Seattle-based Music of Remembrance returns to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music this Thursday night with a program called Voices of Witness. Artistic Director Mina Miller founded MOR twenty years ago, and their aim is to help the world remember the Holocaust through musical performance.
“Our music is much more varied than many people expect,” says Miller. “Some of it comes from composers who had the courage to continue creating extraordinary music when they were trapped in ghettos and concentration camps. Some of it comes from composers whose works were banned by the Nazis as degenerate, either because of their religion or their ideas. But a major part of our work is to commission new inspired works by today’s leading composers to tell stories that the world needs to hear.” There are two commissions on the program they’ll play this week: a work called Gaman by Christophe Chagnard, and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Snow Falls. The Chagnard title refers to the Japanese-American citizens who were interned during World War II. “It refers to being able to endure the unbearable with patience and dignity. And it’s a fascinating piece, it combines traditional Japanese instruments and western classical instruments, and it draws on words and imagery of four artists during their captivity in the Minidoka camp.” There’s also Paul Schoenfield’s Sparks of Glory, for small ensemble and narrator, telling stories of heroism and resistance. “And these are true accounts of experiences that are truly unbelievable. The music is electrifying, and I tend to explain it as Klezmer on steroids. It’s extraordinary music, and a truly memorable work.”