The Holocaust, considered by many the emblematic genocide of human history, took place over several years in the early nineteen-forties. As those years recede into the past, the youngest of those who survived - those who were, at most, fourteen at the time, because those who were younger did not
survive - approach their nineties. A door on history is closing. The opportunity to know of the Holocaust from the mouths of those who experienced it, to know survivors themselves, will inevitably dwindle to a vanishing point over the next decade.
, written and composed by Lawrence Siegel, is an oratorio for chorus, soloists and chamber orchestra, about one hour in length, whose texts come verbatim
from the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust. Kaddish
tells their stories in their own words, providing a window into their lives, allowing us to share their experience directly.
was commissioned by the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies at Keene State College, Keene, NH, in honor of its 25th anniversary. In 2009 the Center became the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, offering a baccalaureate degree, with a curriculum combining historical study with an interdisciplinary exploration of both the Holocaust and other genocidal events.
debuted at the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College on May 3, 2008, with a world premiere following in Minneapolis, MN, on November 15th, 2008, given by VocalEssence, under Philip Brunelle. On November 23rd, 2010, a full orchestral version will be premiered by the Houston Symphony and Houston Symphony Chorus. In the period leading up to that performance, a series of significant workshops and presentations will feature the composer and Holocaust survivors. These activities will be produced by the Holocaust Museum Houston in partnership with the Houston Symphony. The same month, Kaddish
will be performed on the campuses of the University of New Hampshire (November 14th, as part of Echoes of of the Holocaust) and Florida Atlantic University (November 6th, as part of the Lessons and Legacies of the Holocaust Conference).
There are plans for future performances around the world, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and Jerusalem, at Yad Vashem.
Of the premiere performance of Kaddish
, the Minneapolis Star Tribune said:
... In its lyrical simplicity, the music created an emotional connection to the story.
Kaddish had a gravitas and an emotional immediacy that made even the familiar story of the Holocaust fresh and compelling.
The Minnesota Pioneer Press agreed:
Of all the expectations for a musical work about the Holocaust, triumphant joy may not be one of them. ... But joy of a kind born in resiliency emerges like a glow of white light in the final section of Lawrence Siegel's oratorio — starting with a hymn-like choral setting of the words, "Nothing is as whole as a heart which has been broken," and rising to exaltation: "I am here! I survived, and look who is with me." After what has gone before, the impact of the conclusion is thrilling.
Interest in Kaddish
is being carried forward by a growing group of supporters, friends, and ambassadors, whose common purpose is to use this work of music to raise awareness of the issue of genocide; to take part in an act of tikkun olam
(repair of the world). We believe that Kaddish can accomplish this work by engendering empathy, not only for survivors of the Holocaust, but for survivors of genocide and oppression everywhere.