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Voices of the Holocaust

Setting by Sheridan Seyfried
Russ Shelley, Artistic Director

Sunday November 5, 2023              3:00 PM

Recital Hall, Penn State University Campus

Laura Choi Stuart, soprano

Elizabeth Shammash, mezzo-soprano

Benjamin Warschawski, tenor

Aaron Keeney, bass

with special guests:

Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra instrumentalists

Concordia of the Nittany Valley Children’s Choir

Voices of the Holocaust is an arrangement of music written during the Holocaust in the ghettos and concentration camps. It comprises 22 songs structured as a dramatic cantata in five parts. Voices was commissioned by Philip Klein and the State College Choral Society. With Russ Shelley as the Artistic Director, the work was premiered by the Society in November 2004. It has since been performed by SCCS at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Altoona, PA, Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA, Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA and Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. The piece has also been performed several times in Brazil (Sao Paulo, Salvador, and Rio de Janeiro) where it was prepared by Cicero Alves Filho.

How a Choral Work is Born – Phil Klein

Philip A. Klein, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Senior Research Scholar at the Economic Cycle Research Institute, and Fulbright Scholar, joined the faculty of The Pennsylvania State University in 1955. He earned a Ph.D. in 1958 from the University of California at Berkeley. During his distinguished career at the University, he was a dynamic lecturer, an active researcher, and published numerous articles and books. Phil joined the State College Choral Society in 1977 and has been a loyal member of the bass section ever since. In 2002, when Music Director Russell Shelley invited members of the Society to suggest repertoire, Phil dreamed of a choral work that featured music of oppressed peoples. In researching the possibility, he found the music from the Holocaust compelling and of such importance as to require a piece on its own. Furthermore, while choral music is often from Christian sources, a major Jewish choral work was long overdue. Phil spent long hours completing research on the music, choosing songs to be part of the work, and selecting the accompaniment and presentation of each song. Russ was immediately taken with Phil’s proposal, and concurred with all of his choices, both in terms of songs to be included and their presentation. Through a serendipitous connection of Phil’s, they found and commissioned Sheridan Seyfried, a talented young student at the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, to arrange the piece. Sheridan completed the setting in record time, and the rest is history.


The Choral Society is deeply indebted to Phil for his vision in selecting this music and for his dedication to the work involved in bringing it to fruition; his contribution will live on as Voices of the Holocaust becomes an important part of our choral repertoire. We are extremely pleased to return Voices in our repertoire for our 75th Diamond Anniversary season.

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