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Symphony Orchestra Musicians Play “A Concert of Hope”

“Violins of Hope” is a traveling exhibit currently on display in the Chicago area featuring instruments that belonged to Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust. As part of the celebration around the exhibition, members of CYSO will play alongside Illinois Philharmonic and students from South Suburban College Orchestra this Monday, April 17 at Prarie State College in Chicago Heights in an event entitled “A Concert of Hope.” The free concert will feature a five Symphony Orchestra musicians—a quartet featuring Sofia Grimes, Bea Sjostrom, Elliot Schaffrath, Matthew Jordan, as well as co-concertmaster Joshua Wolford, who will perform with Illinois Philharmonic musicians.

Collage of musician photos
Clockwise from top left: Bea Sjostrom, Sofia Grimes, Joshua Wolford, Elliot Schaffrath, and Matthew Jordan

Violins of Hope is a project headed by luthier and father-and-son-duo Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein dedicated to honoring the lives and memories of the Jewish people who were killed during the Holocaust through concerts and the touring exhibition. “The Nazis used music and especially violins to humiliate and degrade Jews in ghettos and camps. They confiscated many thousand instruments [from] Jews all over Europe. Our concerts are the ultimate answer to their plan to annihilate a people and their culture, to destroy human lives and freedom,” says Weinstein.

Amnon Weinstein, luthier and founder of Violins of Hope.

Caring for a collection of over 60 string instruments, Weinstein carefully selected, restored, and brought new life to these antique violins, violas, and celli while preserving the stories and sounds that they told.

“These instruments have survived an experience that’s unthinkable. We don’t ever want it to happen again. We don’t know if some of these people survived, and some of them did not. The instruments are here and many of them are playable. They carry strong messages of hope, resilience and resistance,” said Ilene Uhlmann, Director of Community Engagement for the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago.

One of the 60 instruments in the Violins of Hope collection, a decorated Kleizer violin.

Monday’s concert is part of an exhibition held at the Prairie State College Library in Chicago Heights entitled “Americans and the Holocaust” which also features artifacts from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The exhibition examines the motives, pressures, and fears that shaped America’s responses to Nazism, war and genocide in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

“Music, the arts – they have this unique ability to inspire people,” Uhlmann said. “I’m hoping that the strong stories, seeing these instruments, hearing them played will change some people’s minds and it will make a difference moving forward.”

The Concert of Hope will take place on Monday, April 17 at 7PM in Prairie State College’s Barnes and Noble Auditorium. It is free and open to the public. For more information, head to Prairie State College’s website.

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