Meira Warshauer was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and graduated from Harvard University (magna cum laude), New England Conservatory of Music (with honors), and the University of South Carolina. She studied composition with Mario Davidovsky, Jacob Druckman, William Thomas McKinley, and Gordon Goodwin. Her works have been performed and recorded to critical acclaim throughout the United States and in Israel, Europe, South America, and Asia. She has received numerous awards from ASCAP as well as the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and the South Carolina Arts Commission. Warshauer was awarded the Artist Fellowship in Music by the South Carolina Arts Commission in 1994, and in 2000, received the first Art and Cultural Achievement Award from the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina.
Warshauer has received commissions from the Dayton (Ohio) Philharmonic, the South Carolina Philharmonic (three orchestra works), the Zamir Chorale of Boston with the Rottenberg Chorale (New York City), Zemer Chai (Washington, DC), Gratz College (Philadelphia), Kol Dodi (New Jersey); the Cantors Assembly, clarinetist Richard Nunemaker, violinist Daniel Heifetz, and flutist Paula Robison. Her CDs include the soundtrack to the documentary Land of Promise: The Jews of South Carolina and Spirals of Light, chamber music and poetry (by Ani Tuzman) on themes of enlightenment, on the Kol Meira label, and Revelation for orchestra, included on Robert Black Conducts (MMC). YES! for clarinet and orchestra, written for and recorded by Richard Stoltzman and the Warsaw Philharmonic, is scheduled for release by MMC in 2004.
Warshauer is on the faculty of Columbia College, Columbia, South Carolina, where she teaches an innovative cross-cultural, multidisciplinary course on the experience of music as a source of healing. Warshauer has devoted much of her work to Jewish themes. In spring 2002, Kol Israel National Radio broadcast an hour-long program to her music. For more information about Meira Warshauer, visit her website at Meira Warshauer.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
one week later
I've been home about a week now. I promised to write an overview... I still feel this project is blessed, and picture the studio in SlovakRadio Hall that has our recording sessions on the computer as a little bundle of light. Emil and Hubert will edit all the recorded takes and insert Carol Potter's narration into a CD for us to approve in about two months, and the process will continue. We expect Albany Records to release the CD in fall/winter 2006. If you are not already on my mailing list and want to be notified, send me your e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, I have thank you letters to write and a few more sponsors to approach. The account at the American Music Center that receives tax deductible contributions for this project ("Meira Warshauer Recording Project") needs more dollars to finish up the project and cover some unexpected expenses. This account has been wonderful in providing a place to receive contributions and disburse funds in a transparent accounting process. Carlos Camposeco at AMC is my "banker" and does a great job--thanks, Carlos! I am so grateful to my sponsors who have contributed funds and so much encouragement for this project. (If you want to contribute, also send me an e-mail!)
I went to Bratislava because Kirk Trevor had the relationship with the orchestra and chorus that made it possible to make this recording. His wife, Maria, who is Slovak and also a musician (harpist with the Slovak Opera) helped negotiate the government music bureacracy to make all the arrangements. She continued to hold everything together as needs arose during the recording period.
Kirk really grasped the drama and emotion behind the music, and made it come alive in his conducting. When I met with him in Knoxville several years ago, he had some perceptive observations about the music, and I incorporated some of those suggestions when revising the music for the recording. Even during the sessions, Kirk made suggestions to improve the balance in a couple of places --I think Kirk's other calling is really music editor!
The chorus was wonderful, and the director, Blanka Juhanakova, loved the music and really brought out the spiritual sensitivity and power of the text. Their Hebrew was great--they had worked with two Hebrew coaches before I arrived. They sang English very well, and we worked on the spoken English, so it also sounded very good. (I mentioned some concern in one of my earlier posts, but I requested 15 minutes of rehearsal time to work on it, and they were very responsive to correction.)
The soloists, Jennifer, Stephanie, and Michael, were all wonderful and really communicated the depth of the music and text. Jennifer has a velvety mezzo voice that brought great warmth to "Ahavah(Love)." Stephanie has an angelic soprano voice that highlights the transcendent sections of "Shacharit." And Michael brought power and sensitivity to Shacharit's tenor role, with Hebrew that sounded authentically cantorial.
Hubert Geschwandtner, the engineer, and Emil Niznansky, the producer were on top of every detail of the sound. They are a great team, and have a proven track record of many fine recordings with the Slovak Radio Symphoy Orchestra. I loved being in the recording booth with them and Blanka. (I have been a few other recording booths, and physically, this one is the easiest to work from, with a clear view of the orchestra, good lighting, and plenty of room.)
What added a special depth to the project was the concert and live broadcast at Radio Hall. The orchestra and the chorus really connected with the music during the performance, and everyone was glowing at the end.
We decided to add the concert when we realized the orchestra was receptive to presenting and broadcasting it. There had been a concert in Bratislava in 2004 by a Canadian Christian composer, Ruth Fazal, titled "Oratorio Terezin" which had contributed to the process of facing the Jewish Holocaust of World War II in Slovakia. During Communism, no one had spoken of it, so education was important on a national level. I felt my music could offer a possible next step--presenting music from the Jewish liturgy that offers a message of love and justice, and a prayer for peace. Kirk titled the concert "Music from the Jewish Heart," and I loved the title. It was especially moving to hear the narration for "Shacharit" in Slovak, and to know that these inspiring words were being heard in a new context by the radio audience and those in the hall. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have performances in many other countries, with narration in each language?!
Timotea says she thinks this is the first concert of Jewish music with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra to be broadcast on Slovak Radio. Many people heard it on radio and the live stream internet broadcast. The recorded concert is supposed to be made available to the European Union for later broadcast, along with all the other broadcasts of the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. We need to make some contacts with radio stations in Europe to encourage them to access the broadcast.
The day after the concert, Dinah Spritzer, who did arrive on the later train from Prague (see previous post for the story of her stolen and recovered passport) , interviewed me about the music. I recalled an image that had inspired me to keep going with this project: I saw the kedushah chant from "Shacharit," "kadosh, kadosh, kadosh (holy, holy, holy)" enveloping the whole world in awareness of holiness. From my backyard in South Carolina, I saw/heard the chant coming from Asia across the Pacific Ocean, moving West to East, and encircling the globe. Timi, who was sitting with us, said she had friends in Japan, Canada, the US, Austria, the Czech Repuclis, and Israel who had listened to the Internet live stream of the concert. So in a small way, the vision was beginning to come true.
On Sunday, Timi and I met Maros Borsky at the Jewish Musem, which is part of the National Museum in the castle complex. As I mentioned earlier, Maros is the curator for Jewish Heritage at the museum. He gave us a personal tour. The museum shows Jewish life cycle and holiday observances as an educational perspective for the non-Jewish visitor, and includes a moving memorial to Slovak Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. It also includes a listing of the 100's of Slovaks who hid or helped save Jews from the death camps.
There are now about 3,000 Jews living in Slovakia, half of whom are in Bratislava. Of those, 700-800 are affiliated with the official Jewish community in Bratislava. Rabbi Myers and his wife, Chani, have established a Jewish pre-school and kindergarten which they hope to grow yearly to reach the 4th grade. One synagogue is still standing, and is used weekly for Shabbat services. A daily minyan meets either in the synagogue or the Chabad House nearby. Rabbi Myers has been in Bratislava for 13 years, and although American, speaks Slovak and delivers his sermons in Slovak. He has a background in music, having studied music composition at the University of Michigan before becoming a rabbi, so we had much to talk about together. I enjoyed two Friday night dinners with his family in Bratislava.
During the second Shabbat of my stay, Dinah and I went to the Jewish Community Center for a Friday evening service (Kabbalat Shabbat) with a visiting woman rabbi from England. The small group of about 15 seemed very interested in her teaching.
I don't know how many of Bratislava's Jews were in attendance at the concert. I hope more listened on the radio, and possibly in areas beyond Bratislava. The president of the Jewish Community in Bratislava told Timi he would buy a block of tickets, but I don't know if that actually happened. Timi placed notices and articles in several Jewish publications as well as other cultural magazines and sites, with information about both the concert and the broadcast. I know Maros and the director of the Jewish Museum who also attended, told us they found the concert very moving.
Timi's friend, Marta, attended the concert with about 10 of her young music students. I spoke with the students after the concert and during intermission. They were full of questions and enthusiasm, and loved the music. Timi wrote me of another response to the concert:
"My colleague at work listened to the broadcast from the concert. She said to me, that she was really amazed and touched. She is not a very spiritual person and she said: 'I do not know, what was in the music, but when the concert was over, I was not able to do nothing else but close the door of my room and stay in peace.' "
Michael and I were talking about how to make the ending of "Shacharit" special, I said I hoped people, when hearing the end of "Oseh Shalom (Grant Peace)" would love the feeling of peace in the music so much that they would want to keep it always. I believe music, if deeply felt, can create such an experience within the listener. It may awaken a place in us that we truly desire; it may inspire us to make that desire a reality in the world.
I know that for me, as a composer, my work is to translate my deepest desires, my deepest prayers, into music. I ask for your blessings that the music we recorded in Bratislava will reach the hearts of many listeners, and that the prayers for peace, love, and justice which are contained in this music, will be shared and expanded through our lives.
I didn't write much about "Like Streams in the Desert," because it was not included in the concert. It's the third piece on the CD, and is really a celebration. It was written for the 50th anniversary of the state of Israel, and celebrates coming home, physically to the land of Israel, and on the spiritual level, to our true, whole and holy selves.*
May each of us, in our own way, use our talents and efforts to bring peace, through love and justice, and to celebrate the true coming home together.
(If you want more details about the music--program notes, text translations--and bios of all the performers, come to my home page: home.sc.rr.com/meirawarshauer and click on "press kit." )
Thanks so much for following this journey with me.