Rutgers Choir Revives Polish-Jewish Music Forgotten During Holocaust

Rutgers Choir Revives Polish-Jewish Music Forgotten During Holocaust

The Kirkpatrick Choir performs lost music for the first time in the U.S.

Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir perform Polish-Jewish Music Lost During the Holocaust
Photo by Jody Somers

“We wanted to branch off from the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ idea of what life was like in Poland during the time, and showcase the rich diversity in art that is lesser known,” – Nancy Sinkoff

Media Contact
Cynthia Medina

Jewish culture, thought and music flowered in 19th- and early 20th century Poland – a modern renaissance destroyed by the horrors of the Holocaust.

This weekend the Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir, in partnership with Rutgers–New Brunswick’s Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life, will celebrate the fascinating, volatile and intensively creative music from that lost period, recovered through Indiana University musicology professor Halina Goldberg’s research.

“We wanted to branch off from the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ image of what life was like in Poland during this time, and showcase the rich diversity in art that is lesser known,” Nancy Sinkoff, the Bildner Center’s academic director, said. “Polish Jews had modernized and were cultural producers and consumers of art, painting, theater and music.”

The Kirkpatrick Choir, within Rutgers–New Brunswick’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, will perform “Soundscapes of Modernity: Jews and Music in Polish Cities,” featuring forgotten Polish-Jewish compositions that have not been performed in nearly a century, on Sunday at the Center for Jewish History in New York City.

The music spans the historically Polish cities of Kraków, Łódź, Wilno (today in Lithuania), and Lwów (today in Ukraine), and showcases their cultural diversity. It includes choral pieces from 19th-century progressive congregations, compositions associated with Jewish music societies and avant-garde works.

Some of the composers died during the Holocaust. Some were women – a trend  Goldberg called unusual for the time. 

“Sometimes history is written to keep women out of it, and one of the composers, Paula Szalit, left some compositions behind and we wanted to have her represented,” Goldberg said. “Beyond the tragic loss of individual musicians during the Holocaust, the destruction of Polish Jewish culture resulted in the erasing of a historical memory. Our hope is to give these artists back their musical voice.”

A downloadable sample of music that will be performed during the concert can be found here.

 

Media Contact
Cynthia Medina