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Barrie's Am Shalom to present ‘orchestral masterpiece’

By Susan Doolan, Special to Postmedia Network

Barrie’s Am Shalom Reform Congregation is presenting an evening of music on Saturday, April 29 to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Week. SUBMITTED

Barrie’s Am Shalom Reform Congregation is presenting an evening of music on Saturday, April 29 to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Week. SUBMITTED

Am Shalom is hosting a special event, an evening of music and remembrance to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Week.

The event, which takes place next Saturday, April 29, features a trailer from a new documentary, musical performances and opportunity to meet and speak to the people who are making the film, Rhapsody: The Liberation of Leo Spellman.

It centres on polish musician and Holocaust survivor, Leo Spellman, and the music he composed during the Second World War.

The three-movement classical piece, called Rhapsody 1939-45, proved too painful for the composer so he hid it.

The music was lost for 60 years until his daughter discovered it and took it to Paul Hoffert, music professor at York University and co-founder of Lighthouse.

He arranged it and performed for audiences at the Holocaust museums in Washington and New York.

Spellman had the opportunity to hear it when it was played at the “shkenaz Festival in Toronto just before his 99th birthday.

He died shortly afterward.

The music is expected to be the centrepiece of the feature documentary.

Director David Hoffert, Paul’s son, called it “a powerful and haunting orchestral masterpiece.”

The Hoffert family, including Paul’s wife, Brenda, is producing the film which will also be based on dairies Spellman kept.

Spellman was a member of a famous Polish/Jewish family that was musical across multiple generations. His cousin, Wadislaw, was the subject of the movie The Pianist.

After fleeing the Nazi occupation of Poland, Spellman and his wife spent 18 months hiding in a forest before they were found by a Polish Christian family who took them in until the end of the war in 1945.

Then the couple were transferred to a refugee camp awaiting immigration to Canada. While there, he wrote Rhapsody 1939-45.

This event is a fundraiser for the documentary which is expected to include interviews, concert performances, footage shot in Poland and Canada among other elements.

The evening will include performances by members of Lighthouse, Canadian jazz/pop/classical violinist Lenny Solomon, local jazz singer Aura, who has performed with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Quincy Jones. The Am Shalom choir will also be performing.

Refreshments and a cash bar will be available. Tickets are $40. Capacity is limited. For tickets, call 705-792-3949. 



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