano), Bruce Sledge (tenor), and Jongmin Park (bass).

Ticketing information and more for Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín is available in the calendar listing below.

Murry Sidlin and The Defiant Requiem Foundation also produced an Emmy-nominated documentary film narrated by Bebe Neuwirth that has been praised as a "gripping documentary" (Examiner.com), with "a very powerful message" (CNN). More information is at DefiantRequiem.org.

Saturday, June 1 at 7:30 pm

Thomas Wolfe Auditorium

87 Haywood Street

Asheville, NC 28801

Tickets on sale now at Ticketmaster.com

Please consider becoming a sponsor by visitinghttps://www.defiantrequiem.org/Asheville

Presented by The Defiant Requiem Foundation. Proceeds to benefit Carolina Jews for Justice.

Murry Sidlin, creator & conductor

Jennifer Check, soprano

Ann McMahon-Quintero, mezzo-soprano

Bruce Sledge, tenor

Jongmin Park, bass

Asheville Symphony

Voices of Terezín Remembrance

April 28: Defiant Requiem in DeKalb

Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín

Sunday, April 28

at Northern Illinois University's Boutell Memorial Concert Hall

Complete live performance of Verdi's Requiem, interspersed with historic film, testimony from survivors and narration tells the moving story of courageous performances by prisoners in a WWII concentration camp

Praised by The New York Times as "Poignant...a monument to the courage of one man to foster hope among prisoners with little other solace," Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín will be performed at Northern Illinois University on Sunday, April 28, 2019 at 3:00 pm at Boutell Memorial Concert Hall (550 Lucinda Ave., DeKalb, IL). Complete details below.

The "extraordinarily beautiful and moving" concert/drama commemorates the courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp during World War II who performed Verdi's Requiem 16 times, as an act of defiance and resistance to their Nazi captors. Defiant Requiem is a complete live performance of Verdi's Requiem interspersed with historic film, testimony from survivors and narration that tells this tale of audacious bravery.

Led by Maestro Murry Sidlin, president of The Defiant Requiem Foundation and creator of this powerful concert/drama, Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín features the Northern Illinois University Philharmonic, Northern Illinois University Concert Choir, Cor Cantiamo, McHenry County College Chorus, and Voices in Harmony. Soloists include Sarah Gartshore (soprano), Susan Platts (mezzo-soprano), Andrzej Stec (tenor), and Sam Hadley (bass).

Ticketing information and more for Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín is available in the calendar listing below.

Murry Sidlin and The Defiant Requiem Foundation also produced an Emmy-nominated documentary film narrated by Bebe Neuwirth that has been praised as a "gripping documentary" (Examiner.com), with "a very powerful message" (CNN). More information is at DefiantRequiem.org.

Sunday, April 28 at 3:00 pm

Boutell Memorial Concert Hall

550 Lucinda Avenue

DeKalb, IL 60115

Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for students and are available at http://www.niu.edu/music/

Presented by the Northern Illinois University School of Music and The Defiant Requiem Foundation with funding from the Gretchen M. Brooks University Residency Project

Murry Sidlin, creator & conductor

Sarah Gartshore, soprano

Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano

Andrzej Stec, tenor

Sam Hadley, bass-baritone

Northern Illinois University Philharmonic

Danko Drusko, director

Northern Illinois University Concert Choir

Eric A. Johnson, director of choral activities

Cor Cantiamo - Eric A. Johnson, founding artistic director

McHenry County College Chorus - Steven Szalaj, director

Voices In Harmony - Steven Szalaj, director

Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín with the Pacific Symphony

April 16: Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa

April 17: Royce Hall at UCLA

Complete live performance of Verdi's Requiem, interspersed with historic film, testimony from survivors and narration tells the moving story of courageous performances by prisoners in a WWII concentration camp

Praised by The New York Times as "Poignant...a monument to the courage of one man to foster hope among prisoners with little other solace," Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín will be performed by the Pacific Symphony on April 16, 2019 at 8:00 pm at Segerstrom Concert Hall (600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA), and on April 17 at 8:00 pm at UCLA's Royce Hall (10745 Dickson Court, Los Angeles, CA). Proceeds from the performance on April 17 will benefit Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Complete details below.

The "extraordinarily beautiful and moving" concert/drama commemorates the courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp during World War II who performed Verdi's Requiem 16 times, as an act of defiance and resistance to their Nazi captors. Defiant Requiem is a complete live performance of Verdi's Requiem interspersed with historic film, testimony from survivors and narration that tells this tale of audacious bravery.

Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín features the Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale (Robert Istad, artistic director), soloists Aga Mikolaj (soprano), Ann McMahon Quintero (mezzo-soprano), Edgaras Montvidas (tenor), and Nathan Stark(bass), actors John Rubinstein and David Prather, and Maestro Murry Sidlin, president of The Defiant Requiem Foundation and creator of this powerful concert/drama.

Ticketing information and more for Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín is available in the calendar listing below.

Murry Sidlin and The Defiant Requiem Foundation also produced an Emmy-nominated documentary film narrated by Bebe Neuwirth that has been praised as a "gripping documentary" (Examiner.com), with "a very powerful message" (CNN). More information is at DefiantRequiem.org.

Tuesday, April 16 at 8:00 pm

Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall

600 Town Center Drive

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Tickets range from $25 - $196 and are available atwww.pacificsymphony.org

Presented by the Pacific Symphony

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wednesday, April 17 at 8:00 pm

Royce Hall, UCLA

10745 Dickson Court

Los Angeles, CA 90095

Tickets range from $45 - $98 and are available atTicketmaster.com.

Presented by The Defiant Requiem Foundation and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Proceeds to benefit Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

For sponsorship packages, please contact Victoria Lonberg at victoria@lamoth.org or visit here.

Murry Sidlin, creator & conductor

John Rubinstein & David Prather, actors

Aga Mikolaj, soprano

Ann McMahon Quintero, mezzo-soprano

Edgaras Montvidas, tenor

Nathan Stark, bass-baritone

Pacific Symphony

Pacific Chorale

Robert Istad, artistic director

Feb 23: Defiant Requiem performance at IUP

Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín

Saturday, February 23

at Fisher Auditorium, Indiana PA

Complete live performance of Verdi's Requiem as performed in the Terezín Concentration Camp, interspersed with historic film, testimony from survivors and narration tells the moving story of courageous performances by the prisoners of a WWII concentration camp

Praised by The New York Times as "Poignant...a monument to the courage of one man to foster hope among prisoners with little other solace," Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín will be performed on February 23, 2019 at 7:30 pm at Fisher Auditorium(403 S. 11th Street) in Indiana, PA. 

The "extraordinarily beautiful and moving" concert/drama commemorates the courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp during World War II who performed Verdi's Requiem 16 times, as an act of defiance and resistance to their Nazi captors. Defiant Requiem is a complete live performance of Verdi's Requiem interspersed with historic film, testimony from survivors and narration that tells this tale of audacious bravery. This performance features the full Verdi Requiem with the chorus and soloists accompanied by a single piano, as it was in Terezín.

Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín features pianist Arlene Shrut with Colleen Ferguson on violin, the IUP Chorale and Penn State Altoona Ivyside Pride Vocal Ensemble, as well as soprano Annie Gill, mezzo-soprano Bonnie Cutsforth-Huber, tenor Tim Augustin, and bass Joseph Baunoch and actors Richard Kemp and Michael Schwartz. It will be conducted by Maestro Murry Sidlin, president of The Defiant Requiem Foundation and creator of this powerful concert/drama.

This performance of Defiant Requiem is presented by The Defiant Requiem Foundation, Indiana University of Pennsylvania Department of Music, and the Penn State Altoona Department of Arts and Humanities, with funding from the Gretchen M. Brooks University Residency Project.

Tickets for Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín are $10 general admission, $8 for seniors and $6 for students, anyone with a Military ID, and children under 18. Tickets are available online or in person at the The Lively Arts Ticket Office (in the lobby of the IUP Performing Arts Center, 403 S. 11th Street, Indiana, PA). 

Murry Sidlin and The Defiant Requiem Foundation also produced an Emmy-nominated documentary film narrated by Bebe Neuwirth that has been praised as a "gripping documentary" (Examiner.com), with "a very powerful message" (CNN). More information is at DefiantRequiem.org.

Wall Street Journal: The Concentration Camp Choir

Wall Street Journal: The Concentration Camp Choir

Its performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ left Nazi officials speechless.

NinerTimes review: Experiencing The Defiant Requiem

NinerTimes review: Experiencing The Defiant Requiem

A compelling story of a conductor and his choir during the Holocaust

Classical Voice North Carolina reviews Defiant Requiem

Classical Voice North Carolina reviews Defiant Requiem

UNC Charlotte Presents a Transcendent New Perspective on Verdi's Requiem.

As Sung by Jewish Prisoners Earmarked for Extermination by the Nazis

Charlotte Magazine previews Defiant Requiem: UNC Charlotte

Charlotte Magazine previews Defiant Requiem: UNC Charlotte

On Dec. 3rd, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte College of Arts & Architecture commemorates their courageous actions in presenting Defiant Requiem, a multimedia concert drama and live choral performance illuminating this artistic uprising.

WDAV blog "Of Note" previews Defiant Requiem at UNC Charlotte

WDAV blog "Of Note" previews Defiant Requiem at UNC Charlotte

As a Holocaust historian and educator, I am often asked, “Why did no one resist?” Fortunately, there was considerable resistance, from many quarters and in many forms. This becomes more visible when we break free from narrow definitions of “resistance” —that is, the notion that only armed struggle qualifies as resistance.

The Symphony at Terezín

The Symphony at Terezín

Stepping into Terezín—a former military compound in the Czech Republic where the Theresienstadt concentration camp was located—feels like being swallowed. The heavy stone gates of the star-shaped fortress built in the days of Joseph II gape ominously, thanks to its tragic history in World War II and decades more as a prison.

'Defiant Requiem': How prisoners of Nazis used Verdi to cope

'Defiant Requiem': How prisoners of Nazis used Verdi to cope

Murry Sidlin always considered himself a very worldly man. As a conductor, he had led orchestras all over the world.