Dr. Curtis translates three songs for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

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music_spirit.jpgDr. Byron G. Curtis, Professor of Biblical Studies at Geneva College, has translated three Hebrew songs to be performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on Thursday, February 13. The 7 p.m. concert will be at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. The concert, "Music for the Spirit," takes the Holocaust-and the resurgence of hope despite such evil- as its theme.

PSO_musicians.jpgConcentio, the choir of the Pittsburgh School for the Choral Arts, directed by Kathryn Barnard, is singing Viktor Ullmann's "Drei hebräisches Knabenchöre" ("Three Hebrew Children's Choruses"), the pieces translated by Dr. Curtis. The three songs, all drawn from the Jewish tradition, were arranged for children's chorus by Jewish composer Viktor Ullmann while imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943. Ullmann was murdered by Nazi guards at Auschwitz the following year.

The opportunity to translate for this PSO concert came to Dr. Curtis through another member of the Geneva community, Dr. Ann Paton, Professor Emerita of English, who learned of choral director Kathryn Barnard's need for a Hebrew translator. Dr. Curtis says that he received the Hebrew songs in a rather odd Germanic-flavored transcription into Roman type. For example, the Hebrew word "Shalom" was transcribed as "Schalom." No Hebrew text was provided.

byron_curtis.jpgCurtis, a specialist in Hebrew Bible, says that two of the songs were easy: one was a "Hallelujah" based Psalm 150; another was "Amkha" ("Your People"), based on traditional prayerbook Hebrew. However, the third song "gave me fits-there was no Hebrew text, the Germanic transliteration was deeply ambiguous, and its dialect was modern Hebrew," he says. However, an Israeli linguist was able to supply the original Hebrew script for the song, "Qetannah Ginnah."

The program also features some well-known works by Franz Schubert, Antonin Dvorak and Gabriel Fauré, as well as movements from Schmidt's "Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln" ("The Book with Seven Seals"), and Pigovat's Requiem "The Holocaust," for viola and orchestra. Biblical texts figure prominently in the choral works, which will be performed by Concentio as well as the Mendelssohn Choir.

Tickets to the February 13 concert are free, though donations are accepted. Tickets are limited; up to four are available per household.

Reservations can be made by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 or through the Cultural District website.

East Liberty Presbyterian Church is located in Penn Circle, East Liberty, at 116 South Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206.

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