The Thinking Heart: the Life & Loves of Etty Hillesum
Past Event ....... June 24th, 2011 — 7:30 p.m.
A performance in two voices with cello – presented by LA Arts and hosted by LPL at 7:30 p.m. in Callahan Hall. This unique and thought-provoking performance piece is being presented as part of the June 24 Art Walk Lewiston Auburn.
The Thinking Heart is an original arrangement of poetry by Martin Steingesser based on the writings of Etty Hillesum. Ms. Hillesum was a Jewish woman who lived in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation and wrote a luminous diary and over 70 letters, collected and published together in a book, An Interrupted Life & Letters from Westerbork. The journal and letters document her vibrant life in the Netherlands and subsequent internment by the Nazis. She died in Auschwitz in 1943.
Martin Steingesser, Maine’s first Poet Laureate has been writing poetry and teaching poetry-writing workshops as a touring artist for over 30 years. This performance features the voices of Judy Tierney and Martin Steingesser with music arranged and performed by cellist Robin Jellis.
In The Thinking Heart, Steingesser invites us to join him on a journey with Etty Hillesum into one of the darkest moments of the 20th Century. This journey is extraordinary, not only because of the moment and terrain but because of the light in which this young woman holds the experience. Audience members will move with Etty from a place of paralyzing fear to one in which she refuses escape, so that she can travel east to Auschwitz to help those who cannot escape and to share the fate of her people.
According to Edward van Voolen, chairman of the Etty Hillesum Foundation, “Etty confronts us all with what it means to be and remain human under the most extreme circumstances. That is a form of resistance no oppressor can withstand. Not then, and not now.”
The music for The Thinking Heart, an original arrangement by Robin Jellis, is comprised of improvisations, or mediations, inspired by the poems. The opening motif, a quote from Jewish composer Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo, originally written for solo cello and orchestra, is woven throughout. The first notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony occur in one of the poems. A short melody is taken from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. Other influences include folk songs, a medieval chant and J. S. Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. The final movement is taken from an original composition, Peace Piece, by Jellis.
- Portland Phoenix feature on The Thinking Heart by Megan Grumbling.
- Maine Public Radio story from Maine Things Considered by Keith Shortall.
This performance is free and open to the public. It is being presented at LPL thanks to the support of LA Arts, the Maine Arts Commission, and Poetry Out Loud. For more information, contact the LPL Reference Desk at 513-3135.
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