My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What happens when beauty, optimism and music meet

One of the goals that directs my day-to-day living is to lead an optimistic, beautiful, and musical life.  It's a bit "pie-in-the-sky," I realize, but I am stubborn, and I am determined.  Several years ago as I was perusing twitter and the internet,  I happened upon a video that is living proof that this idealistic desire is actually possible to attain.  On his extremely informative blog, The Collaborative Pianist, Chris Foley posted a youtube video called, "Dancing Under the Gallows." It was a fifteen minute preview of a documentary about Alice Herz-Sommer, who at the time, was a 106-year old woman and is the oldest survivor of the Holocaust.  Because she was an accomplished concert pianist in Prague when World War II broke out, Ms. Herz and her son were sent to Theriesenstadt, a German concentration camp that was set aside for artists and musicians and that served as a smoke-screen for what was going on at the other concentration camps.  It was there that she and others were forced to perform.  For some this was a horrific requirement but for others, like Ms. Herz, this provided light in the midst of their nightmare.  I have a difficult time being able to imagine being in such a situation but this documentary has given me a tiny glimpse into such an upside-down world.

I just received word from the producer that they have completed the documentary.  It is now available on DVD or through rental by clicking on this link.   Here is the promotional video to give you a taste of this remarkable woman.

In Ms. Herz, I see nothing but beauty and love for everyone and everything around her.  Her words are saturated with optimism, her voice, the sound of tenderness.  The power and magic of music are undeniable.  Beauty, optimism, and music are interwoven in this one woman's life, making music tangibly relevant and necessary.

What an incredible gift.

"I love people.  I love to speak with them...I am interested in the life of other people."
"I knew that we will play...and I was thinking, "When we can play, it can't be so terrible.  The music, the music!"
"But in every day life is beautiful.  Every can speak about It's beautiful."
"I felt that this is the only thing which helps me have hope.  It's a sort of religion, actually.  Music God."
"Sometimes it happens that I am thankful to have been there.  Because this gave me...I am richer than other people...All the complaints, "This is terrible."  It's not so terrible."
"I never hate and I will never hate.  Hatred breeds only hatred."
"I was born with a very, very good optimist.  And this helps you.  When you are optimistic, when you are not complaining, when you look at the good side of our life, everybody loves you."
"Only when we are so old, only, we are aware of the beauty of life."
-Alice Herz-Sommer 

Whether you choose to watch the short clip above or to purchase or rent the documentary, my hope is that some of Ms. Herz's words will inspire and uplift you.  Music is a gift, even in the darkest of places.  

May music continue to be in our lives, no matter where we may find ourselves.  And many thanks to Ms. Herz for the inspiration, faith, and love that can't be extinguished.  

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