Houston, TX (Nov. 24, 2010) – Fifteen Houston-area Jewish organizations came together in November to ensure the successful world-premiere symphonic production of Kaddish: “I Am Here!”
The Houston Symphony and Holocaust Museum Houston joined to present the heroic journey of Holocaust survivors whose personal testimonies provided the text and framework for two engaging performances on Nov. 23 at Jones Hall.
Led by Music Director Hans Graf, this choral symphony chronicled the memories of individuals who survived the most tragic of human experiences, the Holocaust, including those of four Houstonians – Celina Fein, Walter Kase, Bill Morgan and Naomi Warren. The work followed 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 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.
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 worked with composer Lawrence Siegel to re-score the music for full symphony and chorus to be presented this season.
More than 5,000 people attended the two performances in Houston, including 2100 students who attended courtesy of the Houston Endowment, Inc. Hundreds of other area students participated in pre-performance anti-bullying workshops and sessions on the role of upstanders in the Holocaust to help them prepare for the event.
Those who missed the performance can hear an audio recording on SymphonyCast online at http://symphonycast.publicradio.org.
VIPs in attendance included former Houston Mayors Bob Lanier and Bill White, as well as current Mayor Annise Parker.
In addition to the Museum’s own support, the concerts -- whose production costs totaled more than $350,000 – were made possible through the support of a variety of Houston’s Jewish organizations, including: Congregation Beth El, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Congregation Brith Shalom, Congregation Emanu El, Congregation Or Ami, Congregation Shaar Hashalom, Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism, Jewish Community North, Temple Beth Tikvah, Temple B'nai Israel, Galveston, Temple Emanuel, Beaumont, Temple Sinai and United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston.
“The incredible symbolism of the many synagogues coming together to weave a tapestry of support for this project is not to be missed. To hear this powerful and beautiful story as told through the voices of survivors made for an amazing evening,” said Museum Chairman Michael S. Goldberg, a senior trial partner at Baker Botts L.L.P.
“Seeing the names of the synagogues as sponsors of the concert on the back of the program made me so proud for two reasons. First, because it is a statement about the close sense of Jewish community we have in Houston; all the rabbis understood how important it is that together we support the symphony’s performance. Second, because a symphony like this lives on beyond its debut performance. Through the power of this music, both the horror of the Holocaust and the triumph of the will of those who survived it can be experienced for generations,” added Rabbi Roy Walter, senior rabbi for Congregation Emanu El in Houston, who organized the synagogues’ effort.
UBS served as lead sponsor for the evening, with additional support by the National Endowment for the Arts. The Jewish Herald-Voice served as media sponsor.
Generous underwriting support was also provided in honor of the Houston survivors and voices of Kaddish – Fein, Kase, Morgan and Warren – by their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and families; the Stanford & Joan Alexander Foundation; Dr. and Mrs. Milton Boniuk and the Boniuk Center at Rice University; Bernice Feld; Cohen Family; Stephen and Mariglyn Glenn; Helen Wils and Leonard Goldstein; Punkin and Walter Hecht; Van and Sandy Lessig; Carol and Michael Linn; Barry and Barbara Lewis; Barry and Rosalyn Margolis; Jill and Clarence Mayer; Ellen and Dan Trachtenberg; Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff; and Nina and Michael Zilkha.
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 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.