10/10/2019 - Permalink

Concert of Holocaust music and poetry in Shrewsbury on Wednesday 16 October

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A special concert of Holocaust music and poetry is being held in St Mary’s Church, in the centre of Shrewsbury, on Wednesday 16 October 2019 at 7pm.

This concert has been inspired by the book “The Fiddle”, by Shropshire-based author Natalie Cumming, which tells the true story of a violin and its role in her family caught up in the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust. Tickets are £5, available at the door.

Mrs Cumming gave talks to local primary schools in Shropshire earlier this year, as part of Shropshire Council’s efforts to work with schools and interfaith forums to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. She assisted with the planting of the 2019 cherry tree at St Peter’s School in Wem, and talked with the children at Mereside in Shrewsbury, where the first such tree was planted in 2015.

The council has been advised by the organiser, Dr Derry Bertenshaw, that Mrs Cumming will be giving a talk about her book, whilst members of the interfaith forums will read poetry. Music is provided by Dr Bertenshaw (violin), John Bowen (piano) and Ruth Bertenshaw (soprano/ piano).

There will be readings from pupils of The Priory School, Shrewsbury, which was one of five secondary schools receiving a Holocaust cherry tree from the council in 2016. A Holocaust art exhibition by pupils of the school, produced after a visit to them by Mrs Cumming and Councillor Nic Laurens, will be on display at St Mary’s Church during the concert and throughout the week 14-18 October 2019 during opening hours (10am-4pm).

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities, place planning and regulatory services, said: 

“I am delighted that this special concert of Holocaust music and poetry is taking place in Shrewsbury, building on efforts by local schools and interfaith forums to mark annual Holocaust Memorial Day, which takes place on 27 January each year. It is particularly pleasing that more people will now have opportunity not only to hear from the author and listen to the music that has been composed as a result of her book, but also to hear from local young people and from the interfaith forums.

“I understand that Mark Michaels from the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum will be reading the poem “Rosa’s Gift”, which was written by Victoria Parker, who lives in Australia and sent it in to the author and the council after she read about the book. Fran Humpage from the Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum will be reading the poem ”The Butterfly”, by Pavel Friedmann.

“I am very much heartened by the continued positive impact that words and music can have in helping us all to work together to ensure that things like the Holocaust and other genocides will be less likely to happen. We must never forget about what did happen, and that is why we come together on occasions like this and in the annual planting of a cherry tree with children in Shropshire, and why we must all strive to be kind to each other and to respect each other’s beliefs. I commend the concert to all those who may be able to attend.”

Further information

Dr Bertenshaw is the Organist at St Giles Church, Wenlock Road, Shrewsbury, and has organised this event, being held at St Mary’s in Shrewsbury. Proceeds are to go to St Mary’s Stained Glass Restoration Project. The address is just off Dogpole, Shrewsbury SY1 1DX.

The HMD 2019 events with local schools were supported by local Jewish author Natalie Cumming, whose book “The Fiddle” is about her family violin. Her aunt Rosa played the violin in three concentration camps (Mauthausen, Auschwitz and Belsen) and was part of the women’s orchestra in each camp. The violin was returned to her after being taken away on her arrival in Auschwitz. Violin maker/restorer John Dilworth restored the violin for a BBC programme The Repair Shop. It has now been donated in perpetuity in memory of her aunt and her father to the Yehudi Menuhin school. The well-known violinist, Chris Garrick, composed a piece especially for the programme called Rosa’s Wishing Waltz.

Dr Derry Bertenshaw subsequently composed a special piece of music inspired by the book, which was first performed at the Abbey in Shrewsbury on 15 May 2019.

The Priory School in Shrewsbury, which was one of the five secondary schools that had planted a cherry tree from Shropshire Council in 2016, were also able to organise a visit from Natalie Cumming, with support from Councillor Nic Laurens.

The school hosted an exhibition of work by the students following the visit from Mrs Cumming, and showed this to her, to Lois Dale as a representative of the council, and to representatives of the interfaith forums, on Friday 5 July 2019.

The background here is that Shropshire Council is continuing efforts to grow a cherry tree orchard of remembrance across Shropshire, working with primary and secondary schools and inter faith forums and local Shropshire Councillors. We identify a primary school each year, and are seeking to spread the orchard across the county.

This year’s tree was planted at St Peter’s CofE School in Wem, representing the north and east of the county. Next year, a school in the south and west will be chosen, as the council continues efforts to grow an orchard that will eventually cover all points of the compass.

We linked the HMD 2019 theme with the support given in Shropshire to Syrian refugee families making their homes here. The council utilised resources from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust alongside resources developed by Mereside CofE Primary School, including a reading list. All schools were sent details of the resources and the annual theme.

For more information about the 2019 theme, please see resources on the HMD Trust website at www.hmd.org.uk