By Isiah REYES
The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts presented “Bestemming,” a cello and orchestra concerto composed by Sharon Farber honoring 89-year-old actor and Holocaust survivor Curt Lowens at the Shaban Theatre in Beverly Hills on June 13.
Lowens is perhaps most notably known for saving the lives of 125 Jewish children and two downed American pilots during World War II. He provided narration during the concert, which was commissioned by cellist Ruslan Biryukov.
“The speech is incorporated into the musical scores and it is truly a collaborated effort between me, the curator, the orchestra and the conductor,” Biryukov said.
Biryukov was supported by the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra led by conductor Frank Fetta.
“We really had no idea what kind of concerto this was going to be,” Fetta said. “Normally when you do a cello concerto it’s an orchestra and a cellist, but Farbar said, ‘No, I want to add the narration. I want to make it theatrical.’ And when you see and hear it, it is truly theatrical. But it is also very personal and touching and has a lot of heart.”
Farber, who is the recipient of the 2013 Society of Composers and Lyricists Award for Outstanding Work in Art of Music for Film, said she would like to take the concerto all over the world to fight against oppression.
“I was inspired by Lowens’ story, and through that inspiration I created a concerto that has resonated across the board with anyone who has suffered through oppression,” Farbar said. “I hope that Lowens’ story, as well as those of other survivors from this dark time in human history, will live forever through this concerto.”
The Consul Generals of The Netherlands, Germany, and Israel were in attendance as well as SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard. He presented a proclamation to Lowens on behalf of SAG-AFTRA’s 165,000 members worldwide for his service to humanity.
“As actors, we are often called upon to play heroes, but rarely are we asked to be truly, death defying-ly courageous,” Howard said.
Screen Actors Guild executive Ilyanne Morden Kichaven was in attendance to represent the guild but also because the event has a special meaning to her. Her mother was a Holocaust survivor.
“I worry for future generations about forgetting the Holocaust,” Kichaven said. “It is very scary to see traces of swastikas, racism and the same kind of hatred that started the Holocaust happening in the world today. This event is great because when you connect through music or the arts, so much can be conveyed.”
Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz was at the event and proclaimed June 13, 2014 as Curt Lowens Day in Los Angeles. Following the concerto, an Oneg Shabbat feast and a private reception was held by The Netherlands Consulate.
The concerto “Bestemming” received its world premiere performance on Jan. 5 at First Baptist Church in Glendale with actor Michael Des Barres appearing as the narrator.
To learn more about the Bestemming Foundation, which produced this event, visit the site www.facebook.com/bestemmingconcerto.