Longwood’s Camerata and Chamber Singers will participate this month in a 20th anniversary performance of a composition that honors the spirit of a group of Jewish musicians who fought to maintain their humanity—and their music—while enduring the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp.
Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín is set to be performed at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland, bringing together choirs from several universities in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
The multimedia concert-drama combines the music of Verdi with video testimonials and narration to tell the story of the courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp (Terezín) who performed the celebrated Verdi Requiem while experiencing the depths of human degradation. With only a smuggled score, they performed the famous oratorio 16 times, including one performance before senior SS officials from Berlin and an International Red Cross delegation. Conductor Rafael Schächter told the choir, “We will sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them.”
Each one of these students will encounter the history of the Holocaust and the music of Verdi in a profoundly meaningful and personal way. I am proud of their work and the citizen leaders they are as they represent Longwood in this project.Pam McDermott, associate professor of music at Longwood and director of choral activities
“The Defiant Requiem has been performed over 50 times all around the world. We are honored to have been invited to participate in this 20th anniversary performance,” said Pam McDermott, associate professor of music at Longwood and director of choral activities. “Singers this semester include students studying anthropology and archaeology, history, computer science, sociology, elementary education, English, communication studies, and, of course, music.
“Each one of these students will encounter the history of the Holocaust and the music of Verdi in a profoundly meaningful and personal way. I am proud of their work and the citizen leaders they are as they represent Longwood in this project,” she said.
Earlier in this semester, Longwood students met Murry Sidlin, the creator of Defiant Requiem, via Zoom. He shared with them the history of the project, which was inspired by a small note about the Theresienstadt performances he found in a used book. He tracked down relatives and survivors of the camp and learned how Schächter inspired and equipped fellow prisoners to perform Verdi’s work. From that research, Sidlin created a narrated, multimedia performance that includes video testimony from survivors along with Jewish folk tunes, German Lied and clips from Nazi propaganda films.
Tickets, priced from $35-$115, are available here: https://www.strathmore.org/what-s-on/in-the-music-center/defiant-requiem-verdi-at-terezin/