ORONO, Maine — The North American debut of Orchester Jakobsplatz Munich at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine Oct. 17 will highlight two days of music, lectures and film celebrating Jewish culture and honoring its history.
The event begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, with the documentary “Defiant Requiem,” honoring the prisoners of Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp. The film by Partisan Pictures focuses on Rafael Schachter, a young Czech opera-choral conductor sent to Terezin in 1941. In an act of moral courage and defiance, Schachter taught 150 prisoners the “Requiem” by Verdi, which they performed 16 times. The last and most infamous performance was on June 23, 1944. With only 60 prisoners remaining following massive deportations, Schachter was ordered to perform the “Requiem” before high-ranking Nazi SS officers and International Red Cross representatives to support the charade that the prisoners were well treated.
Prior to the Thursday night concert, there will be a symposium starting at 4:30 p.m., featuring three lectures. Daniel Grossmann, founder and conductor of Orchester Jakobsplatz Munich, will speak on Jewish life in contemporary Germany and the work of composer Erwin Schulhoff, who died in a Nazi concentration camp.
UMaine history professor Alex Grab will speak about the artistic life in Terezin concentration camp, where one of his relatives, opera singer Hedda Grab-Kernmayr, helped found Freizeitgestaltung, the organization formed to oversee all aspects of cultural life in the camp. He’ll also talk about composer Gideon Klein, who died in a concentration camp.
UMaine music professor Phillip Silver will speak on the Nazi’s attempt to undermine and destroy the reputations of Felix Mendelssohn and Gustav Mahler as part of a systematic process to rewrite the historical record and make it conform to the racial dogma espoused by the regime.
The concert by Orchester Jakobsplatz Munich will follow at 7 p.m., featuring Mendelssohn’s “String Symphony No. 12 in G minor,” Gideon Klein’s “Partita for Strings” and Mahler’s “Adagio from Symphony No. 10.” In addition, saxophone soloist Daniel Gauthier will perform Erwin Schulhoff’s “Hot Sonate.”
Founded in 2005, Orchester Jakobsplatz Munich, which takes its name from the Jakobsplatz Jewish Cultural Center in Munich, is dedicated to fostering the presence and resurgence of Jewish culture. The ensemble features musicians from more than 20 countries.
Funding for the events comes from the Jewish Community Endowment Associates and the Judaic Studies Program at the University of Maine.
The symposium is free and open to the public.
Tickets for “Defiant Requiem” are $5; tickets for the Orchester Jakobsplatz Munich concert are $20 and $30. All are available online at collinscenterforthearts.com or by calling the Collins Center box office at 581-1755.