On today’s date in 2005, the chancel of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis was transformed into a performance stage for vocal soloists, choirs, and the Minnesota Orchestra led by Osmo Vänksä.
The occasion was the world premiere performance of a new oratorio entitled “To Be Certain of the Dawn,” featuring music by the American composer Stephen Paulus and a text by the British-born poet Michael Dennis Browne. The Basilica had commissioned the oratorio as a gift to Temple Israel in Minneapolis in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps in 1945.
As Paulus explained, the idea for the oratorio began with a former rector of the Catholic basilica, who felt that Christians should acknowledge and teach about the Holocaust as much as—or more so—than Jews. “It was he,” wrote Paulus, “who decided that an oratorio would be a powerful vehicle for communicating… [and] that children are key to the prevention of genocide, both today and in the future.”
With telling effect, actual informal photographs of Jewish children taken in European ghettos during the 1930s and 40s were projected onto screens during the performance. As poet Michael Dennis Browne wrote, “The faces of children are the sun, moon, and stars of this work.”
Music Played in Today's Program
Stephen Paulus (1949 - 2014)To Be Certain of the DawnMinnesota Chorale; Minnesota Boychoir;Basilica Cathedral Choir and Choristers;Minnesota Orchestra; Osmo Vänskä, cond.Bis CD-1726