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April 18, 2006 > Forbidden Voices

Forbidden Voices

In April 1933, shortly after coming to power, the Nazi government began to remove all non-Aryans from the civil service. The Berlin Cabaret became one of the first victims of Nazi terror. Some writers and performers were arrested and taken to concentration camps; some committed suicide; and others left Germany for America or other parts of Europe. All Jewish employees were to be removed from public life and although it appeared relatively simple to remove practicing Jewish musicians from German orchestras and opera houses, it was harder to remove their influence.

So what happened to those composers banned under Nazi policies? Some immigrated to other countries, where they were able to continue writing and achieved recognition for their work. Others were no longer able to pursue their composing careers and were silenced in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Much of their music has been forgotten.

The Chabot College Foundation presents the world premiere of "Forbidden Voices," a concert that showcases rarely performed songs written by Jewish composers whose works were banned by the Nazis. This monumental event is slated for Sunday, April 23, between Passover and Holocaust Remembrance Day, at 3 p.m. at the Chabot College Performing Arts Center.

From classical to cabaret, this musical event performed by internationally renowned soprano Judith Sheridan and pianist Craig Combs (nephew of San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young) will be intertwined with spoken historical notes about the composers and their plight in an emotional presentation the audience may never forget. "In order to rewrite musical history, we must bring the songs of composers banned by the Nazis to a wider audience so that the voices of these remarkable forbidden composers may once again be heard," says Sheridan of the project.

The Kulturbund, or Jewish Culture Association, will be a topic of discussion during this special event. In early 1933 Jews were evicted from German artistic ensembles, opera companies, orchestras, and theater companies. These artists formed their own organization, the Jewish Culture Association, which had Nazi sanction. For eight years, the Kulturbund put on plays, operas, orchestra concerts, chamber concerts, lectures, and eventually published a newspaper, providing a cultural outlet for other Jews.

The musical life of Theresienstadt will also be discussed. In 1941, the small garrison town of Terezin, Czechoslovakia was transformed into the Theresienstadt camp, where some of Europe's most gifted artists, musicians, composers, and writers sustained an active cultural community. Among them was Gideon Klien, one of the Jewish composers whose work will be profiled in "Forbidden Voices."

"We are honored to bring this special program to the San Francisco Bay Area in its world premiere performance," says Marshall Mitzman, event chair and a member of the Board of Directors of the Chabot College Foundation. "Participants will gain an insightful overview of the powerful spirit of the Jewish artistic community during this dark period."

Tickets are $15, $35 and $50 and may be purchased at or by calling 415-392-4400. The event is a benefit for the Chabot College Foundation. A portion of the proceeds will be contributed to the Holocaust Center of Northern California. Donors who give $250 or more will receive complimentary tickets and the opportunity to meet the performers at a back stage event following the program.

The event is co-sponsored by Temple Sinai, Temple Beth Sholom, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation B'nai Tikvah, Nishmat Shalom, Beth Jacob Congregation, Bet Chaim Congregation, Temple Isaiah, Chabad of the Tri-Valley, the Jewish Community Federation of the East Bay, San Leandro Chamber of Commerce, and San Leandro Mayor Sheila Young.

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