The Catholic University of America

Nov. 12, 2008

CUA to Perform at Holocaust Conference in Czech Republic
Concert by Music School Dean to be Presented at Former Concentration Camp

In 2006, 156 musicians, 130 of them from the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, performed "Defiant Requiem" at the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezín.

In June 2009, for the second time, the dean of Catholic University's Benjamin T. Rome School of Music will lead a CUA student performance of his award-winning concert/drama in the former Nazi concentration camp where the work is set.

Dean Murry Sidlin will conduct about 100 chorus students and 20 orchestral studies students from CUA as well as approximately 75 professional musicians from Prague in their performance of "Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín."

They will stage the concert/drama on the final day of the international Conference on Holocaust Era Assets: Adopting Measures to Rectify Injustice, Keeping the Memory of the Holocaust, which takes place from June 26 to June 30 in Prague. The conference is being held as a follow-up event to the Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets that was held at the Holocaust Museum in 1998. The aim of the conference is to help solve matters of dispute over property that was confiscated during the Holocaust and to raise awareness and encourage education about the Holocaust.

On the day of the performance, diplomats and representatives of 47 nations will meet at Terezín to sign a declaration pertaining to restitutions, restorations and a pledge of greater Holocaust education around the world.

"We are very privileged to have been invited again on behalf of Holocaust education and to perform a work steeped in Catholic liturgy for which the Jewish prisoners of Terezín reached for inspiration, guidance, defiance and resistance," Sidlin says.

"To present Verdi's score and the story of the prisoners who sang it in Terezín at an international Holocaust conference - the world stage - it's humbling and an astonishing opportunity to illuminate for our students all these dimensions of injustice and the prisoners' dramatic sense of religiosity and spiritual guidance," Sidlin adds.

Jewish conductor Rafael Schächter assembled a chorus of 150 imprisoned Jews from the Terezín camp in 1943 and 1944. They engaged in 16 performances of Verdi's "Requiem" for an audience of other prisoners, Nazi SS officers and German army staff. Although his chorus periodically was decimated by deportations, Schächter would rebuild the group, teaching all of the performers from a single copy of the "Requiem."

The Latin text of the "Requiem," with its themes of deliverance -which the prisoners interpreted as liberation - and God's laws of love, compassion and justice, allowed the Jewish captives to sing to the Nazis what they couldn't possibly say to them.

"Defiant Requiem" was first performed in April 2002, when Sidlin was resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony. That performance was taped by PBS and aired multiple times across the country. The production won New York Film Festival's Gold World Medal, its top award for television programming and promotions, and the Bronze Plaque at the 51st Columbus International Film and Video Festival.

In April 2004, Sidlin presented "Defiant Requiem" at CUA's President's Festival of the Arts. Members from the Terezín Memorial Foundation participated in the festival. Among those visiting were Czech Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra and Jan Munk of the Czech Ministry of Culture and director of the Terezín Memorial Foundation.

After seeing "Defiant Requiem," Munk asked Sidlin to bring the production to Terezín, a small town about 45 miles northeast of Prague in what is now the Czech Republic. This invitation led to the 2006 trip to Terezín where 156 musicians, 130 of them from the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, performed "Defiant Requiem."

Since then, Sidlin and Vondra have been in contact and Vondra recently invited Sidlin to conduct musicians from Prague in "Defiant Requiem" at the June 2009 signing ceremony. Sidlin suggested that CUA provide the choir and part of the orchestra.

According to Sidlin, Vondra indicated that "Defiant Requiem" is consistent with the message the conference is meeting about and that is why he was invited to present the concert/drama. The work incorporates archival footage and survivor testimonials around Verdi's complete "Requiem" Mass to tell the story of Schächter and his chorus.

MEDIA: To interview Murry Sidlin, dean of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, reporters should contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.


The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music is the only university music school in the Washington, D.C., area. It offers both undergraduate and graduate programs of study in performance of instrumental music (including chamber music and orchestral studies), piano, voice (including choral music and opera), composition and theory, musicology, conducting, musical theater, music education, voice and piano pedagogy. The music school designs programs and curricula that inspire young musicians to be imaginative in developing audiences, in providing musical service throughout communities, and in connecting with the evolution of American arts institutions.