As composer and conductor Rafael Schachter was rounded up for deportation to the Terezin concentration camp (Theresienstadt), he was able to grab a few of his most treasured possessions. One of the things he chose was a score of the Verdi Requiem.
The Requiem is a Roman Catholic funeral mass composed by Giuseppe Verdi in memory of his dear friend, poet and novelistAlessandro Manzoni.
Terezin was a transit camp on the way to Auschwitz that was used for propaganda tours, most notably for a visit by the Danish Red Cross following deportation of Denmark’s Jews.
Schachter was able to secure permission to perform the requiem with a group of prisoners, and, with only one score, taught the over 200 pages of complex and challenging music to his chorus, which performed it 16 times, rehearsing in a damp cellar after long days of forced labor, and having to replace members as the Nazis transported them to Auschwitz.
This Sunday, May 18, the Community Chorus of Detroit will present a very special performance of the Requiem in commemoration of Schachter, his chorus, and their 16 performances.
They were singing “You will be punished for what you’re doing,” says Diane Linn, Executive Director and President of the Board of Directors of the Community Chorus of Detroit. “They were Jews who decided this was what they wanted to say to their captors. The last movement is called Liberame – Deliver Me. It’s almost unimaginable to imagine what it might have meant to those singers at Terezin.”
Linn is the driving force behind one of the latest signs of Detroit’s artistic revitalization, the three and a half year old Community Chorus of Detroit. A lifelong artist, art educator and arts manager, she has taught grades K-12, at Wayne State University, and at Center for Creative Studies, as well as serving as Director of Detroit’s Scarab Club.
Linn’s idea was that the city needed “an outstanding independent chorus that welcomed everyone without audition.”
Working with current Artistic Director and Conductor Edward Maki-Schramm, the chorus is up to 80 members, triple the number when Maki-Schramm assumed the role a year ago. Maki-Schramm is also the Associate Director of Philanthropy at Wayne State University and the Director of Music at Detroit’s Central United Methodist Church
“It feels like we’re meeting a need in the city,” says Linn. “We are part of this revitalization and this spirit of optimism. People are looking to political leadership, but also to the arts.”
Linn says that the chorus is like a family, and representative of the community, “gay and straight, black and white, all ages from 20 – 80.”
“One of the social purposes of this concert is to build bridges across chronological, geographical and cultural boundaries,” says Linn.
The Community Chorus of Detroit will be joined by the Archdiocesan Chorus of Detroit, the Cantata Academy Chorale, and the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir, making 175 members with a full symphony orchestra.
The concert will feature world class soloists and opening remarks by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Rabbi Joseph Krakoff of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, and Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press.
The concert will be at 4:30 pm, Sunday, May 18, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Woodward Ave. in Detroit.
Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased at http://www.communitychorusofdetroit.com/.