Houston Symphony Magazine From the Orchestra November 2010
On behalf of the musicians of the Houston Symphony it gives me great pleasure to welcome you back to our 97th season. Already this fall we have seen the exciting introduction of our new concertmaster and the success of our first overseas tour in a decade, but many of the season's highlights still lie ahead. This month, in addition to the immortal music of Brahms, Ravel, Grieg and Mussorgsky, we are presenting a very special project- in collaboration with the Holocaust Museum Houston – the full orchestra premiere of Lawrence Seigel's Kaddish, set to the words and stories of Holocaust survivors living in Houston. Reflecting on how this music adds another layer of emotional connection to their spoken words, I am struck by the often overlooked power of music in our lives. Music is usually treated as simply another form of entertainment, and at its most basic level it certainly is that. But great music has the power to reach a part of our being that words and information can not.
During the Shoah (Holocaust), prisoners who were being starved and worked to death, many of whom were barely alive, would still gather in secret, spending the energy that they needed just to live to perform music for each other. Why would someone risk their best chance at surviving simply to play and hear music? There must be a deeper human need than just survival. In other, officially permitted camp concerts, Nazi officers and prisoners would come together to listen to the music, the only time oppressor and oppressed were briefly joined together by a common bond of humanity.
Turning to our own lives, I think of the occasions where we instinctively feel the need for music. When do we cry at a wedding or funeral, if not when the music begins? It connects with our most fundamental and innermost feelings. Can you imagine our most dramatic movie scenes without the swelling music soundtrack? The emotional impact could never be the same. I remember the New York Philharmonic's Brahms Requiem a few days after 9/11, the first organized public expression of grief in that city, and the Houston Symphony performing for NASA days after we lost Columbia. We need music to express what we can not express in any other way. Johannes Brahms came from a distant time and a foreign culture, but listen to his 3rd symphony and you will find you know something about him, and about yourself, that you could not describe. Music is entertainment, but great music reaches into our souls, moves us and changes us. We are very happy to have you with us on the journey.