On Tuesday, February 28, Dr. Barry Kolman, clarinetist and conductor of the University Wind Ensemble and University-Shenandoah Symphonic Orchestra, gave a lecture on the music of the Holocaust. He began the lecture with a performance of a piece written by Olivier Messiaen during the Holocaust for clarinet, cello, viola, and piano. Much of his lecture was accompanied by pictures and video from concentration camps. Many people do not know about the important part orchestras played in the daily life of concentration camps. The players were chosen at random from the many musicians who came into the camps. They played for all occasions, including speeches from the commander of the camp, welcoming new people to the camp, and while people were marched to the gas chamber. The orchestra also played as the workers went to and from their jobs at the beginning and end of the day, which tried to keep a sense of normalcy in the day-to-day activities of the camp. The performances were also meant to hide the true activities of the concentration camps from the outside world.
Even though the musicians in the orchestra were considered to be more valuable than some of the other prisoners, their life in the camp was still nearly unbearable. They were able to have better clothes, shoes, and food; however, musicians were forced to play hours on end every day. Because the Nazis appreciated the entertainment from the orchestra, musicians had better assurance that they would survive. This was contingent upon their performance, though. If musicians missed a few too many notes, they could be sent to the gas chamber without question. The musicians were playing for their lives.
Angela Williams `14