Monday 27th January 2020, marked 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Held on January 25th in Lewes, this concert the program was organised by the Lewes Holocaust Memorial Day Group, and local musicians, in conjunction with the national organisation, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
The event included music and poetry, with performances including The London & Brighton & Hove Yiddish Choirs. More information about them can be found on their founder and leader website Polina Shepherd.
Before the choir performance, of beautiful Yiddish songs, there was a short reading, giving some cultural and historical context:
"Yiddish is the 1000-year-old language of the Jews of Eastern Europe. Prior to the Holocaust there were about 12 million speakers of Yiddish. The vast majority of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust were Yiddish speakers. This, along with assimilation and emigration to Israel after the war, led to a massive decline in the use of the language. Today there is an active movement to revive both the language and its rich cultural heritage. Yiddish songs are hugely varied. Some are spiritual and liturgical, rooted in cantorial and hassidic music, particularly the nign – a spiritual melody that hassidim believe changes consciousness. Others come from the Yiddish theatre and cinema. There are folk songs reflecting the history, hopes, memories and celebrations of Jewish people across Eastern and Central Europe, and there are others which reflect the political struggles against oppression."
The event also included music from Jamal & Alaa, Pam & Des Femmes, Kirsty Martin & Singers, Zu Choir, Tim Locke & Hilary Jones, and Contraband.
Listen to some of our recordings with Polina and her choirs here