Renan Koen’s ‘Holocaust Remembrance, Before Sleep’ Album Preface:

WHY “TEREZIN CONCENTRATION CAMP” AND WHY THE PROJECT “BEFORE SLEEP”

Years ago, when I heard that the artists in the Terezin Concentration Camp – which was established by the Nazis who had invaded the city of Terezin on November 24th, 1941 – continued to create although it was prohibited I was really touched by it. This unrestrainable affection immediately directed me to research the artists that had lived and created there. At first, what I felt about Theresienstadt with deep sorrow was the feeling of enclosure. After I received the compositions, at the stage of examination and interpretation, I realized that within this reality of enclosure there was devotion to life, moreover, the will to pass on their experiences to coming generations and documenting these through music and all of these had overcome all the obstacles.

The formation that they received in discipline during their music education had transformed into a high positive resistance during the time they lived in the Terezin Concentration Camp. When I deeply examined the works of Zikmund Schul, Pavel Haas, Gideon Klein, and Viktor Ullmann whom I admire a lot, I saw that against all difficulties and atrocities each composer could transform themselves through music over and over again minute after minute, day after day.

Both the discipline they received from their parents due to the geography they had lived in, both the discipline that was required in the harsh and meticulous education each had received strongly revealed the positive resistance within. Also, that discipline strengthened their cooperation and solidarity by looking after themselves, music, and Theresienstadt against the possessive motive of the government and war.

It is very impressive that they created in every moment until they died in Terezin or they were sent to Auschwitz, that they woke up every day, every morning with new creations, that they worked on the “new form” they had established to document history and express themselves through these creations and the fact that they improved this form so perfectly.

Today I understand that the deep admiration I have for the composers and the great love I have for their works derive from the endless admiration and respect I have for the positive resistance that they established and the continuity of their transformation both musically and personally.

The fact that Pavel Haas, Zikmund Schul, Gideon Klein and Viktor Ullmann were limited in terms of work and performance only because they were Jewish, is a great loss for the European music history. These composers were students of musicians like music theoretician/folklorist/writer/teacher Janacek who were extremely important because of the schools they created. The works and the performances of these composers were prohibited with the culture policies of the Nazis who took power and oppressed art after the Weimar Republic, which was a time of rich cultural plurality in terms of music. It is a great loss, because it was a period that the composers were distancing themselves from the tonal conception that lasted for centuries and approaching to the atonal conception where the composers created their own tones that was developed by 12 tone music and modern music and composed with these tones. All of the four composers successfully created their own languages which were modern and still in the tonal conception.

While the editors were revealing these important and precious works which mostly weren’t even written on music paper, I received the notes little by little in years. In this process which was very helpful for me to understand and digest, I encountered real stories while I was researching the subject.

First story,

In 2011, when I received Zikmund Schul’s Mogen Ovos and while I was asking myself “where can I find the voices in the camp or the real voices of the families?”, my dear friend Mirey Karaso said, “my great uncle Saül Kastro unfortunately was in France during the Second World War and was taken to the camp and it is such a coincidence that I just received his diary in the camp a couple days ago. If you wish, I have the real voices of my family during a Pesach prayer”. Thanks to this I could include Saül Kastro’s life and diary, and the voices of the family to the project.

Second story,

On may 5th, 2011, at a dinner we went to right after the Holocaust Commemoration concert, which included Mogen Ovos and Saül Kastro’s biography, Simone İshaki told us an experience that he doesn’t frequently share which was witnessing the war in Marseilles when he was only five. A few years later, although it was naturally difficult for him, just for the sake of saying “never again”, Simone told all his story with documents on camera and participated in the project.

Meanwhile, as I was asking myself what the non-Jewish resistance fighters were doing, I met Nicolaas Wilkes who lives in Turkey from time to time and whose father was a resistance fighter in Holland. Although he had the same emotional intensity as Simone, for the sake of ending similar atrocities, he participated in the project with great sincerity and told his father’s story on camera.

Dear Mirey, Simone, and Nico, I can’t thank you enough, how you opened your hearts with great courage means a lot to the world…

For being with me and supporting me in this project, which has many discoveries within and which has improved me firstly as a person and then a musician, I want to thank the following: To 500th Year Foundation, for walking with me in this project, to Beth Israel synagogue Izmir, to the Chair of Anatolian Culture Osman Kavala whom I contacted with the decision of the Istanbul concert and who has valued the project and made it larger and permanent, to the mayor of Sisli Hayri Inonu who decided to give all his support as soon as he heard about the project, to the Kariyo & Ababay Foundation with whom after discussing what we could do together decided to do the whole album and to their dear friend Dr. Erol Hakanoglu who gave their precious support first for the concert and then for the album and DVD all the way from New York. I thank them endlessly from the heart…

Finally, I want to present my most sincere thanks to Dr. Gottfried Wagner who didn’t say no to us and participated with his valuable work in the concert which was performed in Zorlu Performance Art Center on April 13th, 2015.

The fact that the album and the DVD will meet the audience on November 24th, 2015, exactly 70 years after, which is the anniversary of Pavel Haas’ “Al Se Fod” and Theresienstadt’s, in the memory of all Holocaust victims means a lot to me.

I wish that the coming generations, along with their talents, discover their real happiness within and realize that this discovery is a great gift, in contrast to the state of possession that the mind creates grow this happiness with discipline, by learning to care for nature, the mind, and the physical body with caution and love, by making this happen spread the peace and joy to the world with content and I wish that peace becomes everlasting in our world that is so tired from all the wars and atrocities.

With love,
Renan Koen
Pianist, composer, soprano, music-therapist

4 January 2019, Neve Şalom Cultural Centre – Istanbul

With the collaboration of the German General Consulate in Istanbul

27 January 2018, Menschel Hall – Harvard University

With the collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic, Consulate General of the Turkish Republic in Boston, Harvard University Turkish Students Association, Harvard Hillel, and Harvard Art Museums.

CALENDAR FOR HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE / BEFORE SLEEP LECTURE CONCERTS

13 April, 2015, Zorlu Centre – Istanbul, “Premiere in Turkey”
The first Holocaust Remembrance in Istanbul attended by 717 people. In addition to the piano sonatas, Pavel Haas and Gideon Klein’s choral compositions are performed. The guest speaker was the musicologist Gottfried Wagner.

15 April 2015, Beth-Israel Synagogue – Izmir “Premiere in Izmir”

5 November 2015, Symposium titled “Death Art Space”, Mimar Sinan University – Istanbul

17 April 2016, “Premiere in Bucharest”
By invitation of the Turkish Ambassador to Romania Mr. Koray Ertaş and the collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic.

8 October 2016, Symposium titled “Recovered Voices”, Los Angeles
By invitation of Ziering-Conlon Initiative

26 March 2017, Başak Masonic Lodge – Istanbul

29 March 2017, Austrian Cultural Office 
Opening speech by the Istanbul Consul General of the Czech Republic and professor of history with expertise on the Cold War, Dr. Petr Mares, and DVD Screening

8 April 2017, JK Concert Hall- Brazil “Premiere in Brasilia”

By invitation of the Turkish Ambassador to Brazil Mr. Ali Kaya Savut and the collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic.

9 April 2017, Hebraica Club-Sao Paulo, Brazil “Premiere in Sao Paulo”
With the collaboration of the Consulate General of the Turkish Republic in Sao Paulo.

4 December 2017 Ayaspaşa Concerts – Istanbul

20 January 2018, Italian Synagogue – Istanbul “Italian Consulate General in Istanbul Holocaust Remembrance Concert”

25 January 2018, Boston, Residence of Turkish Consulate General 
With the invitation of the Consul General of the Turkish Republic in Boston.

27 January 2018, Menschel Hall – Harvard University 
With the collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic, Consulate General of the Turkish Republic in Boston, Harvard University Turkish Students Association, Harvard Hillel, and Harvard Art Museums.

21 August 2018, Municipal House – Prague 
Everlasting Hope 2018 Festival

22 August 2018, Terezin Cultural House – Terezin 
Everlasting Hope 2018 Festival

8 October 2018, Centre for Jewish History – New York

25 November 2018, Passionskirche – Berlin 
With the collaboration of KIGA

24 January 2019, Neve Şalom Cultural Centre – Istanbul 
With the collaboration of the German General Consulate in Istanbul

26 January 2019, Atatürk School – Newyork
With the collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic

5 April 2019, Bairaktario Municipal Conservatory-Kastoria/Greece
With the collaboration of  “Center of Studies of Jewsih Heritage of Kastoria”
Kastoria Premiere of “Mauthausen” work by Mikis Theodorakis

15 Nisan 2019, Italian Synagogue-Istanbul
With the collaboration of Czech Consulate in Istanbul
Turkey Premiere of “Mauthausen” work by Mikis Theodorakis
World Premiere of “Stepwise to the Tenebrous Aura” by Akın Kilis

26 April 2019, Global Views, İstanbul
“March of the Music”, conference

4 June 2019, Madrid, El Centro Cultural de los Ejércitos
With the collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic and Turkish Embassy in Madrid

1 October 2019, Paris, Reid Hall / Colombia University

27 January 2020, Mozart Festival (Holoacust Remambrance/ Before Sleep lecture-concert even in Mozart Festival) , Johannesbourgh With the collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic and Turkish Embassy in Johannesbourgh