‘Prayer’ hon­ors civil­ians killed in world wars

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Pastimes - BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN Arts cor­re­spon­dent

World War I killed about 20 mil­lion peo­ple, half of them civil­ians. World War II killed three to four times that many, two-thirds of them civil­ians. So why, amid Ar­mistice Day/Vet­er­ans Day cel­e­bra­tions that pay homage to sol­diers, do so few pro­grams salute peo­ple who suf­fered not in com­bat but be­cause they couldn’t get out of its way?

Jonathan Govias will re­dress the im­bal­ance slightly Nov. 8 with an ex­tra­or­di­nary free event at 7:30 p.m. at Booth Play­house (coaa.uncc.edu). The con­duc­tor, his UNC Char­lotte Orches­tra and na­tion­ally known cel­list Cicely Par­nas will tackle half a dozen na­tion­ally un­known pieces – all ap­par- ently lo­cal pre­mieres – in a con­cert ti­tled “Prayer for Peace.”

UNCC will honor vet­er­ans in a more con­ven­tional way Nov. 11, in an­other free con­cert at Ovens Au­di­to­rium. “For Heroes Proved,” which also starts at 7:30 p.m., unites the UNC Char­lotte Wind En­sem­ble, Uni­ver­sity Cho­rale and Pride of Niner Na­tion March­ing Band. This mul­ti­me­dia con­cert fea­tures pa­tri­otic mu­sic and video from the band’s sum­mer per­for­mances at World War II sites in Nor­mandy.

Yet for Govias, the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I is just one of two im­por­tant com­mem­o­ra­tions this year: Kristall­nacht took place 80 years ago this month. On this “Night of Bro­ken Glass,” Nazis torched syn­a­gogues, van­dal­ized Jewish homes, schools and busi­nesses and killed nearly 100 Jews.

“A large part of UNCC’s or­ches­tral pro­gram­ming fo­cuses on so­cial im­pact and out­reach, so this kind of per­for­mance in the com­mu­nity makes sense,” Govias ex­plains. “I wanted to look at con­flict from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive: It’s proper to honor vet­er­ans, but other peo­ple made sac­ri­fices, too.”

So Govias, di­rec­tor of or­ches­tras for UNCC, has bal­anced his event be­tween two wars.

English com­posers Ernest Far­rar and Ge­orge But­ter­worth, both killed in ac­tion dur­ing World War I, are rep­re­sented by “Heroic El­egy” and “The Banks of Green Wil­low.” French com­poser Lili Boulanger died out­side Paris as the Ger­mans at­tacked her home town in 1918; her “D’un soir triste”/“Of a sad evening” will be played. (“I don’t know that I’ve heard a darker piece of mu­sic,” says Govias.)

Canada gets a nod via Ernest MacMil­lan’s “Notre Seigneur en Pau­vre” (“Our Lord in Beg­gar’s Guise”); MacMil­lan was at­tend­ing operas in Bayreuth as World War I erupted, got clas­si­fied an enemy alien and went to a Ger­man in­tern­ment camp for four years. He de­serves his place here – he’s the only Cana­dian com­poser knighted by the queen – but he’s also a shrewd ad­di­tion: The Cana­dian con­sul-gen­eral in At­lanta put up 20 per­cent of cost of the gig.

Ger­man-born Lukas Foss, whose fam­ily fled to Paris in 1933, then came to the United States, wrote “El­egy for Anne Frank” to honor the Dutch teenager whose diary recorded her own fam­ily’s un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to es­cape the Nazis.And Is­raeli com­poser Sharon Far­ber’s “Bestem­ming” (“Des­ti­na­tion”) hon­ors Dutch war hero Curt Lowens; soloist Par­nas will pro­vide Lowens’ “voice” with her cello.

“The piece has four move­ments: ‘Shat­tered, Es­cape, Re­sis­tance, Tri­umph.’ So you get this jour­ney from de­spair to op­ti­mism by the end, and the con­cert fin­ishes with a feel­ing of hope. There’s a com­mu­nity of Holo­caust sur­vivors in Char­lotte, and I’d espe­cially like to in­vite them to come: If they call my of­fice ( 704-6870922), I’ll be sure they have tick­ets.”

This story is part of an Observer un­der­writ­ing project with the Thrive Cam­paign for the Arts.

UNC Char­lotte

Jonathan Govias con­ducts the UNC Char­lotte Orches­tra.

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