A Holocaust survivor wears a yellow star during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It was an off-the-beaten-track event marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem, entitled “Musical Memory,” initiated and directed by the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance High School’s Hen Peri.
Unlike many other Holocaust events for survivors, this one did not focus on their experiences during the war, but went back further, to their early childhoods, before the persecutions started – indeed, before they were even anticipated. These happy childhood memories, including childhood songs, though perhaps partly forgotten, still live on in the minds of survivors, and continue to be an integral part of their innermost selves.
The students’ research project attempted to awaken those musical memories and to make senior residents – in this case, at Beit Moses Parents Home in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood – sing these half-forgotten songs for a video that was screened on the stage of the event.
Learned in peaceful times, these are mostly harmless, partly humorous light classical pieces, such as Schubert’s “Lindenbaum” [“The Lime Tree”], Brahms’ Lullaby, early popular songs and folk songs in various languages. This was, of course, not bel canto singing, but the somewhat weak and hoarse singing of grandparents, rendered with no trace of sentimentality, but with noticeable nostalgia.
The survivors’ songs were then repeated by the Academy students with their fresh, youthful voices in the pieces’ original languages and/or in Hebrew translation, with discreetly modernized instrumental arrangements and with utmost respect for the survivors’ original renditions.
This extremely original approach revealed survivors’ happy childhoods that could not be entirely obliterated by later atrocities and that still live on.
These songs conjured up a performance with profoundly moving emotional impact.