Remembering the Survivors – Texas Border Business

Melanie Haskins (above) along with STC Music Faculty performed “Hate, Hope, and Healing: Exploring the Holocaust Through Music” to children in Valley schools in a pre-COVID event in 2020. This year, faculty is set to unveil completely new compositions at McAllen’s Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony April 21.
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Texas Border Business

MCALLEN, TEXAS – The Music Department at South Texas College plans to unveil a completely new composition detailing the harrowing experience of the Holocaust by its survivors.

Faculty at STC are planning to perform excerpts from a new work in progress composed by Dr. Michael Gersten on the clarinet that follows the stories of three women, one of whom is his grandmother, he said. 

The composition intends to represent the women’s experiences as they sought to survive the Holocaust, taken from the same area in southern Poland and sent on the same death march. The performance is set to take place as the City of McAllen holds its Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony this month. 

McAllen and Temple Emanuel have joined together to host the second annual McAllen Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremonyto be held at the McAllen Performing Arts Center, 801 Convention Ctr. Blvd. on Wednesday, April 21.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program is to begin at 6:30 p.m.  The event is free, open to the public, and welcome to people of all faiths and most importantly, ages.  Masks will be required and social distancing will be in place.

“It is important for all of us, people of all faiths and races, to remember the Holocaust, because it shook the foundations of modern civilization,” said McAllen Mayor Jim Darling.  

“Its unprecedented character and horror will always hold universal meaning.  We must vow to never forget this sin against humanity,” Darling said. “However, one only has to look around the world to recognize that the lessons of that horrible time in the collective history of human beings seem to have been forgotten.  This ceremony will help spread the message that in McAllen, we have not forgotten.”

The program will feature both secular and spiritual elements, featuring various members from throughout the McAllen community participating in significant presentations.

Video of survivor’s testimonies will be accompanied by music written by Dr. Gersten on the clarinet; Patrick Hopkins, professor of low strings at STC, on the cello; and Meredith Gersten, adjunct music faculty at STC on clarinet.  

The first excerpt describes their experiences on the death march that lasted around three months and ended with their liberation by U.S. forces. The second excerpt focuses on moments of good that occurred within the horrors they experienced, Dr. Gersten said. 

“Many were small gestures, but in the face of such hate and evil, even a small gesture of good can be powerful,” he said. “Additionally, I’ll provide a little bit of context to the music, including how I pay homage to my grandma with a hidden musical figure.

“When the subject of the Holocaust comes up, you frequently heard the phrase ‘never again’, but hate has continued to flourish around the world, directed at groups of people because of their religion, skin color, culture, or gender,” Gersten said. “We study and remember the Holocaust not just because it was one of the most horrific events in the history of the world, but because it is a reminder of what can happen if we let hate go unchecked and allow ourselves to be convinced that an entire group of people should be treated differently. We remember the Holocaust and remember the past to try and ensure a better future.”

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