Songs of the Early Pioneers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Songs of the Early Pioneers 

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In 1933 Jewish musicians were purged from the ranks of professional ensembles in Germany; two years later a decree prohibited all Jews from listening to Aryan music. In response the Jewish National Fund sponsored a project in Palestine: ersatz folk songs set to lyrics by local poets celebrating the joys of agrarian life and the beauty of Israel were disseminated throughout the diaspora via postcards. In Berlin Hans Nathan, a worker at the Jewish Cultural Association (which was regulated by the Nazis), started to collect the songs. He culled the best and asked well-known composers--including Kurt Weill, Aaron Copland, Darius Milhaud, Stefan Wolpe, and Arthur Honegger--for more sophisticated arrangements, then published them one by one as sheet music until the war halted his effort. He fled Germany in 1938, eventually landing a teaching post at Michigan State University, but held on to the rest of the songs. After he died in 1989, University of Chicago ethnomusicologist Philip Bohlman was asked to supervise a compilation of the works. Songs of the Early Pioneers is now hot off the presses, and all 17 songs will be presented in their entirety for the first time at this free recital, part of the Spertus Institute's Kristallnacht commemoration. Singing them in Hebrew, as they were written, will be soprano Adina Klein and baritone Bruce Tammen, accompanied at the piano by Christine Wilkie Bohlman. Before the concert Frankfurt-based conductor Joachim Martini, who's spearheading a movement to introduce the music of Jewish composers to a new generation of Eastern Europeans, will give a short lecture titled "Music as Intellectual Resistance." And Professor Bohlman will be on hand to comment. Wednesday, 6 PM, Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, 618 S. Michigan; 322-1769.

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