Choir tells Frank’s story

Choir tells Frank’s story

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A powerful story is about to be told in Oliver by a group of vocalists and instrumentalists.

Musaic Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of Tracy Stuchbery, will perform James Whitbourn’s Annelies: The Story of Anne Frank on Friday, April 28 at 7:30 pm in Frank Venables Theatre.

Annelies, the full forename of Anne Frank, will feature three Oliver singers including Brian Mapplebeck, David Fairbrother and Ron Lind, choir producer.

Lind said this production is a big step up for the group.

“We haven’t tackled anything this challenging (before).”

Fairbrother said the production will be a “powerful” thing to behold.

Stuchbery said this is the first time the production is being performed in BC.

“It has moments of sweeping beauty and terror,” she said, noting a slide show will also be presented for impact.

Stuchbery said many people are uneasy about acts of terrorism, the results of the US election, right-wing views, racism and building walls.

“We were rehearsing when the travel bans were announced and it was said, ‘It’s as if the whole world suddenly turned upside down.’ That’s what Anne Frank said.”

This unease seems to be affecting everyone, the director pointed out.

“Maybe this is the time to remember Anne Frank’s story.”

‘Annelies’ is a stunning and poignant 75-minute choral work. The music itself, with its blend of choir, the soprano solo voice and the instrumental ensemble, moves from melodic and strong, to dissonant, pulsing and haunting, to gentle, tentative and hushed.

Anne Frank died alone of illness and starvation at the age of 15 in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Germany, sometime in early March 1945, 32 months after she and her family and the others had first gone into hiding in the annex, eight months after being exposed and captured, and a mere two months before the war ended in Europe.

When the Ensemble first looked at the score of Annelies, they were not sure whether it was something they could do, either musically or emotionally.

The Holocaust is a black mark in history, an event of horrific sadness and death, and this is not the theme of traditional community spring concerts.

As the choir read through the score again, listened to the music, and re-read the ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ itself, it became evident that Frank’s writing, although done in an environment of oppressiveness, violence, fear and hatred, was in fact hopeful, even optimistic.

When the choir considered what was going on in many parts of the world right now, the overwhelming feeling was, “How could we not do it?”

People can look back through history and see many examples throughout the world of cultural intolerance, persecution and even genocide. It is not in remembering or honouring or re-living these things alone that will create change. To create change, people must also look forward.

What the choir got from Frank’s diary is just that. Her words portray a belief in the  future, in nature, in goodness, in life and love, in family, relationships and possibilities.

This piece, while presenting the chillingly dark side of the Holocaust, is also an affirmation of Frank’s faith in humankind and hope for the world.

In Frank’s words, “The blue sky, the bare chestnut tree, glistening with dew, the seagulls, glinting with silver swooping through the air.  As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, how can I be sad?” (Feb. 23, 1944)

It is the choir’s wish that bringing Annelies to local communities it will leave people not with a feeling of despair and sadness, but rather, with a sense of hope for the world. And with that, also a sense of empowerment and responsibility, that every individual can do something to help prevent such things from happening again.

It is hoped the audience will be encouraged by Frank’s bravery and optimism, find beauty and strength in the music, and feel challenged by the spirit and emotion of the message.

Again, in Frank’s words, “Beauty remains, even in misfortune. (March 7, 1944). “As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you’ll know you’re pure within” (February 23, 1944).

The members of Musaic feel privileged to have the opportunity of presenting this beautiful and poignant story to the communities of the South Okanagan.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for students. They are available online at venablestheatre.ca and at the theatre box office Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 3 pm.

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