The Shoah Songbook

It being Holocaust Remembrance Week it was entirely appropriate that Tuesday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was given by the Likht Ensemble of Jaclyn Grossman, soprano, and Nate Ben-Horin, piano. The material was mostly drawn from music written/collected at either Theresienstadt or in the ghettos of Lithuania.

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Things started off with an arrangement by Nate of Mark Warshawsky’s Ofyn Priopetchik.  It was an interesting arrangement beginning a cappella then with the accompaniment gradually thickening to finish in a piano only coda.  The rest of the programme varied from very composed art song type material; mostly in German from composers like Edwin Geist, Percy Haid and Viktor Ullmann to much folkier and popular material.  Inevitably there were tango influences in both styles and a certain dark, ironic humour. I particularly enjoyed the weirdly ironic Zingt un Tantst in Ridelekh which is an upbeat number concealing a veiled reference to the SS as a “bad omen”.  The final song was Vsechno jde! which is a sort of cheerful number from Theresienstadt that claims that anything is possible if one wants it to be.  Except of course it’s not.

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It was all well performed too.  Jaclyn has a big dramatic voice which is a type to which the RBA is notoriously acoustically unkind.  She sounded really good though with only the occasional high note getting the RBA treatment.  Nate was an accomplished and sympathetic collaborator and he was also responsible for many of the arrangements.  I also like the way both of them contextualized the music and their own relationship to it.  It was entirely fitting, moving and, most of all, musically very rewarding.

Photo credits: Canadian Opera Company

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