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Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín, 28th January, 2017

"It's very hard to sing when you're crying, and it's very hard not to cry when singing Verdi's Requiem as part of the Defiant Requiem.


I don't think I'll ever sing this piece of music again in the same way, it has taken on a whole new depth of meaning and a whole new significance.


Those words: 'Day of wrath, that dread day, the world dissolves into ashes''' save me, save me ... '


At Terezín or Thereseinstadt, the World War II concentration camp that became a show-piece for the Nazi propaganda machine, the inmates sang Verdi's Requiem 16 times, many of them then being immediately transported to the death camps to become ashes. We have sung it this one time, in their memory, and then, in silence, walked out of the nave of Durham cathedral into the dark of the Galilee Chapel. We were then able to go home to our friends and family and have been able to talk about our performance, and look forward to the next concert. Most of those singers did not have that opportunity.


It was a privilege to be, for a brief moment, a part of the history that, over 70 years later, keeps the memory of those brave, defiant, performers alive. Our music was just part of the well-crafted spectacle of archive footage, survivor interviews, narrated accounts, but it was a very important and moving part. I am so glad that we, Durham Choral Society, in Durham Cathedral, were able to give a voice to those long-dead men and women, and sing in the UK premiere performance of the Defiant Requiem."

- Fiona Gameson, Committee member



Five years later, at the time of writing, describing this performance still brings a lump to the throat for one of the choir members. From taking part in singing the requiem to walking down the nave while humming Jewish folksong to Simon slamming the door of the Galilee Chapel to signify the cattle-car doors slamming shut on Rafael Shächter's journey to Auschwitz. This evocative piece, with footage of some of the survivors talking about their experiences at the camp interspersed between movements of Verdi's Requiem, was performed with the assistance of The Forge and sponsored by The Defiant Requiem Foundation.

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