By Erin Foley
On Nov. 8, a project called Violins of Hope conducted a collaborative demonstration with KU’s orchestra to create a moving and emotional memorial for those who suffered during the Holocaust.
This event was brought to life by a father and son duo, Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein. Over the past years, the two have worked to form a private collection of violins, violas and cellos from victims of the Holocaust and to preserve them. They have held concerts and events all over the country where these instruments were used by professionals to symbolize how hope will prevail over evil and hardship.
Using restored instruments from victims of the Holocaust, KU students Douglas Wei, Jennifer Rubio and Alexis Hartman performed brief demonstrations. This was followed by a performance of full pieces by the entire orchestra including solo pieces from Nicolás Gómez Amín, Kurt Nikkanen and Peter Isaacson.
Douglas Wei, a student who played one of the authentic instruments, said, “The violin was wonderful and in good condition.” These instruments have been restored and cared for carefully by those at Violins of Hope. “You could feel the weight of playing the instrument, almost like someone’s soul was in it,” Wei said, adding to his thoughts on his experience.
Several stories about individual instruments were shared by representatives from the organization to spread their rich history and meaningful pasts during the performance.
These speakers all emphasized that these instruments’ stories involved tragedy and hardship, yet they were symbols of hope because the Nazis were defeated. In the future, the instruments will carry on the legacy of these people and continue to produce beautiful music despite all odds.
“I felt this connection to that experience that is unlike any that I have ever felt before for any concert,” said the Director of KU’s Orchestra. Peter Isaacson, who also performed on one of the violins during the event. “The Nazis tried to destroy them, and although they took their lives, their spirits live on in those instruments, and their voices are still heard.”