Meet some of the artists behind “Voices of the Holocaust,” a multimedia event celebrating the triumph of the spirit.
(Sarasota, FL) On April 28, the 2014 International Day of Holocaust Remembrance, Gloria Musicae will present “Voices of the Holocaust,” a multimedia event celebrating the triumph of the spirit and featuring the Florida premiere of a dramatic cantata based on 22 songs sung and composed in ghettoes and concentration camps during World War II. To kick off this monumental event, which also features original chorography and the participation of more than six choral groups, Gloria Musicae is presenting “Musical Conversation,” a free panel discussion with some of the artists behind “Voices of the Holocaust.” The panel includes composer Sheridan Seyfried; Seyfried’s former mentor and composer, James Grant; choreographer Elizabeth Weil-Bergman, and Dr. Joseph Holt, artistic director of Gloria Musicae. The panel discussion, followed by a reception, is Friday, April 25, 4-6 p.m., at the Sarasota Herald Tribune, 1741 Main Street, Sarasota. The event is free with limited seating on a first-come basis.
Composer Sheridan Seyfried (b. 1984) is a native of Philadelphia. Seyfried studied composition at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. His music has been performed by dozens of artists, ensembles and orchestras. In 2001, Seyfried received an ASCAP award for his string quartet, “Pro and Contra,” and the following year he was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. In 2004, Seyfried arranged for choir and strings for a concert-length cantata of folk music from the Holocaust entitled “Voices of the Holocaust.” His 2013 “Violin Concerto,” written for Dennis Kim, was premiered by the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra (Finland). Seyfried serves on the music theory faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music and is also completing studies for his master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music. An accomplished pianist, Seyfried frequently performs his own music.
For more than three decades, composer James Grant, who is a part-time resident of Sarasota, has had his works commissioned by choruses, chamber ensembles and orchestras from around the world. In 2002, Grant was one of five American composers to win the Aaron Copland Award; in 2004, he won the Sylvia Goldstein Award, sponsored by Copland House. His colorful musical language is known by musicians and audiences for its honed craft and immediacy. After the 2003 Kennedy Center premiere of his 55-minute work for chorus and large orchestra based on the writings of Walt Whitman, “Such Was The War,” the Washington Times declared it “a work of outstanding power and breadth of emotion.” Recognized by Cornell University’s Graduate School of Humanities and Arts and by the Vermont chapter of the National Music Teachers Association for exceptional contributions as an educator, Grant continues to be active as a lecturer and private teacher of composition. He was Sheridan Seyfried’s former teacher and featured significantly in Seyfried’s decision to compose “Voices of the Holocaust.”
Elizabeth Weil Bergmann has enjoyed a long career as a distinguished choreographer, teacher, performer, and administrator, most recently as the dance director at Harvard University. A graduate of the Juilliard School, while in New York City Bergmann was mentored by such modern dance greats as Martha Graham and José Limón, for whom she danced and taught. Her numerous honors and grants include three Choreography Fellowship Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her choreography for Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore” was invited to be performed at the Spoleto Festival by Menotti himself. She spent three years as a guest choreographer at the Interlochen Arts Center in Interlochen, Michigan, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Trinidad, West Indies, where she choreographed and taught for the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. Closer to home, previous to her work on “Voices,” she created original choreography for Karl Jenkins’ “Requiem,” sung by Sarasota’s Key Chorale, on dancers from seven different local dance companies and schools.
Dr. Joseph Holt has enjoyed a wide-ranging career as conductor, pianist, chamber music performer, arts administrator, educator and arranger. He currently serves as artistic director of Gloria Musicae, Sarasota’s professional choral ensemble, and is director of music at Faith Lutheran Church. Holt retired to Sarasota after serving more than 20 years as principal pianist with The United States Army Chorus in Washington, DC, performing for U.S. presidents, dignitaries from around the world, and military officials.
“Uniting so many talented people to bring the premiere of this deeply moving work to our area has been a true peak experience,” says Holt. “Our panel discussion will give audiences a deeper grasp of the thought and passion empowering this event—and a chance to meet some of the people making it possible.”
“Voices of the Holocaust” features original choreography and a wealth of participants, including the Gloria Musicae Singers, Sarasota Young Voices, Sarasota Jewish Chorale, Booker High School Concert Choir, Sarasota Choral Society, the Chroma Quartet and the Sarasota-Manatee Dance Alliance. Charlayne Hunter-Gault, civil rights activist and award-winning author and journalist, will offer opening remarks for the program. The concert is Monday, April 28, 7:30 p.m., at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are $25-$70. For tickets, call the Van Wezel box office at 941-953-3368 or visit www.gloriamusicae.org.
About “Voices of the Holocaust”
Sheridan Seyfried’s “Voices of the Holocaust” is an arrangement of music written during the Holocaust in the ghettos and concentration camps between 1939 and 1945. It comprises 22 songs structured as a dramatic cantata in five parts. The work was commissioned by Philip Klein and the State College Choral Society (SCCS) in State College, PA, and was premiered by SCCS in 2004. The songs take many forms, including new lyrics composed to existing folk tunes, original lyrics with original melodies, partisan songs set to rousing military tunes and, in one case, a musical setting of text from the 12th-century, “13 Articles of Faith.” A few of the lyricists and composers remain unknown. One composer, Alexander Tamir, who was 11 when he composed the music to “Quiet, Quiet,” survived the war and is living in Israel where he teaches music. “Voices of the Holocaust” is divided into five sections, grouping the songs thematically: 1) music responding to pogroms; 2) music responding to ghetto life; 3) music of faith of hope; 4) music describing the plight of children in the Holocaust; and 5) music of the resistance (partisan) movement. Songs are mostly heard in English translation, though a few are presented in the original Yiddish. The work ends with the famous partisan anthem, “Zog Nit Keyn Mol” (“Never Say This Is the Final Road for You”), a song known to survivors who stand whenever it is sung.
About the Gloria Musicae Singers
The Gloria Musicae Singers is a professional vocal ensemble that celebrates choral music through innovative performances. The critically acclaimed group, under the artistic direction of Dr. Joseph Holt, performs a repertoire spanning four centuries, and includes orchestral works, intimate madrigals, church motets, folk songs, close-harmony jazz, and Broadway show music. The ensemble also specializes in premiere performances of lesser-known choral works, particularly music by living American composers. The Gloria Musicae Singers has performed premieres by René Clausen, Dick Hyman, Robert Levin, Gwyneth Walker, and James Grant, along with the premiere of a new edition of a rarely heard score by Rossini. For more information about Gloria Musicae, visit www.gloriamusicae.org.