The Grand Rapids Symphony, Symphony Chorus, Youth Chorus, and five vocal soloists will come together to present “We Remember,” a musical story-telling rich in history, beauty, and hope. The concert couples Stephen Paulus’s acclaimed Holocaust memorial oratorio “To Be Certain of the Dawn” with Felix Mendelssohn’s famous “Reformation” Symphony for a thought-provoking program that encourages the community to explore themes of faith, forgiveness and understanding. Two concerts will be performed on Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17 at 8:00 p.m. at DeVos Performance Hall. The concerts are part of the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series.
The performances, led by Music Director David Lockington, kick off the 50th season of the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus and feature Soprano Elizabeth Futral, Mezzo-soprano Julia Elise Hardin, Tenor Edgar Ernesto Ramirez, Baritone Grant Youngblood, and Cantor Ben Warschawski.
Paulus’s large-scale, multimedia oratorio will be the focal point of the evening and serves as a community-wide Holocaust commemoration exploring the renewal that can follow suffering.
“This is a powerful piece that is meant to be part of a process of understanding,” said Lockington. “It is really reflecting a part of the community that is often overlooked. The Jewish community in Grand Rapids is quite small, but it is a part of everyone’s history.”
“To Be Certain of the Dawn” was commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra and the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis to honor two important historical events: the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps – specifically, where 1.5 million Jewish children died – and the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Nostra Aetate (“In Our Times”), the seminal Vatican II document that condemned blaming Jews for the death of Christ.
Premiered in 2005, Paulus’s work is the collaborative effort of the composer and Minneapolis poet Michael Dennis Browne that honors Holocaust victims, survivors, and descendants. “One of the challenges was to say something new about the subject and to do it with sensitivity and skill,” Paulus said.
The oratorio, which has been praised as deeply moving and momentous, was written to convey a message of hope and forgiveness. The music drew inspiration from photographs taken of youth before the Holocaust, and examines these themes through the eyes of children. These still images will be projected on a screen above the orchestra during the performance and will correspond with vignettes sung by choirs and soloists.
In addition to the concert, a student event will bring area high school students together to explore the music as well as the ideas about humanity, tolerance, and respect presented in Paulus’s “To Be Certain of the Dawn.” The free student event will take place Sunday, November 11 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids. The event will include small-scale performances, and conversations with Stephen Paulus, a Holocaust survivor, and a Catholic Diocese representative. Reservations for the student event are required and space is limited. Call Naomi at 616/454-9451, Ext. 108.
Lockington called “To Be Certain of the Dawn” a “wonderful work” and said the concert and student event will “be a part of an ecumenical effort to bring people together to discuss the things that keep us separated and keep us drawing together.” Both events are part of the 2012 Year of Interfaith Understanding, which was designed to cultivate community, campus, and congregational interest in the critical issue of interfaith understanding. The Grand Rapids Symphony strives to create programming that encourages the community to not only celebrate the music but also engage in the messages the music can carry.
Concert tickets start at $18 and are available at the Symphony office, weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100 (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616/454-9451, Ext. 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.) Tickets are available at the DeVos Place Box Office, weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets may also be purchased through Ticketmaster, 800/982-2787, online at www.grsymphony.org, or in person at Ticketmaster outlets: select D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare Stores and Walmart. Tickets purchased at these locations will include at Ticketmaster service fee. This is a student passport concert.
Video interview with musical leaders about the significance of this program available here.
About the Grand Rapids Symphony
The Grammy-nominated Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is recognized as one of America’s leading regional orchestras. Led by Music Director David Lockington, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are presented each year, touching the lives of some 170,000. Nearly half of those who benefit are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities reached through extensive education and community service programs. The Symphony sponsors the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses, and also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit www.grsymphony.org.