Can­tors’ voices as­cend with hope

Cam­eras fol­low as 72 of them visit Poland, where their mu­sic was born, then dec­i­mated.

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - Kevin Thomas

It’s hard to imag­ine a more pro­found ex­pres­sion of the heal­ing power of mu­sic than Matthew As­ner and Danny Gold’s deeply af­fect­ing “100 Voices: A Jour­ney Home.”

The film fol­lows can­tor Nate Lam, of L.A.’s Stephen S. Wise Tem­ple and fa­ther of the film’s co-writer and co­pro­ducer, as the 72 can­tors he gath­ered from around the world per­form at the War­saw Opera House, the largest theater of its kind in Europe. They also ap­peared at the Krakow Phil­har­monic, par­tic­i­pated in Poland’s an­nual Jewish Cul­tural Her­itage Fes­ti­val and con­ducted the first Jewish ser­vice at AuschwitzBirke­nau.

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the can­tors was com­poser Charles Fox, who wrote the film’s score and a spe­cial piece set to the words of Pope John Paul II. The can­tors per­formed at the War­saw Opera House with its 100-mem­ber cho­rus and 100-mem­ber or­ches­tra, a 40-voice chil­dren’s choir and eight chil­dren from the Wise tem­ple. No won­der Lam de­cided the ex­pe­ri­ence should be filmed. Poland, where, be­fore the Holo­caust, Pol­ish and Jewish cul­tures were in­ter­wo­ven, iswhere can­to­rial mu­sic was born.

“100 Voices” would be glo­ri­ous sim­ply as a con­cert film but is im­mea­sur­ably more. The can­tors were on a mis­sion to help the re­vival of Jewish cul­ture in their an­ces­tral land, in which Jews were all but erad­i­cated in the Holo­caust. Most all the can­tors the film­mak­ers fo­cus on are sons of Holo­caust sur­vivors, and the film fol­lows them to their fam­i­lies’ towns and cities in which the Jewish pres­ence has been al­most if not wholly erad­i­cated.

At Auschwitz-Birke­nau, one can­tor found him­self sing­ing not 5 feet from where his fa­ther was forced to push fel­low Jews into gas cham­bers. His fa­ther told him he could bear it only by con­sid­er­ing him­self al­ready dead and would surely have per­ished were not the war draw­ing to an end; his own starv­ing brother died dur­ing the camp’s evac­u­a­tion.

En­rich­ing the film greatly are As­ner (son of ac­tor Ed As­ner) and Gold’s fine use of archival ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing clips of the beloved Molly Pi­con in per­for­mance and a visit to the Ida Kamin­ska Theater; Kamin­ska was the star of the Os­car-win­ning “The Shop on Main Street.” The film­mak­ers take note of the thou­sands of Poles killed by the Nazis and those Poles who saved thou­sands of Jewish lives.

The can­tors were en­thu­si­as­ti­cally re­ceived, draw­ing sold-out, cheer­ing au­di­ences, and plan to per­form in Ger­many in 2012.

cal­en­dar@latimes.com

Adri­enne Adar

RING­ING: Ja­cob Men­del­son sings at War­saw Opera House dur­ing the tour doc­u­mented in “100 Voices.”

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