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April 19, 2007

Holocaust Remembrance Gets a Hearing or Two
By Cantor David F. Tilman, Jewish Exponent Feature

The theme of this year's annual Holocaust ceremony -- "The Urgency of Holocaust Remembrance in the Madness of Our Age" - is reflected in speeches, historical reminiscences, photographic and film exhibitions, artifact displays and musical events, all gripping reminders of the greatest horror to befall the Jewish people in our history.

Two important concerts of Holocaust music express such intense urgency. This coming Friday night, April 20, Cantor Mark Elson of Congregation Shir Ami will share his pulpit with Jason Calloway - 28-year-old cellist, Shir Ami Bar Mitzvah boy and a graduate of Council Rock High School, the Juilliard School and the University of Southern California. Calloway has assembled three musicians - pianist, violinist and violist - to perform a 60-minute program of "Entartete Musik," compositions by Jewish composers whose work was derided by the Nazis as "degenerate art."

Several of these musicians escaped Germany before the full force of the Holocaust, settling in Hollywood as film musicians in the golden age of the American cinema of the 1940s and '50s.

Composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Franz Waxman wrote both chamber pieces and works for large forces in Germany prior to beginning their second careers in California. Others perished in concentration camps, but left behind original manuscripts.

Pittsburgh-based pianist Nancy Rubenstein sparked Calloway's interest in this repertoire. He then founded Music Reborn, an organization dedicated to researching and presenting works by Holocaust composers. Calloway, who considers himself "fortunate to have known Holocaust survivors over the years," says that his life was transformed by his association with David Arben, former associate concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, whose violin virtuosity saved his own life in a Nazi concentration camp.

Calloway is on a mission to be an advocate for this repertoire: "To play only the standard repertoire is self-indulgent," he declared, adding that this music allows him to create and perpetuate an aspect of Jewish history and culture of great importance.

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