Banned in Germany, feted in Hayward

You probably haven’t heard of Gideon Kelin, Viktor Ullmann, Carlo Taube or Ilse Weber. And you probably aren’t familiar with Friedrich Hollaender or Mischa Spoliansky either.

OK, you’ve heard of Kurt Weill. But the fact you’ve never heard of these other German Jewish composers is just another mark of the Nazis’ attempt to eradicate all traces of Judaism from der Vaterland.

But while these artists were banned, imprisoned or even killed in their home countries, they’ll be celebrated here in the Bay Area.

Hayward’s Chabot College is planning “Forbidden Voices,” an evening of works by composers persecuted by the Nazis, sung by British Jewish soprano Judith Sheridan with piano accompaniment from Craig Combs.

The duo will tour the United States, but the Sunday, April 23 performance at the Chabot College Performing Arts Center will be their debut performance, with subsequent shows at Stanford and the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos.

“It’s a real combination. There’s cabaret, some in Yiddish, some in German and some in Polish, too. Some is very light-hearted, but some is very solemn and beautiful,” said Richard Talmo, the Chabot College Foundation’s CEO.

In between numbers, Sheridan, a scholar of Holocaust-era Jewish composers, will speak about her research of the subject in Germany and lecture on the surreal world of Theresienstadt, where the Nazis deported large numbers of Jewish artists and musicians. In fact, some of the evening’s fare was penned at the concentration camp.

“There are stories about performances being canceled because the artists who were scheduled to perform were put to death the day before,” noted Talmo.

Sheridan, the daughter of German Jews who fled their homeland in the ’30s, stumbled across the music of Franz Shrecker and Alexander Zemlinsky. And she was blown away.

“It’s romantic and expressionistic. It’s incredibly voluptuous. I wondered why we in England had never heard of these composers,” she said.

“They were lost and forgotten but now the music is being rehabilitated. But people perform the operas and large-scale orchestral works first and forget about the songs. And the songs are as strong as anything in their repertoires.”

So far, organizers have sold about half the tickets for the 1,400-seat theater which, Talmo maintains, is every bit as good as its San Francisco counterparts, and was the stomping ground of Tom Hanks when he was a Chabot student.

The concert’s close proximity to Yom HaShoah is no accident, and its organizers long ago sent notices to East Bay congregations. Nine, in fact, are co-sponsoring the event along with the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay and San Leandro’s Mayor Sheila Young.

Event Chairman Marshall Mitzman said it’s perhaps the first time Chabot College has been able to specifically reach out to the Jewish community.

“It’s a celebration of freedom,” added Talmo.

“Forbidden Voices” will be performed 3 p.m. Sunday, April 23 at the Chabot College Performing Arts Center, 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward. Tickets: $15-$50. Information: (415) 392-4400 or The duo will also give a free performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 26 at Stanford University’s Braun Music Building, Campbell Hall. The final Bay Area appearance is at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 30 at the Addison-Penzak JCC, 14855 Oka Road, Los Gatos. Tickets are $10 for members, $12 for non-members. Information: (408) 357-7438.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.