Monday, February 2, 2009


#33, Terezin, Czech Republic

What I remember about my visit to Terezin is not the place.  I remember the drawings by children who would not live to see their next birthday, paintings of blue skies cut through with barbed wire.  I remember the musical scores trapped behind glass, knowing that many if not most of the composers had been killed in the Nazi death camps.  In short, I remember the only things my mind could latch onto in a place that had seen such atrocity: art, music, these necessary, brave, humanizing things.  My own words fall short.  Especially redemptive and of interest is this site that provides history and insight into the musical activities of those imprisoned in Terezin.  Also, organizations such as the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation exist today to honor the resilience expressed through these works of art and to commission new works by emerging composers.

Though the setting and context could not be more different, I am reminded of evenings at the Mast House in Woodstock, Illinois.  This was a monthly folk music gathering/pot luck that my Aunt Casey would sometimes take me to on Saturday nights.  It's a ramshackle, cozy place where stringless banjos and guitars hang from the wall, friends and family gather and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" still surfaces as a sing-along.  The seats are metal fold-out chairs and cups of hot chocolate make the rounds as performers of all ages come up to the front to play songs in 10 minute slots.  And if you look up to the loft in the barn-like interior, hanging over the stage, you'll see this painted on the wooden beam in large block letters: "Music alone shall live."