The Violin Channel recently caught up with the Nashville Symphony‘s Chief Operating Officer, Mr Steve Brosvik.
In a VC-exclusive blog, Steve talks us through the orchestra’s new community initiative: ‘Violins of Hope Nashville’ – created to stimulate knowledge and reflection through a collection of restored musical instruments from the Holocaust.
“Nearly 75 years since the end of World War II, few contemporary witnesses of the Holocaust remain among us. Many of those who did survive never found a way to express the horrors they experienced, even to their families. For those of us still attempting to understand the magnitude of suffering and destruction wrought by the Holocaust, the Violins of Hope are here to bear witness.
These instruments, owned and played by musicians from Jewish communities throughout Europe, have survived brutal violence, harsh conditions and long, arduous journeys to give voice to that which cannot be spoken. The victims of the Holocaust may have endured countless injustices and unimaginable suffering, but these instruments frequently offered their owners a way to survive. Painstakingly restored over the past two decades by Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshi Weinstein, they now remind us that hope may guide us through adversity and that music can be a lifeline and a tool for resistance. Perhaps most importantly, they serve as a powerful symbol of what can happen when we fail to protect the civil rights of those labeled as outsiders.
The Violins of Hope are coming to Nashville for a series of public performances with the Nashville Symphony and an exhibit at the Nashville Public Library. It will not be the first time these instruments have traveled to the United States, but this initiative is unique in that the Violins of Hope are serving as a springboard for an expansive, community-wide dialogue around music, art, social justice and free expression. More than 30 events will take place in Nashville while the Violins of Hope are on view – free and open to the public – at the library between March 26 and May 27. These events include film screenings, stage productions, exhibits, lectures and interfaith dialogues.
At the heart of this rich initiative, of course, is music. The Violins of Hope will be played by the musicians of the Nashville Symphony in two orchestra programs led Music Director Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero. The first, on March 22-24, will feature Barber’s Adagio for Strings, John Williams’ Three Pieces from Schindler’s List and the world premiere and commission by Jonathan Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 4, “Heichalos.” Based on Jewish mystical texts, Leshnoff’s new work was written specifically with the Violins of Hope in mind. A forthcoming LP on Naxos will mark the first time that these historic instruments have been recorded for a commercial release — giving even more people the opportunity to learn the remarkable stories behind the Violins of Hope.
Following these concerts, select instruments will be used in chamber music performances throughout Nashville, and the entire collection will take the stage once more for the Nashville Symphony & Chorus’ performances of Verdi’s Requiem on May 31-June 2. This powerful work occupies a unique place in the history of the Holocaust, as it was performed by the inmates at Theresienstadt concentration camp. Even as they were part of a Nazi campaign to fool the world into thinking that the camps were simply resettlement villages, the inmates embraced the music as a chance to find hope and strength in the midst of chaos and, in the words of conductor Rafael Schächter, to “sing to the Nazis what they could not say to them.”
This concert, along with all of the other activities taking place over the next two months, isn’t simply intended to remind us of a past that we should never forget. It is my sincere hope that Violins of Hope Nashville will also remind everyone in our community and beyond that we share responsibility for the future. I encourage you to visit our city and to be a part of Violins of Hope Nashville, so that together we can think about the ways that we may influence our world by promoting respect, humanity – and hope.