In the Loop
Press Release : Mar 24, 2015

The University of Florida Choral Union Presents Protest Requiem in Remembrance of the Holocaust April 18th at the Phillips Center

The University of Florida (UF) Choral Union, representing the UF School of Music’s Concert Choir and The Gainesville Civic Chorus Master Chorale, will present Protest Requiem on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at the Phillips Center in Gainesville, Florida. Protest Requiem features Verdi’s world-renowned choral masterwork, Requiem, performed in remembrance of the Holocaust and to honor the members of the chorus and orchestra in the Theresienstadt ghetto.

Conducted by Dr. Will Kesling, the performance features the UF Symphony Orchestra and soloists Stella Zambalis (soprano), Regina Torres (mezzo-soprano), Mark Thomsen (tenor) and Stephen Saxon (bass). The performance remembers the inspiring story of the chorus and orchestra members. Despite the daily brutality of the Nazis, these inmates found in their performances the strength to help overcome for a while the feeling of desperation and hopelessness. The result was so sublime that the SS used the concerts for their own cynical propaganda purposes. Led by conductor Rafael Schächter, the Theresienstadt chorus performed Verdi’s Requiem more than fifteen times, with the words expressing a kind of defiance for the performers. 

“I was working through ideas on creating a concert pointing to a Holocaust theme when I discovered a story about a performance of the Requiem that I am sure Verdi, in his creation of it, would never have imagined,” said Kesling. “The Requiem was composed for the grand concert hall for performance by professional singers and instrumentalists. Certainly Verdi could not have imagined that his masterpiece would be performed as it was by those held in captivity in a small Czech town.”  

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Theresienstadt existed for three and a half years between November 24, 1941 and May 9, 1945 and was cynically described as a “spa town” where elderly German Jews could “retire” in safety. Theresienstadt had a highly developed cultural life featuring artists who created drawings and paintings of the ghetto’s harsh reality and writers, professors, musicians and actors who gave lectures, concerts and theatre performances. Of the approximately 140,000 Jews transferred to Theresienstadt, nearly 90,000 were deported to points further east and almost certain death. Roughly 33,000 people died in Theresienstadt.

“Through unthinkable adversity and without knowing the fate of tomorrow, the choir of Theresienstadt poured their hearts and, for many, their last breath into Verdi’s Requiem,” said Kesling. “We performers honor their memory and we marvel at their immense courage to sing in protest to their Nazi captors. We wish that men and women everywhere shared their dignity.”

Additional Educational Programming

In addition to the performance there will be several special events leading up to the performance throughout the week of April 13th. All of the following events are free and open to the public:

Monday, April 13:
12-2 p.m.: "Frozen Time, Liquid Memories: 1942-2012" Film Screening and Q&A with Professor Dragan Kujundžić; UF campus, The Judaica Suite in Smathers Library East
5:30-6:15 p.m.: "Sing Me to Heaven: Songs of Remembrance" presented by Vox Madrigalis; UF campus, The Judaica Suite in Smathers Library East

Tuesday, April 14:
12-1:30 p.m.: Lecture by Professor Geoffrey J. Giles: “Theresienstadt: The Nazi Fiction of the ‘Privileged’ Ghetto”; UF campus, The Judaica Suite in Smathers Library East

Wednesday, April 15:
2:30-3:30 p.m.: A Tour of the Memorial Books: How East European Jewry Worked Through Loss with Professor Jack Kugelmass; UF campus, The Judaica Suite in Smathers Library East

Friday, April 17:
11:45 a.m.-1 p.m.: Lecture by Professor Eric Kurlander: “The Supernatural Roots of Nazi Anti-Semitism: Imagination, Demonization, and Genocide”; UF History Department’s Conference Room, 005 Keene-Flint Hall
1:30-2:30 p.m.: Lecture by Kyra Schuster: “American GIs and the Holocaust”; UF Hillel

Performance and Ticket Information
The Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is located at 3201 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611. Tickets for Protest Requiem range from $10 for students to $55 for VIP tickets, which includes an invitation to a pre-performance reception catered by Blue Water Bay and a post-performance toast and meet and greet with the performers. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 352-392-ARTS (2787) or online at (Please note additional processing fees may apply for online purchases).

Protest Requiem partners include the Gainesville Chapter of Hadassah, The Gainesville Civic Chorus, the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica, the Jewish Council of North Central Florida and UF Hillel. Supported in part by Visit Gainesville, Barbara & Phil Emmer, Cherie & Jack Fine and Betty & Rick Schuster.

About the School of Music
The School of Music is one of the University of Florida College of the Arts’ three institutionally-accredited schools. The School of Music plays an important role in the academic life of the University and the community. The school’s programs provide broad-based instruction in performance, composition, history and literature and music disciplines, through a strong curriculum as well as through professional experiences such as ensembles and internships. UF students also have the opportunity to join more than a dozen music ensembles, including jazz bands, the University Choir, the University Symphony Orchestra and the “Pride of the Sunshine” Fightin’ Gator Marching Band. To learn more, visit

About the Gainesville Civic Chorus
The mission of the Gainesville Civic Chorus is to bring a variety of choral music of a high quality to the Gainesville community by providing a service to the community in the form of concerts and assist singers of ability to develop their talents to their highest potential. For the past 39 years the GCC has offered choral music of distinction to Gainesville and the surrounding communities. Organized to participate in the Gainesville Bicentennial Celebration, the GCC gave its first concert in 1976. Today, the Gainesville Master Chorale consists of about 80 mixed voices performing five major concerts each year. Director Will Kesling often selects masterworks best appreciated with orchestral accompaniment, organized as the Gainesville Philharmonic Orchestra in most of our concerts. In 1992 the chorus formed The Choristers, now Chamber Singers, to better serve local civic and community groups. The Chamber Singers perform at smaller venues as an outreach to audiences who may not attend the Master Chorale. Together, both groups achieve the GCC mission to present outstanding choral music to enrich our community while providing opportunities for area singers to develop and share their talents.

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Media Contact
Leah Craig, Public Relations and Marketing Manager
University of Florida College of the Arts
Office: 352.273.1489 | Cell: 904.419.3346