April 25, 2013
Music Professor to Receive Medal of Valor
Murry Sidlin, professor of conducting, will receive the Medal of Valor from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center will present its Medal of Valor to Murry Sidlin, professor of conducting and Holocaust music studies at Catholic University’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music.
The medal will be presented at the center’s National Tribute Dinner on June 12 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Sidlin will receive the medal for his dedication to illuminating the Terezin legacy by keeping alive the memory of Rafael Schächter, a leader of the World War II Terezin-prisoner arts community. Schächter inspired the Jewish inmates of the Nazi concentration camp by organizing performances of opera, children’s opera, chamber music, cabaret, and a grand chorus that he taught by rote to sing 16 performances of composer Giuseppe Verdi’s monumental “Requiem Mass.”
“Professor Sidlin’s commitment to honoring the legacy of the Jewish prisoners at Terezin has been exceptional,” says Catholic University President John Garvey. “The Catholic University of America community is proud of his accomplishments in bringing to light the extraordinary example of Rafael Schächter and the other prisoners to preserve their dignity and uphold their ideals.”
A global Jewish human rights organization with 400,000 members, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance each year present the Medal of Valor to individuals “whose courage and conviction have helped change our world for the better,” writes Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the center, in his letter of award to Sidlin.
These performances of Verdi’s “Requiem,” with its themes of God’s justice and liberation, were presented by the Jewish prisoners to demonstrate their defiance of Nazi degradation.
“Presentations world-wide of your concert-drama ‘Defiant Requiem,’ which tells of Schächter’s heroic efforts to create hope, courage, dignity through rehearsals and performances of Verdi’s inspiring score, will assure Schächter’s memory in perpetuity,” adds Hier.
Sidlin has performed “Defiant Requiem” three times on the grounds of Terezin, as well as at concert venues throughout the United States, including Washington’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as a guest of the Jewish community in Budapest, Hungary, and at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem. This week, he presented his concert-drama to sell-out audiences at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and next week’s performance at New York’s Lincoln Center is also sold out. Later this spring “Defiant Requiem” will be performed in Prague at the St. Vitus Cathedral at the invitation of Czech Cardinal Dominic Duka.
His documentary film about Rafael Schächter, “Defiant Requiem, Voices of Resistance,” made with Partisan Pictures of New York, was finished last May, and has been seen in film festivals at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Vancouver, and at many cities in the United States including New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. The award-winning film has been shown on PBS stations around the United States this spring and will soon be seen on the BBC network.
Sidlin is the founder and president of the Defiant Requiem Foundation, which is dedicated to the illumination of the Terezin legacy. He also directs the Rafael Schächter Institute of Arts and Humanities at Terezin, which each summer commemorates and replicates events similar to those experienced by the Terezin prisoners, on the grounds of the former concentration camp. These events recall the nearly 1,000 concerts, 2,400 lectures, and numerous drama presentations held there between 1941 and 1945.
Past recipients of the center’s Medal of Valor include, among others, Miep Gies, who hid Anne Frank and her family; Sully Sullenberger, the USAirways pilot who in 2009 safely water-landed his aircraft on the Hudson River in New York City; the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American pilots who fought in World War II; and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a survivor of an assassination attempt.
For a video of the May 2010 performance of the “Defiant Requiem” in Budapest, visit http://music.cua.edu/archive/concert/defiant-requiem.cfm