In the last Prattler I posed the question, “What do you think is likely to be the nation’s favourite film theme?” The result was, by a huge margin, the theme to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. It is a hauntingly beautiful piece of music, composed and conducted by John Williams with Itzhak Perlman playing the violin.
The film is based on the Booker prize winning book published in 1982, written by Thomas Keneally and originally titled Schindler’s Ark. It tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party who became an unlikely hero by saving the lives of more than a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. A non-fiction novel that is at times unbearingly moving as it describes actual people and places, with fictional events, dialogue and scenes added by the author.
Poldek Pfefferberger, a Holocaust survivor, initially inspired Thomas Keneally to write the book and then following its success, used his friendship with Steven Spielberg’s mother, to eventually persuade the renowned film director to tell Schindler’s story on screen, and portray the horrors of Hitler’s attempts to make Europe judenfrei. The result was a film that almost “stunned’ the cinema going public . Its bleakness was emphasised by being shot primarily in black and white, with one particularly traumatic scene where a red coat is used to distinguish a little girl caught up in the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto.
John Williams composed the music for the film, and it is reported that he was so overwhelmed by the film that to write a suitable score would be too challenging for him. He said to Spielberg, “You need a better composer than I am for this film”, to which the director responded, “ I know. But they’re all dead!” How fortunate the world of music is that John Williams took on the task of composing such a beautiful and haunting soundtrack.
Like many other people I clearly remember going to see the film when it was first released in 1993. When the credits rolled and the violin played its solo piece, we saw the faces of the real people who had featured in the events depicted in the film. The entire audience sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, no one wanting or willing to break the spell of what we had watched and experienced together. It was, and still is, one of the most moving and collective responses that I have ever known.
A few years ago we went, during a cold bleak winter, to Krakow and amongst several other memorial sites, toured one of the factories owned by Oskar Schindler. A visit to the sites of the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps was very emotional, an important pilgrimage towards a greater understanding of such dark days in our recent history.
Even today and many years later, I can never hear the music of Schindler’s List, without it evoking all those memories and experiences, the places, the people, the book, the film.
Such is the power of music
Take care as we enjoy the beauty of these autumn days and we look towards a new year lives. Stay healthy and content, take care of one another, and may music feature somewhere in your life every day.
If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:
alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.