It Takes a Village to Revive a Lost Art: Band brings back to life Hungarian Jewish musical tradition lost during the Holocaust

[From The Wall Street Journal]


In 1944, a half-million Jews were deported from Hungary to Nazi concentration camps. Along with the lives that were lost, an entire tradition of folk music became obscured during the Holocaust.

Seven decades later, Frank London began his detective work. “I’d call my informants,” said the trumpeter and bandleader, a longtime mover on New York’s “ethno-folk” scene, as he dubbed it.

Mr. London talked to old friends, like the song collector Bob Cohen. He studied Israeli websites that cataloged the songs of immigrants, looking for the Hungarians among them. He came across the music of Budapest cabarets from the 1910s and ‘20s. He consulted the songs collected by Béla Bartók, and other ethnomusicologists, before the war. “I spread the net as wide as possible.”

The cultural gumshoe was working up a concert repertory for the Glass House Orchestra, which honors the Hungarian Jewish folk tradition and adds something of its own—new pieces inspired by century-old sources, including the Roma, or Gypsies, and Hasidic dynasties reaching back to the 18th century. The eight-piece band was formed last year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the mass deportations, taking its name from the Glass House—one of 76 safe houses set up by Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz to shelter Jews around Budapest.

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