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PtJA research & outcomes: what next?

By Stephen Muir

PublicationsPerformances and festivals ♦ Doctoral dissertations ♦ Critical and performing editionsRecordings

It’s quite extraordinary to think that only four years ago I was waiting at the baggage carousel in Johannesburg’s O.R.Tambo International Airport when I received an email on my smart phone informing me that, after nearly 15 months of preparation and application writing, Performing the Jewish Archive had been awarded a £1.5m AHRC grant. I only had a brief chance to see the message when my phone ran out of power, leaving me unable to tell anyone in the world for at least an hour!

Those of you who have followed the project will know that the intervening four years have been a non-stop journey of discovery and sharing—at times frustrating, emotionally draining, tear-inducing, exhilarating, and most other emotions in between; but without doubt the most rewarding and satisfying work that I’ve ever done.

PtJA ended officially in June 2018. But anyone involved in academic research will know that in many respects this is merely an arbitrary point in time, and that much of the hard, focused work of interpreting our findings, and writing them up as publications and in other formats, is still to come. A glance at PtJA’s entry on the UK Research and Innovation ‘Gateway to Research’ system reveals a large amount already achieved. However, a number of important outcomes are currently ‘in the pipeline’ and will appear over the next year or two (and some of them much sooner!). What follows is a summary (by no means absolutely comprehensive) of what is yet to appear as a result of the project.


  • Gideon Klein: A Critical Biography
    David Fligg has recently completed his critical biography of the composer and pianist Gideon Klein, one of a number of significant Czech Jewish musicians who were interned in the Terezín (Theresienstadt) prison camp and ghetto, later to be murdered in Auschwitz. It will be published by Toccata Press in 2019 to mark Klein’s centenary.
  • Stages of Life: Survivor Testimony on Theater in the Terezín Ghetto, 1945–2008
    Lisa Peschel’s new monograph explores the testimony of Terezín survivors since the end of World War II, analyzing elements that remain stable across time, alongside considerations of how Czech survivors’ testimony has changed since the ‘Velvet Revolution’ of 1989, and how the rules regulating Holocaust discourse in the West have influenced what the survivors say and what we hear.
  • Holocaust Literature in German: Canon, Witness, Remediation
    Helen Finch is currently working on a major second monograph, focusing on the literary aftermath of witnessing in the wake of the Holocaust. It examines the transnational literary careers of five German-Jewish literary witnesses to the Holocaust: H. G. Adler, Edgar Hilsenrath, Jurek Becker, Fred Wander and Ruth Kluger. It looks at the way in which canonisation, exclusion from the canon, and a lifetime of witnessing are reflected in their later literary work, and how these works break taboos and norms of Holocaust representation in their attempts to archive a lifetime of pain.
  • ‘Blooms Amid the Ashes’: Children, the Holocaust, and the Musical Experience
    Teryl Dobbs is completing her book proposal for a monograph investigating and revealing children’s musical experiences during the Holocaust. The book draws directly upon her research supported by Performing the Jewish Archive, specifically the heretofore unknown life and music of Josima Feldschuh, a 12-year-old pianist and composer from the Warsaw Ghetto. Through a stance of critical music pedagogy and remembrance, Dobbs interrogates the meaning-making of those musical experiences and the relevance that such meanings may hold for 21st-century children. Further, she proposes implications for future research that crosses disciplinary boundaries between music education and Holocaust education.
  • Music and the Holocaust
    Edited by Stephen Muir, this collection of essays emanating from PtJA’s final conference, The Future of the Archive: Performing the Jewish Archive and Beyond, will form the basis of a special issue (possibly a double issue) of Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, due out in late 2019. The publication will feature articles by members of the PtJA team alongside other contributors.
  • Laughter in the Ghetto: Cabarets from a Concentration Camp
    Lisa Peschel’s chapter will appear in a collection titled Theatre under the National Socialist Regime, appearing in 2018 or 2019.
  • Performing Continuity, Performing Belonging: Three Cabarets from the Terezín Ghetto
    Another chapter by Lisa Peschel will shortly be published by Wiley-Blackwell in A Companion to Public History, edited by David Dean.
  • ‘Mother Rachel and Her Children’: Artistic Expressions in Yiddish and Early Commemoration of the Holocaust in Finland
    Writing in East-European Jewish Affairs, Simo Muir explores issues surrounding Jac Weinstein’s choral pageant Mother Rachel and Her Children, first performed in our 2016 ‘Out of the Shadows’ festival in Madison WI.
  • Out of the depths: complexity, subjectivity and materiality in the earliest accounts of Holocaust song-making
    Appearing in the same special issue of East-European Jewish Affairs, Joseph Toltz’s article focuses on two early material accounts of Holocaust song making: a 1945 songbook printed in Bucharest, and the 1946 expedition by David Boder to the Displaced Persons camps of Europe.
  • Three Performances, Different Responses: Bringing Early Holocaust Commemoration on Stage
    Another article by Simo Muir (submitted to Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History), this time reflecting on the three radically different interpretations of Mother Rachel and her Children staged during the PtJA project.
  • Moja pieśni tyś moja moc (My song, you are my strength): personal repertories of Polish and Yiddish songs from youth survivors of the Łódź Ghetto
    Joseph Toltz draws upon private musical memories that he has collected and recorded over several decades, largely in the city of Melbourne, Australia, which has one of the highest concentrations of Jewish Holocaust survivors outside of Israel. These survivors have made an indelible imprint on cultural life through Yiddish performance and organisations. Joseph’s article explores how songs remembered from survivors’ youth can contribute to our understanding of survivor testimony. It will appear in Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry vol. 32: ‘Jews in Polish Musical Life’, edited by Francois Guesnet, Benjamin Matis & Antony Polonsky.

Performances and festivals

  • Gido se vrací domu!! — Gido’s coming home!
    December 2019 is the centenary of composer Gideon Klein’s birth. At the centre of events marking this important anniversary, David Fligg and other PtJA researchers will collaborate with partner organisations including the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Prague Conservatory to stage Gido se vrací domu!!, a festival of music by Gideon Klein, and related activities. Watch this space for further announcements (we may contact you via this PtJA mailing list, though you are always at liberty to opt out, of course).
  • Enosh [Man] for soprano solo, chorus and orchestra, op. 5
    Cantor Rudi Leavor‘s operatic cantata (composed 1975–77) has only ever been performed with piano accompaniment. The orchestral score and parts are now being prepared for premiere in early 2019.
  • Wilhelm Grosz, Intermezzo for String Quartet
    The premiere of Joseph Toltz’s string orchestra arrangement of Grosz’s Intermezzo from his String Quartet is planned for late 2018 or early 2019 (venue to be confirmed).

Doctoral dissertations

  • The double identity of Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco: the archives of an identity issue
    Alexandru Bar (University of Leeds) focuses on the DaDa artists Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco in his exploration of Jewish identity in Romania in the early twentieth century. Drawing on previously undiscovered archives, he makes a major contribution to the understanding of the complex relationship between these artists’ Jewish experience and their art. The dissertation has now been accepted and confirmed as a pass, and will subsequently be available via the University of Leeds library.
  • Investigating audience responses to theatrical and musical performances
    Nearing completion and submission of his PhD thesis, Richard Oakes (University of York) has been investigating audience responses to theatrical and musical performances, with the aim of determining the impact of PtJA’s performances specifically. Incorporating techniques from multiple disciplines, Richard has evaluated the most effective approaches to audience response testing, including methodologies from Psychology and Theatre Studies.

Critical and performing editions

  • Sacred Jewish Choral Works from Rostov-on-Don
    Stephen Muir’s discoveries of pre-Holocaust 20th-century Russian choral–cantorial manuscripts in Cape Town, South Africa, will form the basis for a volume of new critical and performing editions, comprising synagogue music by Cantor Froim Spektor (1888–1948) and his organist in Rostov, Josef Gottbeter (1877–1942). Accompanied by contextual essays, the volume will be published in 2019 by Toccata Press, and may be followed by others as new material comes to light.
  • Newly-discovered music by Gideon Klein: Topol & Movement for Harp
    During the course of PtJA, David Fligg came across two previously-unpublished works by Gideon Klein: a melodrama for piano and narrator titled Topol (The Poplar Tree, 1938); and Movement for Harp (1935). They are planned for publication (edited by David Fligg) by Boosey and Hawkes as part of their series of Gideon Klein publications.
  • Dovid Ayznshtat’s Passover Cantata Chad gadya
    Found by Stephen Muir, the Passover Cantata Chad gadya (One Little Goat) by Dovid Ayznshtat [Ajzensztadt; Eisenstadt] (1880–1942) is a four-movement setting of the popular Passover seder melody, intended for choir and orchestra with soloists. The orchestral score and parts have yet to be found, and an early choral sketch (hiding among the papers of Froim Spektor in Cape Town) is the only known source. Publication (with editorially-constructed accompaniment for piano or string trio/quartet/quintet) will be with Toccata Press in 2019.
  • Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs
    Discovered by Simo Muir in Helsinki, this collection of Yiddish folksong arrangements will be co-edited by Simo Muir (Yiddish text, introduction) and Stephen Muir (musical setting, introduction), and published (subject to permissions) in 2019 or 2020.


  • Hans Gál: The Complete Choral Works (vol. 1: a cappella works)
    Whilst much of the choral music by Hans Gál (1890–1987) was published during his lifetime, very little has been recorded and released professionally. Working with singer Bridget Budge and their newly-established professional chamber choir Borealis, Stephen Muir is embarking upon a long-term, multi-volume project with Toccata Classics aimed ultimately at recording the composer’s complete choral oeuvre, both accompanied and (in this first volume) a cappella.
  • Sacred Jewish Choral Works from Rostov-on-Don
    Based upon the new edition described above, a recording of some of the repertoire unearthed by Stephen Muir in Cape Town is planned for 2019 with the professional chamber choir Borealis, provisionally to be distributed by Toccata Classics.

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