Defiant Requiem

by | Dec 21, 2016 | What’s Happening

Sunday, Jan. 15
TCC Roper Performing Arts Center, Norfolk

The Holocaust Commission of the UJFT has a unique opportunity to collaborate with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Virginia Festival of Jewish Film to show the award-winning documentary, Defiant Requiem on Sunday, Jan. 15.

The Virginia Symphony will perform Verdi’s Requiem on March 17 at Newport News’ Ferguson Center for the Arts, on March 18 at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall, and on March 19 at Virginia Beach’s Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.

Defiant Requiem tells two parallel stories: the first takes place during World War II when the remarkable Rafael Schächter, a brilliant, young Czech conductor was arrested and sent to Terezín in 1941. He demonstrated moral leadership under the most brutal circumstances, determined to sustain courage and hope for his fellow prisoners by enriching their souls through great music. His most extraordinary act was to recruit 150 prisoners and teach them Verdi’s Requiem by rote, in a dank cellar, using a smuggled single score, over multiple rehearsals, and after grueling days of forced labor.

The Requiem was performed on 16 occasions for fellow prisoners. The last, most infamous performance occurred on June 23,1944 before high-ranking SS officers from Berlin and the International Red Cross to support the charade that the prisoners were treated well and flourishing. Schachter told the chorus that the text of the Requiem enabled them to “sing to the Nazis what they could not say to them.”

The second story follows distinguished American conductor Murry Sidlin who discovered the history of Schächter and the Terezín performers in the 1990s, and who went on to create and conduct the Defiant Requiem concerts.

Maestro Murry Sidlin, Defiant Requiem Foundation president and founder, will be at the screening to discuss the film and answer questions. Defiant Requiem has won several awards, including: Best of Festival at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival in Ohio (Oct.’ 13), Best Feature Documentary at the Big Apple Film Festival in NY City (Nov. ‘12), and Audience Award Runner-up at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (Jan.’13). In 2014 it was nominated for two News and Documentary Emmy Awards: Outstanding Historical Documentary Long Form and Outstanding Writing. It has been screened at numerous film festivals around the world.

“The Holocaust Commission hopes that people will want to see this untold story of the brave acts of resistance by the Jewish prisoners at Terezin, as well as hear the Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem,” says Wendy Juren Auerbach, chairman, Holocaust Commission.

 Vivian Margulies