The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra,
FAMU Concert Choir
Holocaust Education Resource Council,
and Temple Israel
“REQUIEM OF DEFIANCE”
March 25, 2017
Ruby Diamond Concert Hall
Keri Alkema, Soprano
Kimberly James, Mezzo Soprano
Hugo Vera, Tenor
Kevin Thompson, Bass
The “Requiem of Defiance” will tell the story of the historic performances of Verdi’s Requiem at Terezín through narration, images, and a performance of the Requiem in its entirety. This project brings together many organizations and individuals to not only create a beautiful homage to the prisoners of Terezín but a profound educational and unifying community event.
Proceeds benefit the Holocaust Education Resource Council, the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, and Temple Israel
“Doing a performance was not entertainment.
It was a fight for life.”
—Terezin survivor Zdenka Fantlova
About Verdi’s Requiem in Terezín
In 1943, in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezín, an incredible act of resistance commenced when 150 Jewish prisoners premiered Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem or Requiem Mass. For those who participated in the 16 performances that Rafael Schächter conducted between 1943 and 1944—the last of which was for the International Red Cross when it came to examine the camp—the work stood as an action of defiance towards the Nazis.
Prisoner Rafael Schächter, a pianist and conductor who owned a single score of Verdi’s Requiem, taught the singers their individual parts to the 90-minute piece in a small, unlit basement after their grueling workdays were done. Despite its origins as music for a Catholic rite, the powerful music of Verdi’s Requiem, especially the Dies Irae (“Day of wrath, that day the world will dissolve in ashes/What trembling there will be, when the judge shall come to examine all things thoroughly”) provided the prisoners a way to warn their Nazi captors of God’s revenge. They sang what they could not say.
Over the course of the 16 performances, Schächter’s chorus diminished to 60 as prisoners died of malnutrition or were transported to death camps. Soon after the final performance, the 39-year-old Schächter was deported to Auschwitz and died on a death march in March of 1945.