Experia Music presented Donald McCullough’s Holocaust Cantata at First Unitarian Church in Hamilton. The audience was asked to allow the performance to happen without interruption for applause and that really helped us focus.
The evening opened with a rather mournful Prayer for the World sung by the eight primary singers; followed by the traditional Ose Shalom sung by the First Unitarian Choir; then it was on to’ Ani ma’anim’ sung responsively between the female and male singers. Each of these pieces seemed to build in confidence and power, but at this stage the whole thing still felt rather tentative.
Gerald Fisher gave us greetings from the Hamilton Jewish Federation and told us that Jews are commanded to remember the Holocaust so that it is never repeated. He forcefully reminded us of the events of ONE WEEK ago in Donetsk when Jews were told they had to register with the authorities and list their property. That was an event which sent shudders though the gentile world and must have terrified Jews everywhere. No one can afford to forget the Holocaust.
After the greetings we then heard the Holocaust Cantata. This is a 40 minute long powerful performance piece put together by Donald McCullough which alternates music with readings from actual concentration camp inmates. Once we got into the actual cantata we became totally engrossed. The songs were presented mainly by the eight singers sometimes with one of them singing solo and once with the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus, they were accompanies by Tania Vroenhoven, piano and Kirk Starkey, cello. The readings were all done by descendants of holocaust survivors.
The songs ranged from a plaintive love song to a young girl deported to ‘forced labour’ in Germany by her beau who knew he would never see her again, to a rousing chorus of defiant Polish prisoners, to a hauntingly lovely Buchenwald song
for cello and singers, to a heartbreaking women’s chorus ‘The Striped Ones’, and even a lilting cello and piano tango. But it was the readings that broke your heart. Singing Saved My Life about singing in the camps and receiving ‘treats’ in gratitude – treats that had come from other prisoners rations; the defiance of Cominski’s brother at his execution; the elimination of the Polish Intelligentsia; the ‘needling’ of the mothers and babies.
We cannot afford to forget or we will allow the next Donetsk to happen.
The singers were Beth McJannet and Annetta Wetham, sopranos; Caroline Olsen and Teri-Lyn Paterson, alto; Bud Roach & Gord Simmons, tenors, with Paul Hawkins & Martin Kuplens-Ewart, basses. The readers were Anna Schafer, Jessica Teicheje, Tom Weisz and Matt Szpirglas. Annette Wetham literally stepped in at the last minute, without rehearsal, for a sick Elise Naccarato.
Paul Hawkins is talking about possibly presenting this again, if he does – see it.