‘An Evening of Life and Hope’ was hosted in collaboration with the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Keene State College’s music department.

The event was held on Thursday, October 29 to help bring awareness of Keene State’s All-Steinway campaign, a fundraising campaign to make all pianos used by the music department to be from Steinway and Sons, a piano manufacturing company.

“The purpose of it [the event] was two-fold, one was to talk a little bit about the All-Steinway campaign, and the meaning of piano and music in our lives today. The other, more important issue, was to talk to people about the current situation with COVID, the pandemic and all the other things going on globally right now,” said music professor Dr. Christina Wright-Ivanova, who performed at the event.

The event was also hosted in order to bolster community and hope. “We did that by programming both Jewish and non-Jewish music, we had music from five different countries… It was a very moving evening,” said Dr. Wright-Ivanova.

Dr. Wright-Ivanova also said the Steinway campaign has been receiving support, “We’ve been so blessed to have a few foundations including the Putnams and the Kingsbury foundations and the Hoffman Foundation supported us a lot, we’ve also had several individual donors.”

“It’s just so important right now that music is a unifying force that is bringing together people who are musicians and non-musicians and basically that were able to provide comfort and peace at this time to a lot of people,” said Dr. Wright-Ivanova.

The songs performed at the event also reflected the collaboration between the Cohen Center and the music department, “I [sang] a couple songs that have words by Anne Frank,” adjunct professor of music Evangelia Leontis, who performed at the event, said.

Leontis, along with Dr. Wright-Ivanova, performed ‘A World Turned Upside Down’ by Juliana Hall at the event. ‘A World Turned Upside Down’ is a seven-piece work, each piece taking lyrics from the diary of Anne Frank, and reflects different periods of time in Anne Frank’s life during the Holocaust.

Dr. Wright-Ivanova and Leontis performed two of the seven songs, ‘Hiding’ and ‘Chains.’ “In this one [‘Chains’], Anne is starting to feel the sadness and despair that is setting in on her family and is asking questions like ‘Who is putting us through this suffering?’, and the end is really heartbreaking. Basically she says something like ‘We have to be brave because God will not abandon us.’ It’s a powerful, very musical depiction of Anne Frank’s words,” said Leontis.

Peter McBride, the director of the Cohen Center also remarked about the importance of the intersection between the Holocaust and art.

“It’s important for a couple of reasons, one is because the Holocaust both, in terms of producing artists and also inspiring the creation and composing of music is really important… The second is a more subtle one, music, like other art, allows us to remember things differently, it allows us to connect with our emotions,” said McBride.

McBride continued, “The core function of the Cohen Center is for people to remember the Holocaust and to learn from it, and so that is learning it and remembering it not just in an intellectual way, but also allowing ourselves to be moved by it, to be affected by it, to be upset, all the things we want people to feel when they think about the Holocaust.”

McBride discussed the importance of hearing music composed by Holocaust survivors, “You hear the pathos in it, you hear the pain and suffering, it allows you to remember what happened with an added layer of depth because you’re remembering it emotionally,” McBride said.

The Cohen Center will host a similar event, Kristallnacht, to remember the Night of Broken Glass on November 10. To see more information regarding Cohen Center and music department events, visit the Keene State events calendar.


Tom Benoit can be contacted at:

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