The Balassi Institute: Hungarian Cultural Center Presents THE GLASS HOUSE PROJECT, Now thru 5/28

The Balassi Institute: Hungarian Cultural Center Presents THE GLASS HOUSE PROJECT, Now thru 5/28

In the history of the Holocaust, the fate of Hungarian Jews stands out due to the exceptional speed with which their deportation was carried out by the Hungarian authorities cooperating with the Eichmann bureau very late in the war, in summer 1944. Almost half a million people were deported in less than three months, and over half a million were murdered in the course of World War II in forced labour units, in labor and death camps and in various pogroms conducted by Arrowcross men.

From May 23-28, 2014, Balassi Institute: Hungarian Cultural Center will present THE GLASS HOUSE PROJECT, a series of three commemorative concerts as part of its Memorial Year paying tribute to the victims of the Holocaust in Hungary.

The Glass House Project is named for the legendary Glass House (Üvegház), the most famous among 76 safe houses established around Budapest by the Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz, where thousands of Jews took refuge and found protection from their persecutors during the Holocaust.

The concert series opens with an informal preview performance today, May 23 at DROM in New York City, followed by concerts on Tuesday, May 27 at7:00pm at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City and Wednesday, May 28 at 6:00pm at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater in Washington DC.

Tickets: $15 adv / $20 doors;

The line-up features a veritable supergroup curated by Grammy Award winning trumpeter, bandleader and composer Frank London of The Klezmatics, bringing together musicians from both sides of the Atlantic.

Joining the group from New York City are four well-known contemporaries of Frank London: guitarist Aram Bajakian (Diana Krall, John Zorn, the late Lou Reed), Grammy nominated bassist Pablo Aslan (Paquito D'Rivera, Yo-Yo Ma, Shakira),drummer Richie Barshay (Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding), and violinist Jake Shulman-Ment.

Coming over from Hungary to join the group will be rising star singer/violinist/composer Szirtes Edina "Mókus", cimbalom virtuoso Miklós Lukács, avant-garde composer and winds player Béla Ágoston, plus two Hungarians based in New York: kontra and viola player Áron Székely and traditional vocalist Kata Harsáczki.

Each musician chosen to be a part of The Glass House Project is a master of both traditional and contemporary music. Each is on the cutting edge of new and old, blurring distinctions between folk, traditional, jazz, pop, and contemporary classical.

"Whether in the worlds of jazz, klezmer, classical, Hungarian or American pop music, all the musicians in the Glass House Project revel in the act of learning traditional musics and transforming them, making them our own," says London.

"To create The Glass House Project, we will be working from many sources, researching archives in Budapest and internationally. We are listening to songs collected both before the war by ethnomusicologists like Bartók and beyond, to many recordings of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, and even living practitioners of Hungarian Jewish and non-Jewish musical traditions." - Frank London

While much of this music was thought to be lost after the Holocaust, the concerts will feature reinterpreted and reimagined rarities, new music based on old material (mostly East Central European Jewish folk traditions), and songs that have beenpreserved by Roma musicians who held on to a tradition of playing Jewish music in intercultural regions. It was this tradition that could be recovered and reconstructed by ethnomusicologists in the ensuing decades. The Glass House Project will draw on treasures that include music from the great Hungarian Hasidic dynasties(Kaliver, Satmar, and Vizhnitz); music from the late, great János Zerkula; and some better known folk material such as Sír a kis galambom (When my little dove weeps). The lesser known and even forgotten songs have been selected with curatorial assistance by the esteemed musician and song collector, Bob Cohen ofDi Naye Kapelye, and Mátyás Bolya of the Institute of Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.


From the Hungarian Cultural Center New York
1944 was the year when a series of tragic events, without parallel in Hungarian history, unfolded. The country's government had been aligning its foreign policy course with Nazi Germany, and this shift had been mirrored in domestic politics, as well. A series of anti-Jewish laws were passed from 1938 onwards, and, as Hungary joined the 2nd World War on the side of the Axis powers, the government became complicit in genocidal actions including the expulsion and transfer of 18,000 Jews to Nazi authorities in 1941, which culminated in the Kamenets-Podolsk massacre. Citizens classified as Jewish were drafted into unarmed labour service, facing discrimination and arbitrary violence in addition to enemy fire.

Despite such horrors, until 1944 the large majority of Jewish Hungarians held hopes of surviving the war, as deportations on a nation-wide scale had not taken place. When in spring 1944, Germany decided to occupy Hungary, considered as an untrustworthy ally, conditions rapidly changed. The pro-German Hungarian government, in cooperation with the Nazi bureau set up by Eichmann and in possession of a carte blanche regarding its actions against Jewish Hungarians from Regent Horthy, the head of state, changed course and pro-actively pursued the deportation of all persons classified as Jewish to concentration camps. In spring and summer 1944, almost half a million people were deported in the single largest genocidal operation of the war, most of them never to return.

Following Regent Horthy's belated change of mind and stopping of the deportations in July 1944, mass murder continued after the Nazis installed a puppet Arrowcross government in the fall of that year. Further tens of thousands were murdered in Budapest or in so-called death marches headed for Germany. Altogether, Hungary lost over half a million citizens in the Holocaust, and well over 400,000 in the single fateful year of 1944, with hundreds of thousands more suffering injury and persecution.

This tragedy was made possible by the abandonment and active genocidal persecution of its own citizens by the state machinery, in cooperation with Nazi Germany and under the passive gaze of the majority of society, representing an episode in Hungarian history that its citizens continue to grapple with.

The work of remastering history is a particularly challenging one especially in the context of a resurgent extreme right in many countries, Hungary not being an exception. Through representing the richness of the culture of the martyrs, we hope we can both raise awareness about the tragedy itself and also warn against the dangers of intolerance and exclusion. Naturally, we are working to bring this project to Hungary as well, so that audiences there are also offered this chance to reflect on the past in the spirit of joint commemoration and facing up to our shared responsibility of preventing forgetting and fighting hatred.