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Holocaust Cantata- what to pair with it?

I am considering programming the Holcaust Cantata in March of 2013. I am in a quandry as to what to balance with that piece. Holocaust Cantata is  beautiful, yet leaves the listener with a profound sense of sadness at the potential cruelty of man. Perhaps a movement or two from the Brahms Requiem expressing hope for tomorrow? Any suggestions would be gratefully received....Jim Hohmeyer, Midland Center for the Arts, Midland, Mi
Replies (15): Threaded | Chronological
on October 10, 2011 10:44am
Suggest THESE THINGS SHALL NEVER DIE (Lee Dengler)....maybe THINGS SHALL NEVER DIE.....based on text by Charles Dickens
on October 10, 2011 11:20am
For those who don't know, Donald McCullough's Holocaust Cantata is an arrangement of songs written by Polish concentration camp prisoners in WW2, interspersed with readings describing the conditions in the camps.
When I performed it, on the second half of the program we did Negro spirituals, interspersed with comparable readings from slave letters, Frederick Douglass, the Dred Scott decision, and so on. This gave a gravity to the spirituals that they sometimes lack when they're used in pops concerts. We also did Mendelssohn's Psalm 22 ("My God, why have you forsaken me?")
I should mention, however, that we got some pushback from the Jewish community about the piece, which makes no reference to Judaism; the song texts primarily express Polish nationalism. Of the 13 million people exterminated by the Nazis, 6 million were Jews, but this leaves 7 million others whose stories deserve to be told, too. Perhaps their objection was to the word "Holocaust", which means "burnt offering", an obvious religious reference which they might have wished reserved for themselves. Just be prepared.
on October 10, 2011 1:17pm
Spirituals is an excellent idea.  I did an entire second half of "freedom" songs, icnlduing some spirituals (Mechem's "Dan-u-el" - Civil War - is great here), songs of freedom from South Africa, etc.  BTW, I always end his Holocaust Cantata with his "We Remember Them," whcih works nicely if you are so inclined.
But I echo what Allen said, thsi is NOT a Jewish piece, it's a Polish Catholic piece.  The one reference to Jews is, if I remember correctly, about the Poles drinking the Tokay wine taken from Hungarian Jews.  I had a rabbi walk out of my performance becuase I did one performance in a synagogue and it was titled a Holocaust cantata, and though Jews (I'm Jewish) don't have the "naming rights'" to the word Holocaust, the rabbi was compeltely right to expect this WWII piece woudl be about Jews.  So Allen's word of caution is extermely well taken.  it's in how you market it.
on October 11, 2011 5:48am
If you wish to pay specific hommage to the tragedy of the victims of the Nazi campaign to eliminate the Jewish people, may I suggest a few ideas.
I end such programs with "Zol Shoyn Kumen Di Ge'uleh." It's a song expressing hope and faith in the future, and was composed by a Holocaust survivor in a DP camp just after the war. The audience acn sing along on the refrain. It's published by Transcontinental.
Focus on the Holocaust (by which I refer to the Nazi campaign to eliminate the Jewish people) often comes at the expense of investigating the rich culture of the Jews of pre-Holocaust Germany. I would recommend to you the wonderful synagogue motets of Louis Lewandowski, music director at Berlin's New Synagogue in the second half of the 19th century. I've edited several of them for Broude Brothers. Also look at his 18 Liturgical Psalms (in German) published (as a set) by Breitkopf und Härtel.
on October 11, 2011 8:34am
Hi Jim:
For part of your program you might want to consider my Shalom, v'shalom, v'shalom (Peace, and Peace, and Peace Yet Again) published by E.C. Schirmer (6758).  The text is drawn from Isaiah 2:4, Ps. 34: 12-14, and Ps. 133:1.  The text is in Hebrew; a singable English is provided as an alternative.  The setting for SATB, solo soprano (or unison children's chorus), and piano runs about 5:20.  You can access a recording (with solo soprano) and view a non-printable pdf of the score at:
You also might want to consider my (or other) settings of Ani ma'amin.  Supposedly, during the Holocaust of WWII this song was sung by Jewish prisoners being marched to the gas chambers.  My arrangement of this folk song is for SATB a cappella and is also available form E.C. Schirmer (5899).  The text is in Hebrew with a singable English alternative provided.  You can access a recording and view a non-printable pdf of the score at the above link.  The piece runs about 2:20.  (ECS also publishes a SSA version of the piece.)
on October 11, 2011 9:58am
Judith Shatin:  Songs of War and Peace - SATB, piano.   Israeli poets in English translation.  available from the composer (Wendigo Music)
Aaron Rosenthal:  Voices of Terezin - SATB, piano.  settings of three poems by children in the Terezin camp.  Frank e. Warren Music Service, Sharon, MA
Kurt Weill:  Kiddush - T solo. SATB, organ.  European American Music EA 399-7
Gerald Cohen:  V'higad'ta L'vincha ("And you shall tell your child")  - Solo voice, SATB, piano.  Passover cantata, originally for treble choir.  Oxford UP.
on October 11, 2011 6:37pm
Please consider programming A Prayer for the World (SATB, text in English by Harold S. Kushner, renowned author of the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People). It is a song of tolerance and of hope. The ECS Publishing catalog number is 6328. Please follow the link below to see a PDF of the score and to listen to a really good rendition by the Philovox Ensemble conducted by Jennifer Lester.
Thank you for your consideration.
on October 12, 2011 1:23pm
Hi Jim
For something that references hardship, but is uplifting and hopeful, I suggest my arrangement of the hymn "How can I keep from singing."  It is published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing.
best wishes,
Karen Thomas
Seattle Pro Musica
on October 12, 2011 3:28pm
Dear James:
Please let me know what the instrumentation of this piece is. Also, the composer wasn't mentioned.
on October 12, 2011 5:06pm
It is very difficult to follow the "Holocaust Cantata," partly because applause seems so inappropriate.  We had the cello and piano repeat the last movement as a duet while the choir members slowly closed their music and quietly left stage.  During that time another group came on and the cello ended on the B-flat, the first pitch of our next piece, which we started without break.  It was the Barber Adagio ("Agnus Dei"), which was very therapeutic for us all.
on October 13, 2011 12:45pm
James -- You might consider works by Robert Starer, who was a Jewish music student in Vienna in the 30's, fled to Palestine, and settled in the U.S., where he became a successful composer.  "While I Live" (Whitman) has what he called a "life-affirming spirit."  It's SATB a cappella.  His "Song of Supplication" from Mizmor L'David could also be appropriate, "I cried unto the Lord."  It's for SATB & keyboard or violin/cello/harp.  My copy is in English (MMB Music), but I think it's also in Hebrew.
Similarly, Hugo Weisgall and Ernst Toch (as well as Weil, mentioned by Keith Reas above), escaped the Nazis and wrote music in America.  Finding Toch choral pieces that fit might be hard.  (I haven't yet.)  Weisgall's "Four Choral Etudes," however, could work well.  In Hebrew, a cappella.  2012 is the 100th anniversary of Weisgall's birth, so that's an additional reason to program his work.
Good luck,
Christopher J. Hoh
on October 15, 2011 7:19pm
Of course the greatest of great Shoah-related musical works is Schoenberg's "A Survivor from Warsaw."
Best regards,
Jerome Hoberman
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