Kennedy Center Concert Commemorating Largest Holocaust Rescue Premieres Tonight

06/21/2011
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(Submitted) Tonight, June 21st, the world premiere of the oratorio A Melancholy Beauty will be performed by Songs of Life at 8 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

Over 300 performers will be on stage, including choirs, soloists, the National Philharmonic Orchestra and a narrator. The performance will commemorate the historic but little-known rescue of Bulgaria's 49,000 Jews from the Holocaust by ordinary citizens who rose up in civil disobedience and demanded of the King and Parliament that Bulgaria's Jews be spared from Nazi extermination. No Bulgarian Jews went to the Concentration Camps.

This concert is a rare example of artists teaching history through classical music and English language song. Tickets are $25- $150 and can be purchased at the Kennedy Center box office, by phone at 202-467-4600, and online at www.kennedy-center.org. Tickets as low as $12.50 through Goldstar.com. More information about the concert and the sponsor, Songs of Life, is available at www.songsoflife.org.

The oratorio is a choral-orchestral work for mixed choir, children's choir, symphony orchestra, soloists, narrator, folk vocal ensemble and indigenous folk instruments. Set to a libretto by Scott Cairns and contributing author Aryeh Finklestein, it is dedicated to the Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews during the Holocaust of WWII. . Soloists include New York City Opera's David Kravitz, Baritone, Charles David Osborne, Tenor, and Neli Atanasova Andreeva, Soprano The oratorio traces this event chronologically through the language of music in seven movements.

Songs of Life is an international music festival that musically tells the story of little-known events of heroism. The artists behind this oratorio teach history through classical music as part of a rare but growing trend. Joan of Arc and Harriet Tubman are the focus of fall oratorios at the BSO this fall. Handel's Messiah, Simon Lazar's Holocaust oratorio, Leonard Bernstein's MASS and scores of Requiems throughout history illustrate the concept. A Melancholy Beauty is all the more unusual in that it celebrates a rescue, not a loss.

This year, during the second year of the festival, A Melancholy Beauty will be performed in three major US cities to commemorate the heroic acts of compassion that were displayed at a time of extreme prejudice and intolerance. Washington DC will be the first city, followed later in June by Boston and New York City.

A Melancholy Beauty oratorio depicts the heroic rescue of 49,000 Bulgarian Jews from the hands of the Nazis during WWII. Owing to the decisive action of the Bulgarian people, Bulgaria has gone down in history for rescuing its entire Jewish population.

A Melancholy Beauty, therefore, "echoes a thank you, paying tribute to the brave Bulgarian people and offering a source of inspiration, hope and change for people everywhere today," said Kalin Tchonev, who together with his wife, Sharon, founded Songs of Life in 2008. "This oratorio could not be timelier, when people and nations are burning bridges instead of building them. It inspires its performers and audience to stand up for justice and acceptance in the face of bigotry and hatred."

The oratorio was composed by the award-winning Bulgarian composer Georgi Andreev, who combines classical choral-orchestral music with traditional rhythms and folk styles rarely encountered today. His works have been performed all over Europe including Albert Hall in London. The motet was composed by internationally renowned cantor and composer, Charles David Osborne,

"A Melancholy Beauty is a major choral-orchestral oratorio that brings 300 superb choristers and instrumentalists to the stage in an unparalleled music celebration," Sharon Tchonev said. This moving oratorio will be conducted by internationally acclaimed choral director Maestro Henry H. Leck. The festival includes performances by the Indianapolis Children's Choir; the Philip Kutev National Folklore Ensemble, Bulgaria; New York's Khorikos Choir; the Victor Valley College Singers and the Master Arts Chorale, CA. The oratorio will be accompanied by the National Philharmonic. This coming together of musicians from countries impacted by these crucial events Sharon Tchonev said, "is intended to redefine freedom and harmony through the power of music."

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