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'We died in Hell . . .'

GeorgeH 05 Oct 99 - 12:52 PM
GUEST,Ian Guild 27 Aug 09 - 02:46 PM
Peace 27 Aug 09 - 11:45 PM
Elmore 28 Aug 09 - 02:19 PM
Elmore 28 Aug 09 - 03:04 PM
GUEST,Georgina Boyes 29 Aug 09 - 09:51 AM
Reinhard 16 Sep 09 - 01:54 AM
Declan 16 Sep 09 - 02:55 AM
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Subject: 'We died in Hell . . .'
From: GeorgeH
Date: 05 Oct 99 - 12:52 PM

Some while back I was asked to post details of the first of the Passchendaele Peace Concerts, and the CD of it, "We died in Hell, They called it Passchendaele". At the time my CD booklet was AWOL, but I've now found it. I make only minimal apology for the length of this post; the last section of it was posted to uk.m.f. earlier today in response to a request for information about the song "Di Nakht" which June Tabor sings on a recent CD (Aleyn) and which she learnt from her involvement in this project. That info. complements recent "why we sing" threads, IMO.

The CD is listed as MAP records CD93004, and is an abridged version of the actual concerts, compiled from a number of performances. Its theme is of "songs of war", rather than simply any particular war. The performers are:

Shoshana Kalisch: survivor of Auschwitz, where she learnt (at least 2 of) the songs she sings on the CD

June Tabor: who first popularised Eric Bogle's "Flowers of the Forrest" (performed on the CD) and "Waltzing Matilda"

Marwan Zoueini: an Arab who has written songs and poetry marking the war in Beruit.

Kristein Delhollander: about whom I can't recall any details except her hope is given as "leper" and I haven't a clue where that is!!

backed by six musicians collectively called "The Lone Tree Orchestra"; mixed arab and "western".

All performers sing mainly in their native languages although there is a fair bit of co-operative working, and the band do add to the coherence of the project. The CD is accompanied by a wonderful 40 page booklet, in Flemish (I guess) and English, with all the songs also included in their original language, and some great photographs. If the general notes occasionally show a touch of pretentiousness it's a very small fault in a magnificent project.

I previously described the track on it where "Long, Long Trail" (ok, I got the wrong song originally!) is intercut with the words of VAD Dorothy Nicol, from Lyn MacDonald's fine book "The Roses of No Man's Land". So I'll add my notes on "Di Nakht" which I referred to earlier:

On the song itself: "This song was written in New York in 1929 by two Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The metaphors for uncertainty, danger and despair, originally inspired by the totally unstable situation of immigrants, were given a new dimension under Nazi occupation."

"The song was made particularly famous by Liuba Levitska's interpretation. She was a young professional singer from Vilnius, capital of Lithuania and before the war known as 'The Jerusalem of Eastern Europe' because of its rich Jewish culture. In 1938 Liuba earned her first successes at the Yiddish theatre and later she did equally well in other important Jewish cultural centres in Warsaw and Moscow"

[Note that on the Paschendaele CD the song is sung - by Shoshana Kalisch - in Yiddish. Also, the opening of these notes on the song faces a delightful photo of Shoshana with the Arab musician from this project, Marwan Zoueini.]

"During the war she did not go into hiding, but went back to her family in the Vilnius ghetto, and every day she worked in the Nazi work camp outside the ghetto. From the first days of 1942 the Nazis started their systematic liquidation of the ghetto inhabitants. People were rounded up in random raids and in the nearby forest of Ponar they were shot dead into open mass graves."

"On 18 January 1942 a number of ghetto dwellers organised a concert which included Liuba Levitska. The event was criticised by some because 'one does not sing in a cemetary' but many more people were in favour. One of Liuba Levitska's songs was 'Di Nakht' and the poet Abraham Sutskever wrote 'the audience stood in sacred silence, as one does in front of an open grave. Each word, each sound, reminded us of the Ponar victims.'"

"After that performance Liuba Levitska regularly took part in ghetto concerts. She was arrested in January 1943 on the eve of a ghetto opera where she was to sing the main part. She was held for a few weeks and tortured in the prison tower which stood in the middle of the ghetto. There, each night, she sang for her fellow prisoners from her cell, until one month later she, too, was executed in Ponar."

The remainder is taken from the introductory notes to the CD.

Shoshana Kalisch learned the song in Auschwitz, and says: "Whenever we lost courage the songs just took over from us, they let us believe that there still was a meaning to life, that there still was a future." Even the Nazis understood this and they made use of it, too. Not when they set up the famous Auschwitz orchestra - that was a last cynical humiliation for those going to the gas chambers - but by more or less organising or encouraging concerts after each outburst of emotion, of resistance. Music calmed down the prisoners and was a controlled kind of safety valve.

"It worked". Songs gave real body to misery and despair, and also they strengthened the feelings of courage, hope, solidarity and resistance

[Quotes here are from Shoshana; I guess the remaining text is by Piet Chielens.]

Whether the CD is still available I have no idea. It certainly ought to be! It is/was a Flemish release; and was certainly being played as background music in the Ypres battlefield museum when my daughter visited there (some time within the last 2 years).

Hope this is of some interest!


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Subject: RE: 'We died in Hell . . .'
From: GUEST,Ian Guild
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 02:46 PM

"Kristein Delhollander: about whom I can't recall any details except her hope is given as "leper" and I haven't a clue where that is!!"

Her home is Ieper, the Flemish name for what the French call Ypres

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Subject: RE: 'We died in Hell . . .'
From: Peace
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 11:45 PM

The Brits/Canucks/Yanks called it "wipers".

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Subject: RE: 'We died in Hell . . .'
From: Elmore
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 02:19 PM

Re: "Flowers of the Forest" The two major versions were written in the mid 17th century byMiss Alison Rutherford and Miss Jane Elliot, not Eric Bogle.For more information, check earlier Mudcat threads.

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Subject: RE: 'We died in Hell . . .'
From: Elmore
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 03:04 PM

Whoops. Mid 18th century.

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Subject: RE: 'We died in Hell . . .'
From: GUEST,Georgina Boyes
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 09:51 AM

On "We died in Hell...", June Tabor recorded outstanding versions of two great Bill Caddick songs - "The Reaper" and "Aquaba".

To update information on some of the other people named in the thread, Kristien Dehollander has a restaurant, De Halve Maan, near Dranouter and Piet Chielens is now Co-ordinator of the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ieper.

In 2004, June and some of the other musicians who had contributed to the Peace Concerts Passendale performances - Coope Boyes & Simpson, Belgian musicians Willem Vermandere, Koen Decauter and Patrick Riguelle, Bram Vermeulen from The Netherlands and Thomas Friz from Germany joined the French band Une Anche Passe to record a second Passchendale Suite, "Seeds of Peace" written by Laurent Audomarde of Une Anche. It was never released in England but some copies may still be available on the net or via the In Flanders Fields museum shop.

Coope Boyes & Simpson's website has some photos and more details about the Peace Concerts performances they've been involved with.

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Subject: RE: 'We died in Hell . . .'
From: Reinhard
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 01:54 AM

Thank you for this hint, Georgina. I found an older entry on June Tabor's website announcing that she's selling the CDs and yesterday I got one of their two remaining copies. Wonderful music and beautifully packaged together with a lavish book of 60 pages - a real treasure for my June Tabor and Coope Boyes & Simpson record collection.

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Subject: RE: 'We died in Hell . . .'
From: Declan
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 02:55 AM

Eric Bogle's song which mentions "The Flowers of the Forest" is "No Mans Land" aka The Green Fields of France, WIllie McBride etc.

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