[PhiladelphiaDANCE.org Listserv] Press Release: Premieres of long-lost music and iconic film tell a new story of the Nazi occupation in Poland

Jeanette Honig jhonig1 at swarthmore.edu
Thu Mar 15 10:34:11 EDT 2018

*Press Release: Premieres of long-lost music and iconic film tell a new
story of the Nazi occupation in Poland*

*Swarthmore, P.A. - March 15, 2018 - *

The two-day festival *“Forbidden Songs”* explores the fraught artistic and
personal decisions confronted by the Polish composer Roman Palester
(1907–1989). Highlights include the world premiere of the film Forbidden
Songs (1947) for the first time with English subtitles, U.S. premieres of
Palester’s chamber music, and a lecture about Palester’s life and works.

*Forbidden Songs was the first feature film released in Poland after WWII.
Conceived and written by Ludwik Starski, a Polish-Jewish survivor of the
Holocaust, the film remarkably adopted the genre of light musical comedy to
portray the diverse experiences of Warsaw's inhabitants during the period
of Nazi occupation (1939–1945). The film’s score, created by Palester,
draws heavily on authentic popular sources, notably satirical Polish
“street songs” banned by the Nazis but nonetheless performed as expressions
of resistance and a means of psychological sustenance during this time of
deprivation and terror.The world premiere of the film Forbidden Songs with
English subtitles has broad interdisciplinary import. It will be of great
interest to anyone fascinated by European cinema and music, WWII history
and politics, and Holocaust studies. “The film gives us a glimpse into the
ways in which music helped Polish Jews and non-Jews alike to reclaim
notions of community in the immediate postwar years,” explains Barbara
Milewski, Associate Professor of Music at Swarthmore College. “It also
compels us to consider the tensions between personal and official acts of
remembering—and forgetting—within the contexts of Poland’s historically
oppressive regimes and the nation’s contemporary politics.”The American
premiere of Palester’s music is a major event for both concert audiences
and scholars. Palester’s blend of neoclassical energy with a lyrical
sensibility made him among the most distinctive composers of
twentieth-century Poland. But his music was long banned there and has been
almost completely forgotten. “Palester had to overcome two authoritarian
regimes: first, the brutal and terrorizing Nazi occupation and then the
repressive communist government that rebuilt Poland from the rubble up,”
notes Mackenzie Pierce, a Swarthmore College alumnus who is now a PhD
candidate at Cornell University. “His compositions provide insight into how
music creates a sense of continuity over rupture. They also remind us that
every step towards war and censorship strikes at the lifeblood of an
artistic culture.” The concert will feature pianists Xak Bjerken and Ryan
MacEvoy McCullough, soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon, and violinists David Colwell
and Susan Waterbury. “It’s very attractive music,” observes Waterbury,
Professor of Violin at Ithaca College; “it’s playful yet soulful.”Pierce
will be presenting the Peter Gram Swing lecture exploring the fascinating
story of Palester’s life and music on Thursday, March 22nd at 4:30 PM in
Swarthmore College’s Lang Concert Hall. The lecture will be followed by a
film screening and short introductory talk about the film by Dr. Milewski
at 8pm in Swarthmore’s LPAC Cinema. The concert of Palester’s musical works
will take place at 8pm on Friday, March 23rd in Lang Concert Hall.All
events are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit
forbiddensongs.org <http://forbiddensongs.org> or

Jenny Honig
Manager of Concert Programming, Production, and Publicity
Department of Music and Dance
Swarthmore College
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA  19081
610.957.6159 (Phone)
610.328.8551 (Fax)
jhonig1 at swarthmore.edu
Campus Address: Lang Music Building #405

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