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Rediscovering Jewish Music and Theatre

Date: 01/04/2016

Performing the Jewish Archive is a three year Arts and Humanities Research Council funded large grant working to explore hidden archives, uncover and perform lost works, and create a legacy for the future. The project is led by Dr Stephen Muir from the University of Leeds.

Manuscript of ‘Chad Gadja’ Credit: Simon and Simon Photography.

Dr Muir says ‘This project's objective is to bring recently rediscovered musical, theatrical and literary works by Jewish artists back to the attention of scholars and the public, and to stimulate the creation of new works based on archives.’

Now at the half way point in the grant, the project is hosting a festival, Out of the Shadows: rediscovering Jewish music and theatre including performances and exhibitions in Leeds and York of varied works – many thought previously to have been lost.

Highlights of the festival include: The Smoke of Home – A recently rediscovered play written in the Terezín ghetto near Prague in the Second World War. The venue for the performance of– Clifford’s Tower in York– is as historically bleak as the play’s origins.

In 1190 a royal castle on top of the distinctive earthen mound where Clifford’s Tower now stands was the refuge chosen by the city’s Jewish population as they sought to escape a wave of anti-Semitic riots sweeping the country. Besieged, most of the Jews chose to commit suicide – the survivors were killed by a murderous mob.

“It is especially appropriate that The Smoke of Home, a powerful historical drama, is being performed in York’s iconic Clifford’s Tower – the scene of such a dreadful episode in our history,” said Dr Muir .

The Smoke of Home’, Bloomsbury Theatre, London, 2015 Credit: Timothy Kelly.

The Smoke of Home (Dým domova), written by Czech Jews Zdeněk Eliáš and Jiří Stein in 1943, is the first event of a series of performances in York and Leeds between April and June 2016.

“Out of the Shadows promises to be a poignant and uplifting programme of events celebrating the lives and achievements of Jewish artists in times of both adversity and freedom, with pieces once thought lost or languishing “in the shadows”, now brought back into the light,” said Dr Muir, a Senior Lecturer in Musicology and Performance in the University of Leeds’ School of Music.

Other highlights include the Nash Ensemble, the Grammy-nominated New Budapest Orpheum Society, and other internationally-renowned performers. The programme includes cabaret, theatre, piano music by a 12-year-old prodigy from the Warsaw ghetto, chamber music, song, and an exhibition of children’s drawings from the Terezín ghetto.

The Smoke of Home, an allegory set in the Thirty Years War, is a rare opportunity to see a live theatrical performance in Clifford’s Tower, which is managed by English Heritage. It will be performed by University of York students, directed by alumnus Joe Lichtenstein. One of these performances will be live streamed from 7.30pm on 16 April via The Smoke of Home event page.

Performing the Jewish archive is funded under the AHRC's Care for the Future ‘Thinking Forward through the Past’ theme. The theme aims to generate new understandings of the relationship between the past and the future, and the challenges and opportunities of the present.

Notes to the Editor

Further Information

Images of creators, performers, Clifford’s Tower and more are available to download from this Google Drive.

For interviews or further information, contact AHRC Communications Manager, Danielle Moore-Chick on 01793 41 60 21 or email d.moore-chick@ahrc.ac.uk

The Events

For full details, prices and bookings, visit www.ptja.leeds.ac.uk/festivals/leeds-york-2016 or call 0113 343 2574.

  • ‘The Smoke of Home’
    Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 April, 8pm and 9.30pm, Clifford’s Tower, York
  • ‘Exhibition: Children’s drawing from Terezín’
    June 2016 (all month), Holy Trinity Church, Leeds
  • ‘Gideon Klein: Portrait of a composer’, Cassia String Quartet
    Wednesday 1 June, 7.30pm, Holy Trinity Church, Leeds
    Pre-concert conversation with Terezín survivor Zdenka Fantlová
  • ‘Harlequin in the Ghetto’
    Thursday 2 June – Sunday 5 June, 7.30pm, The Black Box, University of York
    Pre-performance talk with Professor Rebecca Rovit on opening night; a Q&A session will be held after each performance
  • ‘Make once more my heart thy home: The choral music of Hans Gál’, Clothworkers Consort of Leeds
    Sunday 5 June, 3pm, Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds
    Friday 10 June, 7.30pm, National Centre for Early Music, York
    Pre-concert conversation with the composer’s daughter, Eva Fox-Gál
  • ‘The Nash Ensemble: Music in the Terezín Ghetto’
    Wednesday 8 June, 7.15pm, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds
  • ‘Mother Rachel and her children: A rediscovered oratorio’, LUUMS Chamber Choir
    Thursday 9 June, 7.30pm, Left Bank Leeds
  • ‘Fractured lives: Music of the Holocaust’, Noreen and Philip Silver (cello and piano)
    Tuesday 14 June, 7.30pm, Holy Trinity Church, Leeds
    Wednesday 15 June, 1pm, All Saints’ Pavement, York
  • ‘The New Budapest Orpheum Society: Jewish cabaret tradition’
    Thursday 16 June, 7.30pm, National Centre for Early Music, York
    Saturday 18 June, 7.30pm, Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds
  • ‘Fate and Fairytales: the music of Wilhelm Grosz and Zikmund Schul’, Ian Buckle (piano), Kate Rotheroe (soprano), Cassia String Quartet
    Friday 17 June, 1.05pm, Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds
  • ‘A chronicle of love and death’, Philip Bohlman (narrator), Christine Wilkie Bohlman (piano)
    Friday 17 June, 6pm, Holy Trinity Church, Leeds
  • ‘Looking forward through the past: New operas from the Jewish Archive’, Royal Northern College of Music Opera Group
    Thursday 23 June, 8pm, Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds
  • Opening play performed in York’s famous Clifford’s Tower – site of horrific 12th century massacre of city’s Jews
  • Eight world premieres among 20 performances across eight venues in two cities; part of major global research project to breathe new life into ‘lost’ or languishing works

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 31,000 students from 147 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group research-intensive universities. We are a top 10 university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and positioned as one of the top 100 best universities in the world in the 2014 QS World University Rankings.

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