As you may have heard, one week ago President Bush acknowledged that the Allies in World War II should have bombed the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. This issue has been debated for many years; Bush’s statement was (I believe) the first by a sitting US president that the Allies should have acted when they had the chance.
In an eerie coincidence, the Cantata Singers (an excellent musical organization with which I have sung for many years) had months ago commissioned a new piece, by Israeli composer Lior Navok, on precisely the same theme. That piece, called “And the Trains Kept Coming,” will be premiered this Friday (1/18) at 8 pm and Sunday (1/20) at 3 pm, at Jordan Hall in Boston. I’m the baritone soloist; there’s also a tenor, a boy soprano, and several soloists from the chorus.
Navok’s piece is unusual in that the text for it comes entirely from original documents of various kinds dating from the World War II era (read more about the piece here (composer’s program notes), and here (Globe feature)). There are letters begging the Allies to do something; internal War Department memoranda discussing whether or not action should be taken; newspaper ads; German train schedules (really creepy); and more. It’s a fascinating, wrenching, and moving piece, and well worth a listen. If you want to hear more about it, there was a piece this afternoon on WBUR’s “Here and Now” in which the composer was interviewed — you can listen here. Also on the concert program is “The Prophets,” an hour-long excerpt from Kurt Weill’s massive (eight hour) piece on the history of the Jewish people, “The Eternal Road.” That, too, is a terrific piece of music. Should be a great concert.
If you’re interested, there’s more information (including how to buy tickets) at this link. For you students out there, student rush tickets are available for $10 (cash only) at the will-call table (up the stairs past the box office, on the left) half an hour before the concert, with student ID.