The Vedem Project: 2009-2010
Music of Remembrance, in Seattle, WA, has again commissioned Lori — this time to compose a Holocaust oratorio, Vedem. Vedem, which translates to “in the lead” was the name of the secret magazine “published” by the boys of Terezin between 1942 and 1944. David Mason has created a brilliant libretto which tells the tale of these boys, and Lori is interweaving Dave’s libretto with seven of the poems from the magazine. The poems are by Petr Ginz, Hanus Hachenburg, Zdenek Ornest, and Josef Taussig. Ornest was the only one to survive the war, and he died in 1966.

Lori recently met with two of the Vedem “boys” — Leo Löwy and Emil Kopel, now in their 80s. Kopel lives in Australia and Lowy lives in New Jersey and they had not seen each other for 66 years. The meeting was filmed by the award-winning filmmaker John Sharify. John is making a documentary Vedem.

Lori’s work is scored for boychoir, tenor, mezzo-soprano, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, and will premiere in Benaroya Hall in Seattle on May 10, 2010.

We are all children, little ones
Playing with a colored ball.
We cry easily with ruddy cheeks
And then, with glowing faces
We look at a silvery world,
At green hillsides,
At life. We look ahead.

Hanus Hachenburg (b. 1929, perished Auschwitz)

This is Music of Remembrance’s most ambitious and compelling artistic enterprise ever. It will take us an entire season to complete. Through words, music and film, we will tell a story that adds a compelling new dimension to the world’s understanding of the Terezín concentration camp and its unique legacy.
Our inspiration? Commemorating the teenage boys imprisoned in Terezín, with the words of their secret journal, VEDEM. They published it weekly over two years; about 800 pages survive. The boys’ poems, essays and artwork are filled with extraordinary compassion, wisdom, and humor even in the face of their dire circumstances.

“We no longer want to be an accidental group of boys,” Walter Roth wrote, “passively succumbing to the fate meted out to us. We want to create an active, mature society and through work and discipline transform our fate into a joyful, proud reality.”

Through the support of MOR’s family and friends, this project will become a “joyful, proud reality.” We hope you will join us.

The World Premiere of a New MOR Commission: Seattle audiences have had a front row seat on the lyrical genius of American composer Lori Laitman. Her new oratorio VEDEM is a major hour-long work for boy choir, instrumental quartet, and two solo voices mezzo soprano and tenor. Laitman is also creating a song-cycle version without choir that can travel more widely, and that MOR can perform as part of our educational programs.

Laitman weaves together David Mason's libretto with the inspiring poetry by Terezin's young prisoners, creating hauntingly beautiful music, and giving a new voice to the boys' unbending resistance to those who sought to rob them of their humanity.

Our spring concert at Benaroya Hall on May 10, 2010 is the setting for VEDEM’s world premiere, featuring opera vocalists Ross Hauck and Angela Niederloh, and the amazing Northwest Boychoir

The CD Recording
: Shortly after the oratorio’s world premiere, the performers will record VEDEM at Benaroya Hall, taking advantage of the facility’s state-of-the-art technology. We expect the recording to be released on a major international label, giving VEDEM a broad worldwide audience

The Documentary Film: The Boys of Terezín will bring you face to face with the extraordinary courage and idealism of those Terezín teens, and immerse you in the inspiring poetry and art of their clandestine journal. It will chronicle the creation, decades later, of MOR’s musical testament to their lives and art. The film will be produced, directed and narrated by Seattle filmmaker/journalist John Sharify, the winner of multiple Edward R. Murrow and Emmy Awards. Sharify has already begun filming the firsthand testimonies of the six remaining survivors – now spread across four continents – from the Terezín boy’s room whose young residents created their extraordinary secret magazine VEDEM.

Lori Laitman: Vedem (2010)

World premiere: May 10, 2010, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA, at Music of Remembrance's Holocaust Memorial Day Concert.

This Holocaust oratorio by award-winning composer Lori Laitman and poet/librettist David Mason tells the astonishing story of the boys at Terezín and their clandestine journal Vedem, of which, about 800 pages remain. (Petr Ginz became Vedem’s only editor-in-chief at 14; at fifteen he died at Auschwitz.) The incomparable Northwest Boychoir, along with tenor Ross Hauck and mezzo-soprano Angela Niederloh, join us to unveil this extraordinary work on May 10, 2010. Says Laitman:

When Mina Miller suggested the story of Vedem to me, I was touched by the courage of these boys and the beauty of their art. I asked poet David Mason, with whom I had collaborated on my opera The Scarlet Letter, to create a libretto—the result was a brilliant poetic verse drama entwined with six of the original Vedem poems. This libretto allowed me to capture not only the tragic aspects of the boys’ lives, but also their humanity—their little worries, their spirited response to adversity, their yearnings, and their humor—with an equal range of musical responses to the text. For the [Northwest] Boychoir, I fashioned melodies appropriate for children to sing (listen for the Vedem tune). Leitmotifs unify the score and underpin the dramatic action, and the more vocally intricate sections are reserved for the soloists. The theme from Dvorak’s Humoresque serves as a counterpoint to “Love in The Floodgates,” inspired by survivor Emil Kopel enduring a death march in Buchenwald by replaying this tune in his head. The instrumental interlude introduced in the first section, “The Transports,” reappears in various guises, ultimately merging with the voices, who intone the names of the dead. Vedem was composed between May 2009 and January 2010.

Laitman's choice of choral and solo settings will allow us to present the work with soloists only, without chorale, in our Sparks of Glory outreach series.


Lori Laitman (b. 1955, Long Beach, NY)

One of America’s most acclaimed composers of vocal music, Lori Laitman’s oeuvre includes over 200 art songs setting the words of classical and contemporary poets, as well as a unique body of music commemorating the Holocaust. Her MOR premieres include Holocaust 1944 (November 2000), Fathers (April 2003), and her first MOR commission, The Seed of Dream (May 2005). Her Holocaust-themed chamber opera, Come To Me in Dreams, had its premiere at Cleveland Opera in 2004. Laitman’s opera The Scarlet Letter, to David Mason’s adaptation of the Hawthorne classic, was commissioned and presented by the University of Central Arkansas in 2008. After Vedem, she and Mason are collaborating on the opera Ludlow, based on Mason’s epic verse novel. Recently Laitman was the “Featured Composer” on songofamerica.net, Thomas Hampson’s new website. Her music has been released on Albany, Naxos, Channel Classics and other labels. Laitman received her B.A. and M.M. from Yale University.

 

 

 


David Mason’s books of poems include The Buried Houses (winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize), The Country I Remember (winner of the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award), and Arrivals. His verse novel, Ludlow, was published in 2007, and named best poetry book of the year by the Contemporary Poetry Review and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Author of a collection of essays, The Poetry of Life and the Life of Poetry, Mason has also co-edited several textbooks and anthologies, including Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry, Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism, Twentieth Century American Poetry, and Twentieth Century American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry. His poetry, prose and translations have appeared in such periodicals as Harper’s, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry, Agenda, Modern Poetry in Translation, The New Criterion, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, The American Scholar, The Irish Times, and The Southern Review. He has also written the libretto for composer Lori Laitman’s opera of The Scarlet Letter. He recently won the Thatcher Hoffman Smith Creativity in Motion Prize for the development of a new libretto.A former Fulbright Fellow to Greece, he lives near the Garden of the Gods with his wife, Anne Lennox.