Hope, not Hate concert features music by concentration camp composers

Organizer Mick Hesse cites hopefulness of compositions

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Hope, not Hate concert will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, July 23 at the First Presbyterian Church of Farmington.
  • Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.
  • The performance is sponsored by the Connie Gotsch Works project.

FARMINGTON — It's not hyperbole to suggest that this weekend's Hope, not Hate concert will feature some of the more remarkable music ever performed in the Four Corners region. The quality of the music aside, the circumstances under which it was composed seem more than enough to earn it that distinction.

"The composers would write something one day and be killed the next," said Kirtland musician Mick Hesse, who organized the concert.

Hope, not Hate will showcase music composed by people who were held in captivity during the World War II era, often in concentration camps. As Hesse noted, it originally was written on toilet paper, newspaper or any other scraps of paper the inmates could lay their hands on, then smuggled out and placed in friendly hands for safekeeping.

Kirtland musician and radio host Mick Hesse has organized the Hope, not Hate concert planned for this weekend in Farmington.

An archive of such material has been meticulously compiled and preserved by Italian pianist, composer and musicologist Francesco Lotoro under the auspices of a nonprofit organization he founded. Many of those compositions have been performed and recorded for a lengthy series of compact discs called "KZ Muzik," and the concert Hesse is organizing featured selections from that CD series.

Hesse learned of the project only a couple of years ago and began featuring the music on a weekly program he hosts on KSJE-FM. He was so moved by the compositions that he then decided to put together a performance of the music by local musicians.

"It's fantastic music," Hesse said of the collection. "Some of it is very dour, very sad, but what I've found is some of it is more hopeful than I could possibly imagine," he said.

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Hesse described some of the pieces as jaunty, even suitable as dance music. When he put together the program for the Hope, not Hate concert, Hesse said he was careful to include selections of both types to demonstrate the astonishing spirit the composers managed to maintain in the midst of situations in which they feared for their lives on a daily basis.

"I tried to find a balance of very hopeful music instead of (just) somber and painful stuff," he said, though he noted there is naturally a good deal of the latter included in the collection.

Mick Hesse says some of the music featured in this weekend's Hope, not Hate concert is surprisingly hopeful and upbeat.

The Hope, not Hate concert features a veritable who's who of local musicians. Hesse said he had no problem enlisting the help of such talented players once they learned about the origin of the music, and its historical and humanitarian significance.

"They are beyond themselves," Hesse said of the excitement the musicians are feeling at the prospect of debuting the material in the Four Corners area.

The group of performers includes Paul Bara, Levi Brown, Jim Bob Byrd, Terri Cross, Hans Freuden, Monica Geistwhite, James Golden, Julie Graven, Nora Lujan, Allen Lyon, Karon Lyon, Scott Michlin, Rebecca Morgan, Hoyle Osborne, Cathy Pope, Joseph Pope, Christine Salazar, Connie Schulz, Sydney Sledge, Chris Shay, Karrah Shay, Kelly Shay, Suzie Shay, Tennille Taylor, Julia Thom and Hesse.

Hesse was able to obtain sheet music for much of the material, but for other compositions, it was not available, he said. In those cases, Bara listened to and transcribed the music from the CDs, Hesse said, then crafted new arrangements for the compositions. Additional new arrangements were done by Osborne and Schulz, Hesse said, noting that organizing the concert was a labor-intensive endeavor.

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The concert will feature performances by a string quartet and a brass trio, as well as violin solos and even poetry readings. Hesse said he has only made his way through about half the CD collection, and he intends to put together another concert featuring more of the music from the inmate composers this winter.

Hesse acknowledged that, as powerful as the music that will be performed this weekend already is, it has resonated even more strongly in recent years, given the increase in activity by hate groups across the Unites States and elsewhere in the world. But, he said, the concert will not dwell on that.

"I don't want it to become political," Hesse said. "I just hope the music and the presentation of the music lets people think their own thoughts."

The Hope, not Hate concert will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, July 23 at the First Presbyterian Church of Farmington, 865 N. Dustin Ave. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for the Instituto Letterutura Musicale Concentrazionaria in Sicily, Italy. The performance is sponsored by the Connie Gotsch Works project, and all the participants have agreed to donate their fees to the institute.

A second Hope, not Hate performance will take place next month as part of the Music at the Museum concert series in Aztec. The concert will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13 at the Pioneer Village in the Aztec Museum complex. Admission is free.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.