Local premiere of oratorio tonight

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Holocaust oratorio performances this weekend

Lee Nelson conducts "To Be Certain of the Dawn," a musical gift from the Catholic community to the Jewish community.

Some 300 performers will grace the Abbey Church at St. John's University, Collegeville, this evening in the final local performance of a Holocaust memorial oratorio. A packed house in St. Cloud State's Ritsche Auditorium witnessed the Friday evening performance.

The free performances of "To Be Certain of the Dawn" are a gift to the people of Central Minnesota, much like the choral/orchestral work by Stephen Paulus and Michael Dennis Browne is a gift to the Jewish people, according to Lee Nelson and Joseph Edelheit.

Edelheit, a rabbi, is associate professor of philosophy and director of religious studies at St. Cloud State. Nelson, an assistant professor of music at St. Cloud State, will conduct the oratorio. Listen to a podcast (.mp3) in which Nelson describes how performers sing the Nuremburg race laws in an emotionless, colorless vocal style as four photos of Jewish children from the 1930s are projected on a screen. The 1935 race laws began the legal process of stripping German Jews of their civil and human rights.

To reserve tickets to this evening;s perforamnce, call 320-363-3371

Performing are singers, instrumentalists and faculty soloists from St. Cloud State University, the College of St. Benedict, St. John's University, the SCSU Cantabile Girls Choir of fourth- to ninth-graders and the St. John's Boys’ Choir.

Many of the same performers – students and faculty members – will present the European premiere of the work at Natzweiler-Struthof, a former Nazi concentration camp in France. The concert is one of several to be performed in Germany, Switzerland and France during a May 20-June 4 study tour.

“To Be Certain of the Dawn” was premiered in 2005 by the Rev. Michael J. O'Connell of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis to celebrate two important events – the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps at the end of World War II and the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II document that condemned blaming Jews for the death of Christ. Rooted in themes and subjects of mutual interest to the Jewish and Christian faith communities, the oratorio pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the Holocaust and honors survivors and their descendants.

The April 25 and April 26 performances are sponsored by the St. Cloud State Jewish Studies Program and the General Mills Foundation of Minneapolis.

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