Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Performance highlights the power of music

In 1941, composer Rafael Schächter used music to defy his Nazi captors.

Imprisoned at the Terezín concentration camp, Schächter taught 150 fellow prisoners Verdi’s Requiem and led 16 performances, the final taking place on June 23, 1944, before he was transferred to Auschwitz.

On March 16, artists from U of R’s School of Performing Arts (SOPA) and Conservatory of Music, alongside the Inland Master Chorale, will perform Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín, in the University of Redlands Memorial Chapel. The performance is influenced by the Defiant Requiem Foundation, an institution dedicated to preserving the memory of prisoners at Terezín through the power of music.

“I first learned about the Defiant Requiem back in 2012,” said Joe Modica, director of SOPA, who added since that time, he has wanted the Requiem performed at Redlands. After applying for and receiving a grant from the Foundation, SOPA is now enabled to put on the production.

“I’m hopeful that our audience recognizes the importance of art and that Terezín was actually an arts center during the Holocaust,” Modica said. “A lot of important art came out of that and here’s one example, one very important example of a musician who, despite the incredible hardships he was experiencing with his fellow prisoners, created something very powerful.”

Adding to the impact of this music on audiences around the world, the Defiant Requiem’s Redlands performance will include virtuoso concert violinist Niv Ashkenazi, who will be playing on one of the Violins of Hope.

Started by Amnon and Avshalom (Avshi) Weinstein, the Violins of Hope is a private collection of more than 60 violins, violas, and cellos that were at one point during the Holocaust, stolen by Nazis, abandoned by their owners, or interred with them in the concentration camps. Now restored, each instrument has a story about its previous owner, further highlighting the impact music has had on the Jewish community.

“It’s important to know what has happened in history, where it came from, and to try and create an environment with more tolerance for everyone,” Ashkenazi said.

“The Violins of Hope programs are very powerful,” Ashkenazi said. “Sometimes people know what they are coming in for and sometimes they don’t but what I’ve found is that usually everyone comes out with something that resonated with them. For a lot of people, it (the Holocaust) is still something that affects their lives today.”

Hope through music, the common goal between the two organizations, will echo throughout the Redlands campus beginning at 8 p.m., March 16 in the Memorial Chapel. To purchase tickets for the Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín performance and for more information about additional events on campus, including a screening of the documentary film Defiant Requiem, at 8 p.m., March 13 in the Glenn Wallichs Theater, click the links provided.