NCS Chorus Members Respond to Singing Annelies (and Audience Responses to Hearing)

In honor of someone:

*I sing in loving remembrance of my father, Walter Less, and his family – Leopold, Anni, Walter, Kate and Ernst – who escaped from Germany, forced to leave everything behind. My grandfather, Leopold, (ID # 11135) was imprisoned in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen on Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938).

–Margaret McQuillan






*To my Hebrew school principal and teacher, Yaakov (Jacob) Riz, whose entire family was sent to Auschwitz, where all except his brother perished. He believed that people must learn about the horrors of the Holocaust so that we, as a society, never forget.

–Brian Greenberg




*[I am] singing in honor of my elementary school principal, Dr. Leon Bass, who fought the Battle of the Bulge as Sergeant in an African-American segregated Army unit. Dr. Bass was in the forces that liberated the concentration camp at Buchenwald in April 1945. He spent much of his life teaching students tolerance and respect for all individuals and cultures. (To see a video interview with Dr. Bass, click here.)

–Brian Greenberg

As I sing, I can’t help wondering how it felt to my grandmother to live with her two little kids and her German immigrant parents while her husband fought the Germans in France and Germany during WWI.

–Carol Yunker

Remembrance honors the victims of all holocausts, trying to ensure that their suffering won’t have been in vain. It isn’t they who need the remembering, but us. We sing to give voice to our own dignity and our own capacity for compassion, for grief, for outrage, and for hope – for ourselves and a better future.

–Mary Jacobsen

I sing Annelies in memory of my late grandmother, a survivor of the blockade and genocide of Leningrad, as well as family members murdered in the Holocaust — and in the hope that we will all be able to live in a world free of naked hate and unbridled cruelty.

–Solomon Berman

I sing to honor Anne’s courage and humanity. We are all people and where we have life, we have hope. We look to the blue sky. I have a Jewish sister-in-law and niece, as well as a gay daughter who is married with two beautiful children.  They all would have been immediate targets of the Nazis.  The horror the Nazi regime inflicted on the world is still too close to the surface of society. Us vs. Them is too easy. The words being people again haunts me. We are people.

— Vicki Bushey

I was a visiting nurse for many years and always had chills when I saw the numbers from the camps tattooed on some of my patients. Some were willing to talk about it: some were not. I was always in awe of how they had emigrated to America after the war and put their broken lives back together. Not surprisingly I frequently noted that most of them had a mantle of sadness surrounding them.  I felt privileged to care for  them and listen to their heartbreaking stories.

–Suzanne Cox

When I was a tiny girl in the 1950s, I befriended a lovely woman who lived across the street. She was always elegantly turned out, like Donna Reed, with beautiful shirtwaist dresses, pearls, and little cardigan sweaters. She declared every Wednesday“candy day” which gave every kid in the neighborhood carte blanche to ring her doorbell on any given Wednesday and squeal “It’s candy day!” and she would graciously deliver the goods to our greedy little hands. She had spectacular gardens (which she tended still looking like Donna Reed) and she often sent me home with bags of apples and stunning bouquets of roses. (My older brother would torture me by saying the apples were wormy because he knew that it made me crazy.) I would often visit with her, sitting at her feet on her patio and she would teach me German phrases and numbers. She moved away from our neighborhood when I was still very young. Before she moved, she left a present for me under our Christmas tree. It was a big, beautiful baby doll who I named Cindy. I never saw or heard from or about her again but I knew she loved me. Years later, my brother told me about the numbers on her arm. I had not seen them.

I sing for Mrs. Levy.
–Janet DiGianni

On Knowing Anne Frank

I knew Anne from the Montessori School of Amsterdam.  We were in a group together in the school and could decide what we wanted to work on during the day. She was two years older than me so I wasn’t close to her, but we were close as a group.  We would hang around together and walk to school together.  Then Anne and my other Jewish girlfriends were gone and never came back.  It was a terrible, terrible time.

Soldiers with guns blocked off the streets with trucks and they went to house to house. If there was a Jew, they were torn out into the street, lined up, and taken away. It was horrible and everyone was terrified. If anyone tried to do something they were shot. [My late husband’s] family took a Jewish couple into hiding for three years in Amsterdam; they couldn’t let them die.

When I was 8 years old, the underground put newspapers and flyers under my clothes, to take to other people at night.  We had the BBC radio broadcasts on, which was illegal, and we would distribute the notes. There was a curfew and we were not supposed to be out in the dark but I was a blond little thing and wasn’t stopped. I thought it was terrific because I was doing something…but it was dangerous.

–Rie Feenstra


On being German

*As a native German I grew up with a strong feeling of collective guilt. Our German national anthem – including the beautiful melody from Haydn’s Emperor string quartet – was usurped by Hitler (“Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”). The resurgence of nationalism in many countries is incomprehensible and concerning to me.

–Bettina Turner

As I sing, I can’t help wondering how it felt to my grandmother to live with her two little kids and her German immigrant parents while her husband fought the Germans in France and Germany during WWI.

–Carol Yunker


On not being able to sing Annelies

As a Holocaust survivor’s child, I grew up hearing, “If God is real, where is my family?” I knew it would be challenging to sing Annelies, so I decided to try to desensitize myself by listening to it beforehand. However, within an hour of the first rehearsal, the tears started. I felt not only the pain of my own family, but also the sadness, disappointment, and terrible fear of how cruel we can be to each other – a reality all too prevalent in the current political climate. While I chose not to sing, I know that listening to this concert will be cathartic and important for both audience and performers. This extraordinary piece reminds us that there is indeed something divine in the human spirit.

–Debbie Szabo


On Annelies

*Rehearsing Annelies, I descended into hell; with Anne Frank I went unafraid, and I arose…

–Bob Brodsky

I sing Annelies to remember her, and to remain awake to the dangers and beauty of this world.

–Lucy B.
*We sing Annelies in memory of the people who heard the knock on the door in World War II, and in solidarity with those who hear it today.

–Carroll and Kathleen Tucker Gustafson

” I sing for the blue sky and the chestnut tree and their power to uplift the human spirit.”

–Meg Atkins

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to “see” something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, and thousands can think for one who can see. My own thought about singing this piece is this: The power and majesty of this piece ennobles my life each time we sing it.

–Suzanne Cox

It is so uplifting to participate in this powerful musical legacy of Anne Frank, to lift my voice in the sharing of her words, so “their voice continues to be heard.”

–Darcy Holland

Singing Annelies has been an emotional experience filled with much sadness but also hope.  We must never forget nor ever let it happen again!

–Beth DiGiuseppe

I sing with NCS for the joy, peace, and unity it brings to others and me.

–Jana Whiting

I sing Annelies for all the oppressed people in the world.

–Lindsey Rodie

Focused elsewhere, with Annelies playing in the background, I suddenly found myself in tears, rewound to hear the words and completely understood why. The composition itself had wrapped around my heart – as powerfully evocative a piece as I’d ever heard.


I sing for the blue sky and the chestnut tree and their power to uplift the human spirit.

–Meg Atkins

Viscerally stunning:  Hope and fear, a creak on the stairs. Breath. Haunting and beautiful.  Moving and raw.

–Nancy Cahan

And the music…I was moved to tears…I was humbled and floored. Very powerful stuff. An experience I won’t soon forget. Having had the opportunity to tour the Annex at the Anne Frank house, hearing Annelies brought me right back…to that bookcase…to the narrow staircase…to her tiny room…to the windows she peered out…truly incredible. Thank you again.

–Jennie L. Donahue- Chairwoman Newburyport Commission On Disability


On Hearing Annelies:

When I listen to the Newburyport Choral Society sing Annelies  … I am transported to the attic where Anne, her family, and their friendsspent those two years in virtual silence, every day and every night,only able to express themselves in whispers, or via the written word. The music and text bring that reality front and center.”

–Debby Morrison

The music was infused with deep emotion and pathos, so poignant, yet ethereal; very beautiful and hopeful; all flowing in a seamless collage of audio images inspired by the text.

–Arthur Knight
I have been coming to NCS concerts for many years and this was one of the very best! Annelies was such an amazing piece and such an amazing performance, that at times I was simply lost IN the music and words. I no longer was in the present, but was accompanying Anne and her family. The ending was overwhelmingly beautiful and made me tear up and pray that we will never again experience such inhuman behavior.
–Ruth Harlow

An Exceptional performance of a composition based on the Diaries of Anne Frank was given by the Newburyport Choral Society this past weekend.  Thank you to each and every performer for sharing your gift.  I am filled with humility and conviction.  We are the people we’ve been waiting for.

–Janine Brunell Looker

To one of our singers:
I was going to write to say I was sorry I didn’t swing over to the reception but I was so emotional after the concert that I just wanted to get in my car and cry!! What a powerful speak to the soul kind of concert. The production made it even more complete. To add the voices of the young students was genius and then to end with the choir surrounding us in the aisles…. all of it just
left me completely drained and full of emotions. Loved it.


Editorial from Newburyport News, May 15, 2017
 Text of Letter:

“On May 7, I attended the Newburyport Choral Society’s performance of “Annelies,” a composition based on the words of Anne Frank’s diary.The power and emotion of this piece almost can’t be described. I don’t think I was prepared for the impact that the music and the words had, not just on me but on the entire audience, by raising such an array of emotions. It was moving in so many ways. And the poems written and read by three Newburyport High School students added remarkable insight and wisdom.

“Annelies” would be a difficult piece for any professional choral group to perform, but the skill of the conductor, Dr. George Case, the great passion of the chorus, and the outstanding soloist and chamber orchestra created an atmosphere that connected us to Anne Frank’s courage and sense of life in the face of enormous difficulty and fear.

In all my years of attending concerts, never have I been so touched. Thank you Newburyport Choral Society for this timely and significant performance. This concert will stay with me for a long time.”

— Terri Talas
I was blown away by the Choral Society’s performance of ANNELIES.  I’m far from being a scholar of choral music, but even if I was, I think the power of the piece’s music and message, combined with the Society’s skill and artistry, would still be mighty impressive.  The time and preparation choral members spent rehearsing was evident.   The venue was  perfect.   I walked in not at all knowing what to expect and walked out a bit shaky, overcome. Thank you, Newburyport Choral Society, for offering up a transformational performance.
It was amazing!

On Sadness:

Performing Annelies, I become her. It’s especially so in part 4 singing and repeating ” We’re Jews in chains, chained to one spot, without any rights, a thousand obligations. We must be brave and trust in God.” I feel the suffering, strength and hope.


So many of the words we are singing from Anne’s diary were written in 1942, the year I was born.  I have known about the Holocaust since I was a child and no longer should be shocked and bewildered when confronted by accounts of it as an adult.  That said, I have yet to be able to get through a Youtube performance of Annelies without breaking down completely.  I can’t imagine how we (NCS singers) will be able to focus on the music when hearing the entire piece for the first time with chamber musicians and soloist at the dress rehearsal.

–David Clarridge

When she says that this will be the last night in her own bed… that brings up such feelings of loss.

–Patty Gutta

When I began [working on] Annelies, I knew I was singing for the misunderstood and broken souls who live and have lived among us.

–Judy-Marie Letendre

How do I sing and cry at the same time?

–An NCS singer.


On education

*I sing because I want my students to know that our voices can be powerful.

–Kerri MacLennan

*I sing for my students – immigrants and children of immigrants – who are afraid.

–Sue Noyes

Ten years ago, because we love singing and we work at home, we joined NCS for music, fellowship and release. Monday night we’d leave the studio, relax and sing. For several months we have been restoring old movies for the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  For weeks at a time, our hands and eyes work on images of communities in and around 1930s Germany. We have worked on movies of the early activities of the people’s party, Volk festivals, SS gatherings — as well as many lively home movies of Jewish families before they were systematically murdered in the Holocaust.

This week, we turn from the news of the day to films made by David Boder. He recorded eyewitness accounts of “displaced persons” soon after World War II. “Displaced persons” are with us still.  To cope, I write poems. My husband writes short essays for the local newspaper. We turn to the relief of music, and are given the words of a girl in a garret.

Sometimes God in her wisdom says, “Pay attention.”  When you don’t, she sends another note. When you still go on, she trips you up and you go sprawling on your face. So it works in our house. We see small increments of evil – carefully crafted steps of the early rise of the party – juxtaposed with images of family, birthdays and vacations, families alive and vibrant. We look back and it takes our breath away.

Anne Frank lives. Miep Gies and her father brought her diary to light and Whitbourn turned it into song to share.  We hum as one unit; we focus our breathing. To honor Anne, the displaced, the dead, to express ourselves in all our particularity and humanity, we join our voices.

–Toni Treadway

To see Bob Brodsky’s article, click here.

I sing for the angels invisible among us. Gone but never forgotten. In sorrow, in resistance, in hope for better days.

–Kristin Driver


Nostalgia and Happiness:



This is the chestnut tree that lives directly across from my dwelling! Since starting Annelies and re-learning about her affection for them, each time I open my door, I’ve begun saying a prayer for her soul, and for all the souls in the Holocaust. Growing up on Pine St. in NBPT for 11 years, there was another chestnut tree that grew across the street, slightly diagonal… and I kid you not, I used to stare up at it in wonderment every once in a while, and just be taken away by its majesty.
Just wanted to share a tid-bit of nostalgia and happiness with you!

–Judy-Marie Letendre



Editorial from Newburyport News 

There are things we want to avoid in life, and one of them is our tears, especially for us males.

But tears are such an integral part of life that sometimes the only way to live fully is to embrace our tears and find out how they can teach or heal. I sometimes find myself teary at weddings and funerals, which is not always helpful if I’m the one who is leading the ceremony.

But I remind myself that tears are natural, take a deep breath and go on. I remember so vividly the day of my ordination ceremony when my great-aunt in her 90s showed up with her walker.

Hard to hold back the tears … quick escape into the men’s bathroom! What was that all about? In reflection, I see they were perhaps more tears of joy and love, or perhaps of amazement for the amount of courage and love it took her and my mother to get her from a nursing home to the church!

Something that still amazes me to this day, after about 30 years of ministry, is that sermons that involve themes of suffering, such as reflections on the cross, often receive the most comments and thanks. My great-aunt, who was a teacher and poet, made us children aware of  “the shortest sentence” in the Bible: Jesus wept.

Whether it is or not I’m not sure, but somehow it was a lesson she wanted us to remember: No one escapes the reality of tears in this life.

Recently, the Newburyport Choral Society sang “Annelies,” music based on direct quotes from the “Diary of Anne Frank.” Again, it was considered by many to be one of the most moving concerts (tears flowed in performers and audience alike).

The common chord it struck in the hearts of all was a chord of loss and sorrow – a chord that actually unites people, heals differences and builds bridges. Abundant were the hugs afterward, the knowing glances, as well as the acknowledgement that it was too painful for some people to sing or to attend.

Why should I be so amazed? At the core of all our lives are times of loss and sorrow, often coupled with courage and love.

We are united in this common ground and can thus see ourselves as brothers and sisters. So my simple message is this: Let tears flow when they come. We have a common bond with all humanity when we do, with Jesus and with the writer of Psalm 42 who said, “My tears have been my food day and night.”

Feeling our common bond increases compassion for others. But also, we find courage, hope and love to keep going when the tears subside. To run away or block them does not let them do their job of cleansing, healing, helping us let go.

Ross Varney is pastor of Belleville Congregational Church in Newburyport.

Author: ncsadmin

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