11/30/2015

Auschwitz Women's Orchestra Honored

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.

Cleveland Women’s Orchestra honors Auschwitz counterpart

Photo / The Cleveland Women's Orchestra

By Jonah L. Rosenblum

Hedy Milgrom has been with The Cleveland Women’s Orchestra since she moved to Cleveland three and a half decades ago. Her first day at the Great Lakes Arts Alliance, she arrived at work to find a news clipping on her desk about the orchestra. The rest was history.

Lengthy tenure aside, Milgrom said the orchestra’s Nov. 2 performance at Idea Center at Playhouse Square in remembrance of The Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz (part of the Violins of Hope project) was unusually moving.

“I was blown away by how moved the audience was, which made it even more meaningful for me,” Milgrom said.

A much larger audience will have the chance to take in The Cleveland Women’s Orchestra’s latest work Dec. 6.

While Idea Center seated an audience of maybe 250, with tickets selling out in five minutes according to Milgrom, Park Synagogue’s Kangesser Hall will allow 600-plus to enjoy the show.

While the performance is new, the idea is not. Joan Ferst, a fellow violinist, said that she and Milgrom had discussed honoring The Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz two decades ago.

“It’s such a unique story and a lesser known aspect of the Holocaust, and we were looking for an opportunity that would give it its proper meaning, not just do a concert some place, but to do something with a broader scope,” Ferst said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Violins of Hope, which has brought violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust and restored by Amnon Weinstein to Northeast Ohio, proved the perfect impetus. Milgrom will play the violin of Weinstein’s father, Moshe. While Moshe Weinstein never went to a concentration camp, he lost hundreds of relatives in the Holocaust.

“To play Moshe’s violin is a very meaningful thing,” Milgrom said.

It’s made more meaningful by the fact that Milgrom’s parents were Holocaust survivors.

“My parents did not speak much about it,” Milgrom said of her childhood. “I certainly knew they had been through that horrible thing, but I didn’t know how horrible horrible was.”

When her mother and twin sister arrived in Auschwitz, they heard the orchestra, causing Milgrom’s mother to turn to Milgrom’s aunt and say, “It can’t be all bad, right?”

Within the hour, Milgrom’s mother lost her father, older sister, brother-in-law and two nieces.

The music will match the sorrow of the Holocaust. Robert L. Cronquist, music director and conductor of The Cleveland Women’s Orchestra, said the opening number, Schubert’s “Symphony No. 8, D. 759, in B minor,” “fits very well.” Milgrom added that the unfinished nature of Schubert’s piece is fitting given all the lives tragically cut short by the Holocaust. Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 1” will follow, along with Strauss’ “On the Beautiful Blue Danube,” a waltz like those perfected by famed Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz conductor Alma Rose during her time in Vienna.

“That waltz represents Vienna more than anything else,” Cronquist said.

The show will end in two arias: Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “The Dead City,” featuring the haunting lyrics, “Death will not separate us. / If you must leave me one day, / Believe, there is an afterlife,” and Chopin’s “In Mir Klingt Ein Lied.”

Chopin’s number may be the most powerful, for its words of deep longing, “In me there sings a song, a little song, / In which a dream blossoms from quiet love / For you alone,” and the fact that Rose’s orchestra played the number.

WCLV president Robert Conrad will provide the audience with background information throughout while Milgrom will provide reflection during the hour-long performance.

“It’s a heartbreaking story, and yet it’s interesting,” Ferst said. “For our orchestra, and for me personally, it’s the power of music. It was the music that helped them survive, not just with the guards but I think emotionally.”

WHAT: Commemorative program in memory of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz

WHEN: 3:30 p.m., Dec. 6

WHERE: Kangesser Hall, Park Synagogue, 3330 Mayfield Road, Cleveland Heights

COST: Free and open to the community. Sponsored by a Jewish Federation of Cleveland grant.

INFO: Call 440-356-7317 for information


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