Music In Desperate Times Concert

About Music In Desperate Times

Music In Desperate Times Review

In the darkest times, music provides solace and illustrates what is best in the human spirit.

During the depths of World War II, women musicians incarcerated at the Auschwitz/Birkenau concentration camp were required to play for their Nazi captors. This is a story about how music saved the lives of those women. It is also the story of a small-town chorus that has brought back the music, hope, grief and resilience of these women.

Over one million people were murdered in Birkenau gas chambers. In exchange for their survival, a women’s orchestra was formed by the S.S. at Birkenau.  During the year and a half it existed, 54 women participated in the orchestra. All but the conductor survived.

Barbara Pickhardt researched survivors' memoirs and created Music in Desperate Times: Remembering the Women's Orchestra of Birkenau. The concert interwove orchestral music (Schumann, Chopin, Puccini, Mendelssohn and others) with spoken memoirs and songs of hope, peace and resistance sung by the chorus. Donning the simple lavender scarves worn by the Birkenau musicians, the members of the reconstructed orchestra felt a shiver of connection to the original orchestra as they played arrangements of the same music played in the camps.

Ars Choralis performed Music in Desperate Times: Remembering the Women's Orchestra of Birkenau to great acclaim in Hudson Valley churches, colleges and synagogues during 2006 and 2007. The audience response was so powerful that repeat performances were demanded. In March 2009, Ars Choralis performed the concert for an appreciative audience of 1100 people at the newly re-dedicated and renovated Cathedral Church of Saint John The Divine in New York City. The concert was introduced by Dr Ruth Westheimer, herself a survivor of the Holocaust. St. John The Divine is a landmark church, the largest Anglican Cathedral in North America.


• Survivors of the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Furstenberg, Germany invited Ars Choralis to perform at their annual Liberation Day ceremonies in April 2009 on the grounds of the camp.

Heilig Kreuz Passion Church in Berlin also invited Ars Choralis to perform Music in Desperate Times.