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York and Leeds launch programme of rediscovered Jewish music and theatre

Posted on 5 April 2016

The Universities of York and Leeds will stage performances of various Jewish works – many thought to have been lost – through 20 performances across eight venues as part of a major global research project ‘Out of the Shadows: rediscovering Jewish music and theatre’.

The opening play, The Smoke of Home, will be performed on 16 and 17 April in York’s Clifford’s Tower – site of the horrific 12th century massacre of the city’s Jews.

The Smoke of Home was written in the Terezín ghetto near Prague in the Second World War. Dr Lisa Peschel, Lecturer in the University of York’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television, rediscovered the work in 2006 while doing research in the Czech Republic for her PhD thesis on the cultural life of the ghetto.

A Terezín survivor who remembered the play put Dr Peschel in touch with the widow of Zdeněk Eliáš. Mrs Eliáš found the script in her late husband’s safe, among his most important papers.

The venue for the performance – Clifford’s Tower – is as historically bleak as the play’s origins. In 1190, a royal castle on top of the distinctive earthen mound where Clifford’s Tower now stands was the refuge chosen by the city’s estimated 150-strong Jewish population as they sought to escape a wave of anti-Semitic riots sweeping the country.

Besieged, most of the Jews chose to commit suicide, with survivors killed by a murderous mob.

The Smoke of Home, an allegory set in the Thirty Years War, is a rare opportunity to see a live theatrical performance in Clifford’s Tower, managed by English Heritage. Performed by University of York students, it will be directed by alumnus Joe Lichtenstein. One of the performances will be live streamed from 7.30pm on 16 April via:

Dr Peschel said: “We’re very pleased and grateful to English Heritage to be able to present this event in Clifford’s Tower, not only because it’s fitting for the play as the original setting is a prison tower, but because of the significant history of the site for the Jewish population of York.”

Dr Stephen Muir, Senior Lecturer in Musicology and Performance at the University of Leeds’ School of Music and project lead, said: “It is especially appropriate that The Smoke of Home, a powerful historical drama, is being performed in York’s iconic Clifford’s Tower – the scene of such a dreadful episode in our history.

“Out of the Shadows promises to be a poignant and uplifting programme of events celebrating the lives and achievements of Jewish artists in times of both adversity and freedom, with pieces once thought lost or languishing ‘in the shadows’, now brought back into the light.”

The ‘Out of the Shadows’ programme includes performances from the Nash Ensemble and the Grammy-nominated New Budapest Orpheum Society, cabaret, theatre, piano music by a 12-year-old prodigy from the Warsaw ghetto, chamber music, song, and an exhibition of children’s drawings from the Terezín ghetto.

The project encompasses five international performance festivals: Madison USA (May 2016), Leeds and York (April and June 2016), the Czech Republic (September 2016), Sydney (August 2017) and Cape Town (September 2017). Partners include the University of York, Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Further information:

  • For more information about ‘Out of the Shadows: rediscovering Jewish music and theatre’, visit:
  • The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). For further information, visit:
  • The Smoke of Home (Dým domova) was written by Czech Jews Zdeněk Eliáš and Jiří Stein in 1943

A full list of events is below. For full details, prices and bookings, visit or call 0113 343 2574.

  • ‘The Smoke of Home’ - Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 April, 8pm and 9.30pm, Clifford’s Tower, York;
  • ‘Exhibition: Children’s drawing from Terezín’
    June 2016 (all month), Holy Trinity Church, Leeds;
  • ‘Gideon Klein: Portrait of a composer’, Cassia String Quartet
    Wednesday 1 June, 7.30pm, Holy Trinity Church, Leeds
    Pre-concert conversation with Terezín survivor Zdenka Fantlová;
  • ‘Harlequin in the Ghetto’ - Thursday 2 June – Sunday 5 June, 7.30pm, The Black Box, University of York. Pre-performance talk with Professor Rebecca Rovit on opening night; a Q&A session will be held after each performance;
  • ‘Make once more my heart thy home: The choral music of Hans Gál’, Clothworkers Consort of Leeds;
    Sunday 5 June, 3pm, Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds
  • Friday 10 June, 7.30pm, National Centre for Early Music, York
    Pre-concert conversation with the composer’s daughter, Eva Fox-Gál;
  • ‘The Nash Ensemble: Music in the Terezín Ghetto’
    Wednesday 8 June, 7.15pm, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds;
  • ‘Mother Rachel and her children: A rediscovered oratorio’, LUUMS Chamber Choir
    Thursday 9 June, 7.30pm, Left Bank Leeds;
  • ‘Fractured lives: Music of the Holocaust’, Noreen and Philip Silver (cello and piano),
    Tuesday 14 June, 7.30pm, Holy Trinity Church, Leeds
    Wednesday 15 June, 1pm, All Saints’ Pavement, York;
  • ‘The New Budapest Orpheum Society: Jewish cabaret tradition’
    Thursday 16 June, 7.30pm, National Centre for Early Music, York
    Saturday 18 June, 7.30pm, Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds;
  • ‘Fate and Fairytales: the music of Wilhelm Grosz and Zikmund Schul’, Ian Buckle (piano), Kate Rotheroe (soprano), Cassia String Quartet
    Friday 17 June, 1.05pm, Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds;
  • ‘A chronicle of love and death’, Philip Bohlman (narrator), Christine Wilkie Bohlman (piano)
    Friday 17 June, 6pm, Holy Trinity Church, Leeds;
  • ‘Looking forward through the past: New operas from the Jewish Archive’, Royal Northern College of Music Opera Group
    Thursday 23 June, 8pm, Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds.


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