Stories of survival: Holocaust central theme of Plymouth cultural push

by Brad Kadrich, Plymouth Observer, October 26, 2006

Always keeping an eye out for an art exhibit that would play well at the Plymouth Community Art Center. Nancy Pilon thought she had found one when she spotted photographs of Miriam Brysk at the Birmingham/Bloomfield Art Center.

Little did Pilon know how quickly the idea would bloom into a multifaceted tribute to Holocaust survivors, “Plymouth Remembers: Voices of the Holocaust.”

Not only does the PCAC have an exhibit by Brysk, herself a Holocaust survivor, starting Nov. 4, but the other cultural organizations in town have now gotten into the act. The Plymouth Symphony Orchestra, Plymouth District Library, Plymouth Historical Museum and the Penn Theater all now have Holocaust-themed events scheduled.

It started when Pilon spotted a couple of photographs by Brysk, born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1935 and whose work is spurred by her childhood experiences in the Holocaust. Pilon was struck by the quality of the mixed-media photographs of Holocaust survivors.

The exhibit, “In a Confined Silence,” strives to tell of the Jewish suffering and “the artists attempt to restore to them their dignity as Jews.”

First on board according to Pilon, was the Plymouth Orchestra, where conductor Nan Washburn has been itching to put together a concert featuring music composed by Holocaust-era composers such as Mendelssohn and Shostakovich. The PSO contribution to the event, the “Music of Remembrance” concert in the auditorium at Northville High School. Opening the concert will be Calm Seas and Prosperous Voyage Overture by Nazi-banned Jewish Composer, Felix Mendelssohn. Shostakovich’s Symphony No 13, subtitled Babi Yar featuring a male chorus and bass-baritone Donald Hartman. The program will also showcase PSO concertmaster Mark Schuppener, who will solo on the evocative and hauntingly beautiful Three Pieces from Schindler’s List for Violin and Orchestra by illustrative film composer John Williams. “This is an opportunity to perform one of these beautiful pieces that historically had been suppressed or destroyed, specifically Mendelssohn and Shostakovich, said Philpot-Munson, the PSO’s executive director. “Miriam Brysk is in many ways the driving force behind this. Meeting her inspired us all to do our level best to present something as thorough as possible. Even though (the Holocaust) was a tragic event in world history, we wanted to celebrate the triumph in human spirit, Miriam Brysk embodies that.”

The Plymouth District Library is also on the band-wagon, offering two screenings of the Emmy Award-winning documentary, Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good. Winton was a young British stockbroker in 1939 when a trip to Prague spurred him to action. Over the next year he organized eight trips to take children from Prague to foster homes in Great Britain. His effort saved 669 children.

Other events: The Plymouth Historical Museum presents a panel discussion of Holocaust survivors and the Penn Theater will show films in conjunction with the project.

All this, according to Pilon is being driven by Brysk and her amazing story.