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Testimony of Witnesses Brief History

The seed of the idea for Testimony of Witnesses came to Composer Ruth Lomon while she was living in Israel in 1993-94, and doing research into poetry of the Holocaust at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Some of the poetry she discovered there, and also later in 1994 at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, moved her to set the poetry into songs. Her fellowship at the Bunting Institute at Harvard became the opportunity to fully develop this original idea into the song cycle Songs of Remembrance, for vocal soloists, piano, oboe, and English horn.

Songs of Remembrance consists of ten songs and sets the work of ten poets, six women and children and four men. It has received numerous performances, including one at the United States Holocaust Museum (April 1998) and at the International Association of Women in Music Congress in London (July 1999), where Lomon received the Miriam Gideon Composition Award for the work.

After living with the material for several years and completing the recording of Songs of Remembrance for Composers Recordings in 2001, Lomon felt that the story was not complete; that she had only begun to uncover the expressive and documentary possibilities of the project. Lomon started experimenting with adapting one of the songs to a choral texture, and then chose new texts and began composing new movements for chorus, vocal soloists, and a wider variety of instrumental accompaniment. Testimony of Witnesses, the full concert-length work for chamber orchestra and vocal ensemble, had begun to take shape.

The resulting work includes the poetry of eighteen individual poets, in seven languages, ten of whom are women and children. This group of artists includes victims or survivors of Terezin, Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau, Mauthausen, and a Ukraine work camp. Testimony of Witnesses is a multilingual, international testament to the terrible truths of the Holocaust.
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