Experiencing History Through Music

Colla Voce Performs “Annelies” based on The Diary of Anne Frank

By Deena C. Bouknight

Anne Frank’s diary survived the Holocaust, even though she did not. Although her non-fiction prose conveys a time of terror and confinement during the Nazi occupation of Holland, a musical telling of her life – by British composer James Whitborn – celebrates the teenager’s prevailing observations in a work called “Annelies.” Colla Voce, which means “with the voice,” is performing this program on Sunday, April 29 at the Jewish Community Center in Columbia. These local, professionally trained singers are directed by USC’s Director of Choral Studies, Larry Wyatt, Ph.D.

“Annelies” comes to Columbia after Colla Voce performs at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on April 22nd. Joining Colla Voce is David Ehrlich and the Avanti Trio, out of Blacksburg, Virginia; according to Dr. Wyatt, these musicians regularly perform a Holocaust Remembrance Concert, and he approached them about performing together with Colla Voce.

Described as “woundingly beautiful” by The Daily Telegraph in London, “Annelies” became the first major choral setting of The Diary of Anne Frank when it was created in 2004. Conveyed in the performance’s program notes is this summary of the composer’s inspiration: “It brings to life the diary written by Annelies Marie Frank between 1942 and 1944 when she and her family hid in the back of an Amsterdam warehouse. From the windows, Anne looked up to the beauty of the sky, and downwards to the brutality meted out by the Nazis. The contrasting sights inspired some of the most profound and memorable thoughts in an extraordinary diary, read by millions of people throughout the world.”

“Annelies” is a work in 14 movements for chorus, soprano, and chamber instruments.

Dr. Wyatt shares how the musicians have performed “Annelies” in many corners of the globe, including in Israel last year. Interestingly, renowned violinist David Ehrlich’s 95-year-old mother survived the Holocaust, making the work extremely personal to him. His wife, Teresa, is the pianist, while Dr. Wyatt’s son is the cellist and his son’s wife, Ariana, is the soloist.

Colla Voce is made up of 30 members, all singers. Dr. Wyatt leads the group and together they rehearse weekly nine months of the year. Colla Voce performs at least three concerts in Columbia and accepts a few out-of-town concerts as well. Dr. Wyatt, the group’s conductor, organized Colla Voce 15 years ago. Performers range in age from 20s to 70s; all have various levels of professional training.

Says Dr. Wyatt, “’Annelies’ is a substantial work.  It is a challenging work to sing, and because of its emotive content, sometimes it is difficult to contain our emotions. Often singers in the group and especially the audience, are brought to tears.” He adds, “This work certainly represents shared experience on a very different and important level. In spite of the ordeal of being in hiding, the fear of capture and the normal growth experience of this adolescent girl, she expresses a positive outlook and a belief in the inherent goodness that is in the human spirit.”

He shares that at the first presentation of “Annelies,” an attendee came up to Dr. Wyatt afterwards and asked if he could distribute recordings of Annaliese. “I asked him why he wished to do this … he said that his grandmother was a friend of Anne Frank and that he wanted this story shared as much as possible. That is our goal, too.”

For tickets to “Annelies,” call (803) 777-5369. The performance takes place at 3 p.m. on April 29th, and tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

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