STYLE: Classical RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 115184- LABEL: Naxos American Classics 8559685 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1
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Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
It was someone older and wiser than this reviewer who observed that Christian music is usually either about the Light or how we view the world from the Light. Thus this recording does not and cannot fall within any sort of definition of Christian music but it nevertheless deserves our full attention. Every Friday for two years between 1942 and 1944, a group of teenage boy prisoners in the Terezín concentration camp shared their poems, stories and artwork in a secret magazine they called Vedem (Czech for "In the lead"). Most of those boys perished in the Holocaust, but the pages of their magazine have miraculously been preserved. Inspired by this legacy, American vocal composer Lori Laitman has created an oratorio that gives new voice to the young prisoners' unbending resistance to those who sought to rob them of their humanity. Using verses of the boys' own poetry, this hauntingly beautiful music pays profound tribute to the power of the human spirit. 'Vedem' was commissioned by Music of Remembrance, a Seattle-based organisation dedicated to remembering Holocaust musicians through their art and this recording, the world premiere, was made in Seattle in 2010. In addition to the title track we get a revised version of "Fathers". Both pieces feature the mezzo-soprano Angela Niederloh and both are very listenable - and here lies my problem. I played this CD in my car and after my journey was over found myself humming one of the tunes. The composer Lori Laitman has clearly done a good job but is it in some way disrespectful to listen to this music as entertainment? I like to think that the Jewish boys who wrote the words in a situation that I find unimaginable would be pleased to know that their message has outlived them (although, let it be said, the recording was made in the presence of four who did survive). So despite the initials of the musicians who commissioned this work (Music of Remembrance or MoR but clearly not "Middle of the Road") this is not an easy listen. But it is well worth hearing and its message that we must never forget the evil that a supposedly Christian nation can inflict upon its minorities is one that, sadly, we still need to remember.