The emotions and stories of those who lived in the concentration camps and ghettos during the reign of Hitler will be expressed in song when "Voices of the Holocaust" is presented at Juniata College.
The 80-minute choral piece is a collection of 22 songs written by Jews who lived during those difficult days during World War II, predominantly in Germany and Poland.
"It's a very powerful piece," said Russell Shelley, music director at Juniata College in Huntingdon. "It is raw and moving."
He will conduct the choral work to be performed at 3 p.m. Nov. 5 in Rosenberger Auditorium at the college. It will be sung by the Juniata College Concert Choir and the State College Choral Society.
It will be the eighth time the concert has been presented since the inaugural performance in November 2004 in State College.
In addition to the presentation at Juniata, a concert will be given Nov. 6 in Kraushaar Auditorium at Groucher College in Baltimore. Shelley said the concert at Groucher was planned under the guidance of Philip A. Klein, who initiated the idea of a choral work about oppressed people about 10 years ago and then selected the songs for "Voices of the Holocaust" over a two-year period.
Klein, who died March 29, was a professor emeritus of economics at Penn State and a member of the State College Choral Society.
Shelley said Klein studied the music historians had collected after World War II and listened to numerous CDs.
"He chose what he considered the best [for the work], Shelley said.
Klein also found Sheridan Seyfried, the composer who arranged the work.
Shelley commented that Klein, who died of cancer, was so dedicated to "Voices of the Holocaust" that he was making plans for the concert in Groucher until his death.
"On the day he died, he called me in the morning to work on details for the concert. He was quite a dedicated guy," Shelley said.
Many of the selections for the full-length concert are short, and the music will be sung in either English or Yiddish.
Programs will contain the words to the songs along with a short history about the pieces.
"People will be able to follow it like to a map to lead them through the experience," Shelley said.
The music is " sorrowful and joyful" with an emotional ending, he said. "The final song ['Never Say This is the Final Road for You,') concludes with 'we are here' or in other words it did not work. The goal of the Holocaust was unsuccessful."
Bill Wallen, executive director of the Greater Altoona Jewish Federation, said the presentation of the concert is timely in that it is close to Kristallnacht, an event that Jews still acknowledge. Known also as "the night of the broken glass, Kristallnacht occurred Nov. 9, 1938, when the Nazis destroyed synagogues and damaged Jewish businesses throughout Germany. The broken glass from storefronts lined the streets of the cities. It also marked the beginning of the pogroms with Jews being murdered and placed in concentration camps.
And although the songs were sung and written by Jews, Wallen believes "it is a concert that not only Jewish people can identify with, but it is important for others to know about it, too."
He said many Catholics and people of other Christian faiths also died during the Holocaust.
An earlier presentation of "Voices of the Holocaust" was presented at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona in 2006.
Deborah Hetrick, director of the music ministry at the Cathedral at the time, called it "really unique and well-written. It's a very intense piece."
Shelly said that after hearing the songs, "People will take away from the concert, the resilience of the human spirit."