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Arts & Culture: Choirs to Raise Their Voices at Site of Nazi Rally in Nuremberg

Seven choirs from Israel, Canada and the United States will soon perform Leonard Bernstein’s “Kaddish” Symphony on the site in Nuremberg, Germany, where Hitler rallied his storm troopers in the 1930s.

The Nov. 25 and 26 concerts in Meistersinger Hall will commemorate three November anniversaries: the 10th anniversary of Bernstein’s death, the 62nd anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany, and the 950th anniversary of the founding of Nuremberg.

Presented under the title “Sounds of Healing,” the concert was conceived as both a multinational artistic collaboration and a mission of reconciliation, says Los Angeles conductor and composer Nick Strimple, who was instrumental in organizing the event.

“The people of Nuremberg I’ve met, especially the younger ones, are deeply committed that their city will not be known forever just as the site of Nazi rallies, anti-Jewish laws and war crime trials,” says Strimple.

When he visited the city, Strimple stopped at the German National Museum, on whose granite columns are chiseled a declaration of human rights in many languages.

“The first language, at the very top, is Hebrew,” he says.

Joining the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra in the two concerts, which will open with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, will be the Tel Aviv Chamber Choir and the Efroni Children’s Choir, the latter based near Haifa.

“It is arguably one of the best youth choirs in the world,” says Strimple.

Also joining in Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish,” which premiered in 1964 in Israel, will be the Toronto Jewish Chamber Choir, and four choral groups from Los Angeles.

The massed choirs will also perform at the Musica Judaica Festival in Prague on Nov. 20, which will present selections of Jewish choral music from the Renaissance to the present.

Nuremberg’s Jewish community, 900 strong and growing, will also host a concert on Nov. 23, featuring Yiddish and Holocaust-themed music.

The entire Nuremberg experience, including rehearsals, the concerts and a view of the city’s past will be documented in a 90-minute television and educational film by Oscar-winner Delbert Mann.

Strimple, who has been working on the Nuremberg project since 1985, has become an authority on Holocaust-related music. A Presbyterian, he joins the choir of Valley Beth Shalom on High Holidays.

He recalls that while he was a youngster growing up in Amarillo, Texas, he first saw the famous Warsaw Ghetto photo of a small boy with cap, his arms raised and surrounded by armed Nazi soldiers.

“It struck me that the boy looked like my brother and that the woman behind him looked like my aunt,” says Strimple. “I really identified with these people.”

The $750,000 project in Nuremberg, and an earlier performance in Los Angeles, are supported by three Los Angeles organizations, the Jewish Community Foundation, the Museum of the Holocaust and the Tel-Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership of the Jewish Federation.

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