It was a memorable evening April 25, orchestrated by MCC-Maple Woods music coordinator Jim Murray and students for the 13th annual “Day of Remembrance: Remembering the Holocaust Through Music and Art.” Here are some scenes from the event (no flash photography to protect the integrity of the performances).
Original story from April 21, 2016:
This will be the 13th year that haunting and poignant melodies will echo at MCC-Maple Woods in tribute to lives lost and lives touched during one of the most horrific eras in modern history, the Holocaust.
Jim Murray can tell you exactly when the vision for what is now an annual event at Maple Woods started. Murray, music coordinator for the campus, says a concert he attended as a college student impacted him in a way that changed his perspective permanently. The compositions of Pavel Haas, a Czech composer who was killed in a concentration camp, will always resonate with him.
Years later, Murray was fortunate as a teacher to have the opportunity to turn his reaction into a lasting artistic impact.
This year’s “Day of Remembrance: Remembering the Holocaust Through Music and Art” will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 25, in the Campus Center’s Arbor Room (110) on the MCC-Maple Woods campus. The program is free and appropriate for children 13 and older.
Murray, who has taught at MCC for 13 years and has coordinated the Day of Remembrance event since 2004, is also a member of the Holocaust Educators Academic Roundtable and the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education.
“It’s normally meaningful and it’s very informative, and sadly it is still increasingly relevant,” says Murray, adding, ”I wish I could say we’re at a point where we’re not dealing with that around the globe, but we are.”
Every year the Maple Woods event is different. This year will feature performances of music paired with poetry created for the event by students in MCC creative writing classes, taught by Mike Warren. The featured performers include Dr. Tracey Johnson, who will be performing Karel Berman’s “Suite for Piano,” cellist Sascha Groschang and violinist Zsolt Eder performing Zikmund Schul’s “Two Hassidic Dances” and the William Jewell College Chapel Choir, led by Nicole Murray (Jim Murray’s wife). Jim Murray will provide a narrative context for the evening.
Murray is an amazingly busy working musician outside of the classroom. He is the music director and conductor of the Northland Symphony, as well as the same for the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Kansas City and the Heritage Philharmonic.
Murray’s many contributions have been recognized. Most recently, in February, the We Are Arts Organization awarded him the Amy Harring Inspiration Award for his outstanding work.
“Your dedication to expanding the arts in our community hasn’t gone unnoticed, and this award shows it,” said Jakob Lineberry, president of We Are Arts.
The Amy Harring Inspiration Award was created in memory of Harring, a cancer patient who while in the hospital would sing and paint to brighten the environment for others. This award is given to people who share her ideas of giving back to the community using the arts.
The timing for MCC’s Day of Remembrance is coordinated to be as close as possible to the internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day. This marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The international day of remembrance this year is May 5.
A conversation with Jim Murray (excerpts)
About the Holocaust event:
It’s more than just a concert. It’s a remembrance event. Obviously there’s a musical focus but it’s more of an arts focus. It’s why we say remembering the Holocaust “through arts.”
One of the things that I want my college students to know is that when you’re out of school and you’re not forced to do homework and you’re not forced to do deadlines, that learning can still take place and it can actually be quite enjoyable.
I had a pretty seminal event when I was in college. I attended a concert my junior year of college by the Philadelphia Orchestra. They were in town on a concert series and as a conducting student I wanted to go, primarily because the piece in the second half of the program was a piece I loved dearly, a symphony by Dvořák. And I remember the first piece on the program was a piece that I’d never heard of, by a composer I had never heard of, and that piece was by Pavel Haas.
I can remember that moment in my life as if it was yesterday. I can remember being just completely enamored by the piece of music, being completely drawn in. And then I’m like, well, I probably should read the program notes and figure out what happened. Which is everything I tell my students not to do it, right? (Laughs) I tell them to read the notes ahead of time.
And sure enough, come to find out that Pavel Haas was interned in a concentration camp and he wrote music for the orchestra in the ghetto. I just never knew anything about that whole world and so it resonated with me very strongly. But when you’re in college, other things take priority, you can’t do things that you just want to do.
I didn’t come back to that event until after graduate school and I started teaching here. I would do Music Appreciation and we did the Middle Ages, Renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic and of course the 20 century at the end of the semester. At that time, I had connected with this group out in Johnson County, the Holocaust Educators Academic Roundtable, which is basically non-history teachers who use the Holocaust, and so I decided to redesign the curriculum for my course. I had good feedback from that and so out of the class came this event.
It really was two things. It was a Holocaust remembrance event. And it was an interdisciplinary event that would explore connections between music and literature and poetry and visual art.
About the Amy Harring award:
I was surprised and honored. I’ve been in the community arts now for almost half my life, and any time you have recognition for your efforts that is great. And I am very appreciative for that recognition. But also what I said when I accepted the award (was), I don’t do this alone. I do this with the support of particularly my family and my friends, the other people I work with and all of the organizations that I work with. Really I work with three orchestras, and so I felt like I was accepting the award on behalf of everybody that has helped me do what I do.
The advice he gives students:
(For Maple Woods students) it would be to make good choices, but I think a lot of this award came out of my work with my youth orchestra. The award was presented at a recent Metropolitan Youth Orchestra concert, the orchestra I co-founded 19 years ago. But for the high school students, the members of my orchestra, what I want them to know is no matter how their life goes forward, there’s a place for music in their life. Even if it’s not their vocation, it can still be their evocation. And obviously, for those students, the attributes that we need to develop as musicians will serve them well and other aspects of life, too.
Obviously it’s great if someone wants to pursue music or music education, but if that’s not what they desire, I want to make sure they know that they don’t have to give everything up at that point. There are ways they can use a talent in the community to give back to the community and to fulfill their own personal desires for making music and expressing themselves.
Annual events don’t happen without good sponsors. MCC would like to thank the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City and the Louis and Frances Swinken Supporting Foundation.
- Poetry, Mike Warren, coordinator. The poems in the presentation were selected from assignments in the Creative Writing I-IV classes.
- William Jewell College Chapel Choir
- Nicole Murray, conductor | Dr. Anne Marie Rigler, accompanist
- Violinist Zsolt Eder and Cellist Sascha Groschang
- Members of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK)/Emily Fairchild, Coordinator
- Lighting and Sound, Scot Savage
- Pianist, Dr. Tracey Johnson