HOUSTON (Oct. 7, 2010) – The Houston Symphony and Holocaust Museum Houston present the heroic journey of Holocaust survivors whose personal testimonies provide the text and framework for this engaging symphonic performance. For one day only, November 23, 2010, Music Director Hans Graf and the Houston Symphony will debut Kaddish “I Am Here” at Jones Hall.
Significantly tied to four Houston residents, this remarkable choral symphony chronicles the memories of individuals who survived the most tragic of human experiences, the Holocaust. The work follows them from pre-war Europe, through the war and Holocaust, to the hope and strength of the words “Here I am! I am here, I survived, and look who is with me!” by Naomi Warren, Houston resident and survivor of Auschwitz, Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, upon her return to Auschwitz in 2003 as a proud mother and grandmother.
This performance will be the world premiere of the full-orchestra version commissioned by the Houston Symphony. The original composition was scored for chamber orchestra and debuted at the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies at Keene State College in New Hampshire in May 2008, followed by a world premiere in November 2008 by VocalEssence in Minnesota under music director Philip Brunelle. During the past two years, the Houston Symphony has worked with composer Lawrence Siegel to re-score the music for full symphony and chorus to be presented this season.
When first beginning this work, Siegel researched materials at the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University and interviewed several Holocaust survivors, seeking a message of hope amidst the painful memories. Siegel found this message in the voices of four Houston residents: Naomi Warren, Walter Kase, Bill Morgan and Celina Fein. Despite their losses, these four individuals have become pioneers of hope who share their experiences to educate others about love and tolerance and to fight genocide.
The fifteen songs of Kaddish are grouped into three larger movements: The World Before; The Holocaust; and Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World), and the Symphony has secured stellar vocal talent to bring the stories to life. Soprano Jessica Rivera and baritone James Maddelena will be making their Houston Symphony debuts, and will be joined by mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore and Houston resident, tenor Chad Shelton, who has worked extensively with the Houston Grand Opera.
Named for the Jewish prayer for the dead, Kaddish is not only a beautiful artistic piece, but it is also an educational experience with an overall message against genocide, prejudice, hatred and injustice. Leading up to the performance, Siegel and the Houston survivors will participate in joint workshops with schools and community organizations giving people an opportunity to hear first-hand about the inspirations for the project.
In addition to the 7:30 p.m. public performance on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010, a special matinee presentation will be held at 10 a.m. the same day for students and educators. More than 2,400 students from Houston-area schools will hear the matinee performance courtesy of the Houston Endowment. Other lead sponsors for the concerts include UBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Jewish Herald-Voice is serving as media sponsor for the project.
About Holocaust Museum Houston
Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other
genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.
About the Houston Symphony
The Houston Symphony has played a central role in Houston’s cultural and civic life since 1913. Each year, the Houston Symphony performs more than 170 concerts for approximately 350,000 people, featuring an innovative and broad spectrum of classical, popular, education and community-based symphonic programming. For tickets and more information, please visit www.houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575.