When words fail, how do we speak?
Shippensburg University students found out after several champions of Jewish and Lithuanian music came to Old Main Chapel (OMC) to connect with audiences last Wednesday.
Two members of “The American Virtuosi,” Elizabeth Borowsky and her father Charles Borowsky, and Borsas Traubas, an advocate for Jewish and Lithuanian culture, took to the stage. They played Lithuanian and Jewish music inspired by the “Days of Remembrance,” an eight-day long memorial period for the Holocaust.
Elizabeth played the piano, while Traubas played the violin. Charles presented the group, but also joined in at some choice moments during certain selections.
The concert was unlike most that come by OMC, in part due to Elizabeth’s unique style of musical expression. Between songs, she stopped and probed the audience’s minds on the message of the music. After the two performed “The Star of David” by Giedrius Kuprevičius, a song in which the violin simulated several cries and sighs, Thomas Crochunis, an English professor at SU said, “It really moved me.”
Another song, “My Yiddishe Mamme,” which was a piece by Jack Yellen and Lew Pollach, and arranged by Traubas, had meaning as well. Even though the song was unique, it did not hide the suffering.
“Beauty and pain are one on the same spectrum,” Elizabeth said.
One of the final songs of the night captured the tone of the presentation. “In Memoriam” is a composition of three movements by “The American Virtuosi,” the Borowsky’s family ensemble. This song explained the pain, yet defiance, of the Jewish-Lithuanian people. During the movement “Deportations,” Charles made a thunderous noise and cried, “Get out!” in both German and Russian.
Music must convey a message and the message of this music is “Don’t forget, and prevent,” Charles said.
Elizabeth and Charles are members of “The American Virtuosi,” a well-educated and highly experienced family ensemble that plays both traditional music and experiments with avant-garde expressions of themselves and their identities. Two years ago, the president of Lithuania invited them to perform in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, and they have been invited again this year.
The well-seasoned violinist, Traubas, does not speak much English. He communicated through Charles, who translated from German to English, which further cemented the idea that music transcends language barriers.
He is a champion of Jewish music and culture in Lithuania, and inflects this in his art. Even though most members of the audience could not verbally communicate with him one-on-one, his passion and message were spoken through his violin with the utmost precision.
With these barriers in mind, Charles said it is important for musicians to travel and speak with one another to create human understanding.
“When people meet, they can become friends,” he said.