SCoJeC was delighted to support the first post-pandemic event of the Arran Jewish Cultural Association, a piano recital by American music professor, researcher, and pianist Deborah Nemko in the Lamlash Community Theatre as part of the annual McLellan Arts Festival.
Dr Nemko presented a programme of music by composers whose work and lives were impacted or even lost during the Holocaust. A professor at Bridgewater State University and teacher at the New England Conservatory, her research and performance focus on recovering these suppressed works and restoring them to the concert repertoire, and has been very well received at previous standing-room-only events on the island.
As on previous occasions, the concert included a mix of music and the stories behind them. The audience heard the cheerful works of Dutch pianists Fania Chapiro and Rosy Wertheim, who offered secret concerts and turned to composing rather than participate in Nazi-sponsored musical events. Other pieces were by Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff, whose jazz-inspired works were prematurely silenced by his arrest in 1941 and subsequent death. There was even a Scottish connection in the form of Hans Gál, a successful Jewish musician who spent the rest of his life in Edinburgh when his career in Austria was cut short by Nazi suppression. The last scheduled piece was an irrepressibly bubbly song by Willy Rosen, who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.
Deborah and well-known local music teacher Alice Maxwell, who have been close friends since they were both students in Manchester in 1986, ended the concert with an unscheduled gift to the audience, a sweetly melodic duet by Fritz Kreisler for piano and violin.
Dr Nemko commented, “It is hard not to be inspired by the courage and wisdom of a child named Anne Frank. By performing and presenting piano compositions written around the time of the most famous young victim of the Holocaust, I hope to promote an understanding of the difficulties Jewish musicians faced composing music in hiding, in concentration camps, and as refugees. Erwin Schulhoff and Pavel Haas lost their lives in the camps. For this reason, I play the works featured in the concert as a living testament to the struggles and courage of their creative lives.”
Barb Taub, co-ordinator of the Arran Jewish Cultural Association said, "Although Arran has relatively few Jewish residents, the island as a whole is remarkable in its enthusiasm and willingness to embrace other cultures. Almost every event we've sponsored has been packed, and we've often had to turn people away – this event was no exception. The pandemic set us back, but we're looking forward to working with SCoJeC to reconnect with island residents and visitors."