Lest we forget
A manifest of struggle and hope
$23 (Australian dollars)
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|Welcome to the world's first "classical" protest CD. The music is wide-ranging, from Germany, France, England, Austria, Poland, Chile, USA, and Australia, covering issues as diverse as world wars, the Holocaust, dictatorships and the stolen generation. It is a no-holds-barred plea for humanity to get a grip on humanitarian values, before it is too late.|
This CD has been undertaken as a labour-of-love by the artists and by Tall Poppies, and the profits will be shared with the Fitzroy Learning Centre in Melbourne. (This organisation gives educational and other assistance to refugees in Australia. www.fitzroylearningnetwork.org.au)
"This collection of songs began as a protest against recent events in our country, to remind ourselves that the relaxed and comfortable culture our government was intent on bringing us was in fact based on lies, fear, threats, apathy, hatred and the glorification of small-minded selfishness. Above them all, and most perniciously, came the vaunting fallacy that this selfish indifference was quite acceptable, the idea that not caring is somehow simply human and a harmless and innocent thing to do.
Listen to our songs. Not caring is never harmless.
All the songs were written by and about people whose plight was caused because others did not care enough to see; or even worse, they saw and did not care enough to stop what was happening. The songs, born of suffering or the knowledge of suffering, demonstrate compassion and even love. That is what gives them their strength: the real voice of humanity."
Merlyn Quaife and Andrea Katz
|Walter Würzburger ||Vereinsamt|
|Randy Newman ||Political Science|
|Dennis Vaughan ||Mary’s plea |
|Henri Duparc ||Elégie |
|Alec Volkoviski ||Schtiler, schtiler |
|Abel Meeropol (aka Lewis Allen) ||Strange fruit |
|Cabaret songs from Kamp! ||Maria Theresia the Empress |
The Little Café in Terezin
Letter to my Child
A Suitcase Speaks
|Arnold Bax ||Rann of Exile|
|Oscar Straus ||Altes Ghettoliedchen, Op 108 |
|Dennis Vaughan ||Words are history|
|Kurt Weill||Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib|
|John Lennon ||Imagine|
|Randy Newman ||In Germany before the war |
|Franz Liszt ||Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh |
|Politics and art have often been powerful partners, and many artists have been articulate and influential politically. Who wrote the music to Italy's Risorgimento but Verdi? |
In her foreword to this recording, Merlyn Quaife makes explicit its purpose, stating that its genesis was as a protest against the 'recent events in our country' which were ignored in the context of our 'relaxed and comfortable culture'. Her message is that 'not caring is never harmless'. Katz and Quaife - and Tall Poppies - are standing up to be counted.
This is a highly diverse grouping of songs. They concern the heartbreaking loss of homeland (Würzburger's Vereinsamt or Isolation), disillusionment with the homeland (Randy Newman's Political Science), the loss of political innocence (Poulenc's C) and the personal losses of war (Kurt Weill's Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib) and political action (Duparc's Elegie). But in case you think these are too easy to listen to, there are bitter cabaret songs from the Nazi's Terezin camp, a song of Irish dispossession (Arnold Bax) and the tragedy of a ghetto child (Oscar Straus). Had the grainy photos of Strange Fruit not been in the newspapers of our own generation, we would not imagine such a poetic image possible, let alone its basis in reality. It gets worse: Dennis Vaughan's Words are History is a painful evocation of the losses of Australian indigenous peoples (“I'm sorry. OK?”).
The songs are as stylistically diverse as the sentiments they express. French, German and Spanish texts are translated or sung in English, and excellent annotations to each song (by young Australian director Anthony Ernst and pianist Andrea Katz) make the reasons for the choice of songs very clear. Among the poets represented are Nietzsche, Brecht (of course), Thomas Moore, Daisy Utemorrah, with self-composed lyrics by Victor Jara, Randy Newman and John Lennon. The performances are in every way true to this diversity. Warmth, strength, irony, loss and at last, peace.
The final songs, then, speak of the possibility of peace. Lennon's, of course, and the exquisite Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh (Over all the hilltops is peace), a setting of Goethe, by Liszt. Quaife writes that 'selfishness has nothing real to offer. Only love and compassion do'.
She speaks well. But don't forget that the point has been made: Victor Jara's Manifesto, (sung in English) says: 'I don't sing for singing's sake, nor for having a good voice. I sing because my guitar has a reason and a purpose'.
Music Forum May 07
This disc is a protest - against uncaring, drawing its songs from some of humanity’s darkest moments. The tone moves between the plangent wailing of Shtiler, shtiler by ll-year-old Alec Volkoviski inside a Vilna ghetto in 1943, to Abel Meeropol’s unforgettable invocation of the lynching of blacks in the US South, Strange Fruit, through the highly evolved language of the European art song in works by Duparc, Liszt and others, and on to the almost unbearably brittle cabaret parody written by inmates of Hitler’s concentration camp at Terezin. There is contemporary satire by Randy Newman and Poulenc’s setting of a Spanish Civil War poem by Louis Aragon.
The sequence of some tracks is so hard-hitting as to almost defy listening In a single session. Quaife mixes the forceful colours of outraged humanity with moments of peace.
Sydney Morning Herald June 6, 2006
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