Horse Chestnut Tree and Memorial Bench Dedication Ceremony Held on June 15, 2018

A very moving assembly event was held on Friday, June 15 at the Rupert Nock Middle School to dedicate the horse chestnut tree and granite memorial bench honoring Anne Frank and the victims of the Holocaust.  

The event, which marked the official presentation of the tree and memorial bench by the Newburyport Choral Society to the students of the Nock Middle school, was organized and carried out by a committee of 7th grade students, and attended by all the 7th grade students.  NCS members were also present, as were members of the Newburyport Tree Commission, the NBPT Department of Public Works, the Friends of Newburyport Trees Committee, NBPT Parks and Recreation, and the Superintendent of Schools.

The tree was purchased with funds raised by Newburyport Choral Society members and concert audiences during our Annelies Spring Concerts, performed in memory of Anne Frank (1929-1945) and all those who perished in the Holocaust from 1941 through 1945.  There were enough funds remaining to obtain and inscribe a granite memorial bench.  

The program included a number of student-led portions including a dramatic performance re-enacting a scene of Anne and her family in the Annex, and the reading of two poems, including Pavel Friedman’s “The Butterfly” (the butterfly was often a theme in children’s art and poetry of the Holocaust due to its images of beauty, fragility, transformation and liberation).  Music was also a fitting part of the ceremony, as the eighth-grade chorus performed a simple yet moving rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Alleluia.”  

There were also remarks by project coordinators Penny Lazarus and Debbie Szabo, who spoke eloquently about the meaning behind the tree and the granite monument, respectively.  Mayor Holaday expressed her deep appreciation to NCS for its performances of Annelies, as well as Nock students for their efforts to organize the dedication.  The Mayor, as well as other student speakers, also emphasized the need to accept people different from ourselves, and to embrace our shared humanity.  

After the presentation in the auditorium, students and guests proceeded outside, where NCS Music Director Dr. George Case made brief remarks and led a moment of silence.  Then, with everyone gathered around the tree, several students and chorus members released real butterflies into the horse chestnut tree and the surrounding spaces.

As Penny Lazarus said during the ceremony, “Several members suggested that Nock students would be the best caretakers for this tree.”  After seeing the tree being so lovingly accepted and embraced by the 7th graders during this dedication, anyone could walk away believing that this special tree and memorial bench were indeed in the best of hands.


The Newburyport Choral Society would like to express its deepest appreciation to the many NCS member and audience member donations to the Horse Chestnut Tree project.  NCS would also like to thank School Superintendent Susan Viccaro, Nock Principal Lisa Furlong, sculptor Michael Updike, seventh grade teachers Shawn Flaherty and John Webber, FoNT, and NCS for developing this project with equal passion and care.   Special thanks to Penny Lazarus and Debra Szabo, who provided vision and leadership in establishing this lasting monument that not only reflects on our Annelies concert, but provides a fitting remembrance for the Newburyport community of Anne Frank’s spirit and a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

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The Newburyport Daily News covered the dedication as a front-page story on Monday, June 18th.  Follow this link to read the article:

A copy of the dedication program is also presented below:

Link to Dedication Program

by Brian Greenberg

Author: ncsadmin

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