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North of England

Defiant Requiem UK Premiere

todayJanuary 25, 2017 11

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The Requiem has been developed by the Defiant Requiem Foundation to preserve the memory of the prisoners in Terezín during World War II, so future generations can comprehend the full horror of the Nazi Holocaust. With this performance coming the day after Holocaust Memorial Day, it promises to be a moving and poignant event.

The performance tells the story of courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp who performed the piece 16 times, with constantly changing musicians, as prisoners were transferred to Auschwitz, with new arrivals taking their place. The concert features a full performance of Verdi’s famous oratorio with actors, video testimony from surviving members of the Holocaust, and contemporary Nazi propaganda film footage.  The resulting work is dramatic and inspirational.

Murry Sidlin, creator of the Defiant Requiem, who is travelling to Durham from the United States of America, to conduct the UK premiere says, “What the imprisoned singers of Terezín did was remarkable. They had a single smuggled score and were able to rise above the depths of human degradation to another place through determined creativity. It is reported by camp survivors that Rafael Schächter, the prisoner who brought together and conducted the choir, said ‘We will sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them.’  It is most fitting that this UK premiere takes place as the country remembers all Holocausts throughout time around Holocaust Memorial Day. I hope that this performance is able to play its part as we, from all over the world, look to learn from the past as we move forward into the future.”

Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín has been presented worldwide more than 30 times since its world premiere in Portland, Oregon, USA, in 2002.

Tony Harrington, Director of the Forge says, “The Forge has a reputation for bringing internationally renowned work to County Durham, alongside its learning and outreach work with schools across the North East region.  We are delighted to be working with the Foundation enabling this UK premiere to take place in Durham Cathedral. The work is testament to humankind’s ability to find hope and inspiration during the darkest of times.” 

Actress Jane Arnfield is the narrator and Ali Pritchard, artistic director of theatre company ‘Alphabetti Spaghetti’ is playing Rafael Schächter. Soloists are Linda Richardson (Soprano), Alison Kettlewell (Mezzo-soprano), Philip Sheffield (Tenor) and Keel Watson (Bass-baritone).

The Choir and Orchestra for the evening comprise Durham Choral Society and Durham University Chamber Choir and Orchestral Society. 

Mike Summers, Director of Durham Choral Society says, “It is a huge privilege for the Society to be involved in the UK premiere of such a significant work.  This interpretation of Verdi’s masterpiece is truly unique and very moving.  We are looking forward to performing it with the musicians from Durham University, bringing together different musical communities within the city.  It promises to be a very special evening.

The Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín is at Durham Cathedral, on Saturday 28th January, 2017 at 7.30pm.

Tickets are available from Gala Theatre Box Office

Premier’s Northern Correspondent Ian Britton has been to Durham Cathedral to meet the team behind this Saturdays performance and you can listen to the interviews below.

Murry Sidlin, creator of the Defiant Requiem.

Tony Harrington, Director of the Forge

Mike Summers, Director of Durham Choral Society

Picture Credit Josef Rabara




Written by: Rufus Olaniyan

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