they burn, the fires of the night: lamentations from the ashes was commissioned by The Defiant Requiem Foundation. The piece is primarily inspired by Menachem Z. Rosensaft’s fierce and heartrending poetry, from his book Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen. Rosensaft, son of Holocaust survivors, was born in the DP camp in Bergen-Belsen after World War II, and his poems powerfully impart the intense emotions in his personal story and the larger terror of the Holocaust.
Menachem Rosensaft and I worked together to select the poems from his collection, and an order that would create a dramatic and musical shape to the entire work. My composition aims to bring out the impassioned message of the poetry with the emotions beyond words that music strives to achieve. I hope that these songs will give the audience a visceral and deeply felt vision of one family’s experience in that terrible time—and the need to remember, and continue to retell, the story of all of the victims and survivors.
they burn, the fires of the night: lamentations from the ashes is for mezzo-soprano, baritone, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. It was given its premiere in October 2023 in New York City, by The Defiant Requiem Foundation.
The piece consists of eight songs:
- Prologue: “Mommy, are we going to live or die” (Mezzo)
- Psalm 23 at Auschwitz (Duet)
- A Refusal to Forgive the Death, by Gas, of a Child in Birkenau (Baritone)
- Knit Doll at Bergen-Belsen (Mezzo)
- Ne’ilah (Baritone)
- The Second Generation (Duet)
- blessed is the soul (Mezzo)
- they burn, the fires of the night (Baritone)
Poems by Menachem Rosensaft, from Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen.
Premiere with featured vocal performers mezzo soprano Leah Wool and baritone David Kravitz, October 25, 2023 at Hebrew Union College. View the program book here.