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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

World’s Oldest Holocaust Survivor Stars in Oscar-Nominated Film

Friday, February 14th, 2014

In her 110 years, Alice Herz-Sommer has been an accomplished concert pianist and teacher, a wife and mother — and a prisoner in Theresienstadt.

Now she is the star of an Oscar-nominated documentary showing her  indomitable optimism, cheerfulness and vitality despite all the upheavals and horrors she faced in the 20th century.

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” a 38-minute film up for best short documentary at the Academy Awards to be handed out next month, begins in her native Prague. Alice — everyone from presidents on down calls her Alice — was born on Nov. 26, 1903 into an upper-class Jewish family steeped in literature and classical music.

A friend and frequent visitor was “Uncle Franz,” surname Kafka, along with composer Gustav Mahler and other luminaries.

Trained as a pianist from childhood, Alice made her concert debut as a teenager, married, had a son and seemed destined for the pleasant, cultured life of a prosperous Middle European. But everything changed in 1939 when Hitler, casually tearing up the Munich accord of a year earlier, marched his troops into Prague and brought with him his anti-Semitic edicts.

Her public concert career was over, yet the family managed to hang on in an increasingly restrictive existence in the Czech capital.

In 1943, however, Alice and her husband, their 6-year old son Raphael (Rafi), and Alice’s mother were loaded on the transport to Theresienstadt. The fortress town some 30 miles from Prague was touted by Nazi propaganda as the model ghetto — “The Fuhrer’s gift to the Jews,” with its own orchestra, theater group and even soccer teams.

With the full extent of the Holocaust still largely unknown, Alice took her deportation with relative equanimity, as was typical for many European Jews.

“If they have an orchestra in Terezin, how bad can it be?” she recalled asking, using the Czech name of the town.

Alice soon found out, as her mother and husband perished there. Alice was saved by her musical gifts and became a member of the camp orchestra and gave more than 100 recitals.

But her main focus was on Rafi, trying to make his life bearable, to escape the constant hunger and infuse him with her own hopefulness.

“What she did reminded me of Roberto Benigni in the Italian film ‘Life is Beautiful,’ “ said Malcolm Clarke, director of “The Lady in Number 6.” “He plays an Italian Jew who pretends to his young son that life in the camp is some kind of elaborate game for the boy’s special amusement.”

Liberated in 1945, Alice and Rafi returned to Prague but four years later left for Israel. There she taught at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and performed in concerts frequently attended by Golda Meir, while Rafi became a concert cellist.

Alice said she loved her 37 years living in Israel, but when Rafi, her only child, decided to move to London, she went with him. A few years later Rafi died at 65, but the mother remained in her small flat, No. 6, in a North London apartment house.

Nearly all of the film was shot over a two-year period inside the flat dominated by an old Steinway piano on which Alice played four hours each day, to the enjoyment of her neighbors.

Originally the filmmakers considered “Dancing Under the Gallows” as the film’s title before going with “The Lady in Number 6.”

It was a wise decision, for the film is anything but a grim Holocaust documentary with Alice’s unfailing affirmation of life, usually accompanied by gusts of laughter.

Her health and speech have declined in recent months, and she no longer does interviews. But in a brief phone conversation, conducted mainly in German, Alice attributed her outlook partially to having been born with optimistic genes and a positive attitude.

American Culture: How to Reconcile the Brutal and the Effete?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

I’m deeply confused about American culture. Let me cite two incidents as examples and then talk about some attitudes I hear about from my son’s reports on visits with friends. Perhaps readers can explain this contradiction between the effete and the brutal.

Arriving in the United States, I go to the nearby Trader Joe’s food store. It is of course very PC. At the checkout counter, the clerk asks, “Have you returned anything?” I did a double-take. Is this a bid for higher taxes? A taunt to the 1 percent who shop there?

No, he explains that they have some kind of program about bringing back bags. “The people in Bethesda,” he smugly asserts, “are the smartest!”

By coincidence, I had just heard some article saying that using returned bags is potentially dangerous since there can be some food remnants that rot and may breed bacteria. (I certainly don’t know what is true scientifically.) Unable to resist, and out of curiosity, I said, “Maybe they are not the smartest,” and explained my concern.

Instantly, he changed his attitude, snarled and said, “They’re the smartest!” No contradiction would be tolerated. Anyway, he started it. But given all the waste involved in a supermarket business–let’s start with the packaging–the small but highly right-thinking-people gesture of reused bags strikes me as a laughable symbol. Not to mention the fact that Trader Joe’s isn’t giving out food to the poor or opening stores to take big losses in what Michelle Obama calls, “food deserts.”

Is this salvation on the cheap, like those in wealthy California coastal cities that take away the farmers’ water to save some obscure fish and then congratulate themselves on their enlightenment?

About the same time, I sit in a sandwich place and a song comes on the radio. My jaw drops. A female singer repeats the lyric, “I said drive, bitch,” apparently it’s a car-jacking? She just keeps going over and over again in a very aggressive tone. At the end, the sound effect indicates that the female driver has been shot and fell down dead.

I sat there speechless. I simply couldn’t believe what I was hearing. If there is a “war on women” isn’t it actually waged most vigorously in certain sectors of popular music? The same could be said of the music of the much honored Jay-Z or many others.

Now perhaps this is a silly taking of two extreme phenomena, and I’ll accept that verdict if that’s what you think. But it symbolizes perhaps a bigger thing. On one hand, American culture today (should I say popular culture?) is one of watch your language, goody-goody, we are just so virtuous. There is rap music and the message given to children in Politically Correct lessons.

On the other hand, though, on film, television, literature, music, and public discourse it is intolerant and at times proudly brutal. Is that a valid observation? And if so how is this tension reconciled?

During a visit to the United States, conversations among young teenage boys, who in school were subjected to intense indoctrination, run like this:

–They make fun of alleged gays among them, flinging the charge as insulting but then quickly adding, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

–They show very vile disrespect toward girls of their age. It doesn’t seem that there is any change over the decades, but there certainly isn’t a reduction of “sexist” attitudes. They discuss them far more openly. The concept of gentleman or even restrained behavior is gone, perhaps in conjunction with the musical examples. Attitudes that would once have been derided as “low-class” by the elite have now become common place. So how is there then an elite setting a good example?

–They use far more racial epithets and negative stereotypes of others than my generation, though it is covered by frequent accusations that this or that is racist. Dubbing of something as racism is used as a weapon, a description of something one doesn’t like.

–They see themselves as part of some downtrodden class even though they are financially well-off. For example, they talk about rich white people but when pointed out that they live in big houses, they say the houses are bigger in some other neighborhoods.

Singer Tom Jones to Snub Boycott Movement and Perform in Israel

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Welsh singer Tom Jones has given the Boycott Israel another kick in the pants by announcing  he will perform in Tel Aviv in October

Jones, now 73 years old, will appear the Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv.

Earlier this week, Eric Burdon, former lead singer of the Animals, changed his mind about honoring the boycott and said he is not canceling his show, despite a flood of emails, some of them threatening, from boycott activists.

Sounds Israeli: Idan Amedi

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Idan Amedi was discovered in the eighth season of the Israeli show “A Star is Born” (Kokhav Nolad) and, in a short period of time, managed to conquer the Israeli charts with songs such as “Soldier’s pain,” “Tashlich,” “Running to the light,” and “to you.” His singles have won “Song of the year” and “Breakthrough act of the year.”

Here’s a couple of videos of his hits, Bazman Ha’Acharon and Nigmar:


Visit CiF Watch.

Barbra Streisand to Receive Honorary Doctorate from Hebrew U

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Legendary American Jewish actress and singer Barbra Streisand will receive an honorary doctor of philosophy degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem next month.

The university said it is honoring Streisand “in recognition of her professional achievements, outstanding humanitarianism, leadership in the realm of human and civil rights, and dedication to Israel and the Jewish people.”

Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, president of the Hebrew University, stated, “Barbra Streisand’s transcendent talent is matched by her passionate concern for equality and opportunity for people of every gender and background. Equally important, her love of Israel and her Jewish heritage are reflected in so many aspects of her life and career. We are deeply proud to honor an individual who exemplifies these values which we at the Hebrew University share and uphold.”

Streisand established the Emanuel Streisand Building for Jewish Studies on the University’s Mount Scopus campus in 1984 in memory of her father, whom she praised as “a teacher, scholar and religious man who devoted himself to education.”

Referring to her 1983 award-winning movie, “Yentl,” she said she was pleased that women could now “pursue Jewish studies without having to disguise themselves as men.” The film, which she directed, produced, and co-wrote, had its Israeli premiere in 1984 under the sponsorship of the Israel Friends of The Hebrew University.

Streisand will sing publicly for the first time in Israel when she visits next month and performs in two concerts. The personal highlight of her trip will be the performance on the opening night of the Israeli Presidential Conference at the Jerusalem International Convention Center June 18.

Two years ago, Streisand appeared in a program on behalf of the welfare of soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, raising $12 million.

Born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn in 1942, she lost her father when she was just a child. While still in her teens, she launched her career as a singer by initially winning a singing contest. At age 19, Streisand made her Broadway debut, and in 1962 she issued her first album, which quickly became the top-selling record by a female vocalist in the United States.

By age 28, Streisand had already earned five of the entertainment industry’s most prestigious awards – the Grammy, Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe, making her an icon of American culture and an international favorite.

The honorary degree from Hebrew University will not be her first. Streisand holds an Honorary Doctorate in Arts and Humanities from Brandeis.

Streisand once sang the Israel national anthem, taking the stage at the conclusion of the 1978 Stars Salute Israel show.

A YouTube video of her rendition can be seen below.

Sounds Israeli: The Fools of Prophecy

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

I had the pleasure of seeing the band Shotei Hanevuah (Fools of Prophecy) perform live during my first and only trip to Israel prior to making aliyah, and I’ll likely forever associate their sound – a fusion of dub reggae, hip-hop, dance and eastern Mediterranean music - with the magical time when I first fell in love with Eretz Yisrael.

Here’s a very raw live version of their hit song “Ein Ani,” performed in front of an IDF unit in 2012.

Visit CifWatch.

Holocaust Victims’ Violins to be Used in Monaco Concert

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

The Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo will perform a “Violins of Hope” concert in Monaco featuring

Several violins of Jewish Holocaust victims murdered by the Nazis

The concert will be held May 5 at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum, and the stories of their owners will be told, according to a report in the Nice, France Matain daily.

The idea was initiated by Smadar Eisenberg, president of Friends of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo association, who obtained the instruments from the atelier of Amnon Weinstein – an Israeli violin maker who for years has been collecting and restoring musical instruments belonging to Holocaust victims.

The life stories of the instruments’ owners will be told during the concert along with other biographies of musicians who lived through the Holocaust, including that of Alma Rosé, a conductor of the Auschwitz women’s orchestra and niece to the composer Gustav Mahler.

Additionally, homage will be paid at the concert to Hans Krasa and Gideon Klein – two Jewish musicians who continued to compose until their deaths in the Nazis’ gas chambers.

All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Hebrew University’s neurology research center.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/holocaust-victims-violins-to-be-used-in-monaco-concert/2013/04/30/

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