On Nov. 13, the Redfern Arts Center hosted the main event for the “Voices of Terezin” performance series. The concert featured a performance of the children’s opera “Brundibar” and a performance by the Apple Hill String Quartet.
The event also featured the exhibit “Visual Witness: The Art of Persecution Under the Nazi Regime” in the Main Lobby of the Redfern Arts Center, organized by Sofia Thornblad, a Keene State Holocaust and genocide studies major,. Pre-concert lectures were also offered in the Harry Davis Room of the Redfern Arts Center. A post-concert meet and greet for the artists and reception was also featured in the Main Lobby of the Redfern Arts Center.
The opera “Brundibar” was composed by the late Hans Krása and was accompanied with a libretto by Adolf Hoffmeister. The opera was performed by local middle school and high school students led by Keene State College faculty member Matthew Leese.
Shannon Mayers, Director of the Redfern Arts Center, opened the concert with a brief introduction to thank all the performers and to provide a historical background on “Brundibar.” Reflecting on the first performances of “Brundibar” in Nazi concentration camps, Mayers said that “art is resilient.”
Matthew Leese, conductor of the “Brundibar” orchestra and chorus, said that “I am really excited to perform this piece.” Prior to the concert, Leese said that he hopes the “audience will be transported back in time for a little bit and set their imagination free for an hour.” He remarked that the “cabaret-style of the music is so cool with a deep underlying message. This is a really amazing experience, but it is a heavy burden on my shoulders. Going into a rehearsal knowing the history [of the piece], it was the only positive thing in the children’s life at the concentration camps. I want to bring out the lighter themes in the music and honor those who first performed it and keep the childlike essence of the piece.”
First violinist of the Apple Hill String Quartet Elise Kuder has been playing with the quartet since 2007. The quartet has a residency at the KSC music department and Kuder remarked that she “loves being involved at Keene State.” The Apple Hill Quartet has visited music classes, performed master classes and collaborated with student music composition students. Kuder remarked that “it is fascinating to work on their [student’s] music.”
At the November concert, the Apple Hill String Quartet performed the Second String Quartet “From the Monkey Mountains” by the Czech composer Pavel Haas. Kuder said that Haas was sent to Auschwitz during World War II and perished in the concentration camp. She said that many composers in Terezin “kept composing music for live energy.” Kuder said Haas’ quartet is “very cinematographic.” The Apple Hill String Quartet also performed an arranged version of “In the Camp,” which is based on four Chinese poems about longing for home featuring mezzo-soprano, Jazimina MacNeil.
Kuder said that the Apple Hill String Quartet members like to “say that everything we play is something created by someone who lives on.” Regarding the significance of the Terezin concert series bringing awareness to the issue of genocide, she said that the Holocaust “was tragic. The great ideas of 1925 were extinguished.” Through this concert, Kuder stated that she hopes to “recreate and reincarnate” those ideas so “nothing like that [the Holocaust] happens again.”
Kuder emphasized that she “feels honored to be a part of this project.” She said that she especially enjoys “playing pieces of forgotten composers such as [Pavel] Haas. Part of what the quartet does is to breathe new life into their art.”
The Apple Hill String Quartet has another upcoming concert in January at the Colonial Theatre.
Eric Dill, a junior at Keene State, said that the “Voices of Terezin” concert was “really good. I haven’t seen anything like it. It was really great and very enjoyable.”
Matt Marzola, also a junior at Keene State, remarked that the concert was “really cool. It was great to see different groups of people coming together to perform.”
Lauren Duffy, a first-year at Keene State, attended the concert to fulfill a course requirement. She said that “it was really good. I didn’t know much coming into it. The exhibit is very interesting as well.”
Ethan Chalmers can be contacted at email@example.com