From Jan. 16 to March 15, a priceless collection of 50 string instruments once played by Jewish prisoner-musicians from the camps and ghettos of the Holocaust will be showcased in different formats by 42 Bay Area organizations.
This series of concerts, exhibitions, films, public forums and civic events will take place under the rubric, “Violins of Hope,” commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and international Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Napa Center for Thought & Culture (NCTC) is participating in this multi-faceted collaboration with one musical performance of “Along the Trade Route,” taking place Sunday, Jan. 26, at 2 p.m. at Jarvis Conservatory, 1711 Main St., Napa. Information and tickets can be found at Eventbrite.com.
For centuries, musicians have been sharing melodies without regard to political and national boundaries. Irish sailors brought melodies to sea ports in Ukraine. Turks and Jews shared common songs. Roma music has its origins in India.
“Along the Trade Route” brings together internationally-renown Bay Area musicians who, while steeped in seemingly separate cultural musical traditions, also share a surprising common vision of musical collaboration.
Traditional musical styles and musicians include:
- Klezmer: Cookie Segelstein, violin, and Joshua Horowitz, accordion;
- Middle Eastern: Emmanuel During, violin, and Phaedon Sinrivatsan, kanun;
- South Indian: Hemmige V. Srivatsan, violin, and Keshavan Narayanan Srivatsan, violin;
- Celtic: Darcy Noonan, violin, and Richard Mandel, guitar.
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The concert consists of four, 20-minute sets with each group playing their own repertoire. Cookie Segelstein will narrate and introduce each set on stage. Violinists will be performing instruments once owned and played by prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. These violins are now repaired and re-purposed as symbols of peace, social justice and hope.
Choosing a violin from the collection that Segelstein opted to play was inspired by memories of her own family.
“I was looking for sound quality,” she said. “Folk players often like a darker sounding instrument, and I was not thinking about an instrument’s history, but how it would feel to play them. Only when I saw there was an Auschwitz violin did it feel too close since my mom was in Auschwitz.”
“I was never drawn to Jewish music as a youngster, as I had to play it for my family, and I considered it a chore. But we can’t exactly go back and see ‘the old homestead’ where our parents were born so researching klezmer melodies from the region that my folks are from is as close to a visit to our past as we can get. When I play a melody I know was played in Munkacs (my mother’s town) or Veretski Pass (my father’s birthplace), I feel that I am honoring their memories.”
“Along the Trade Route” is part of Violins of Hope San Francisco Bay Area and presented in association with Music at Kohl Mansion in Burlingame. For a calendar of events, visit violinsofhopesfba.org.
For information on NCTC, visit nctcnapa.org.