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For fifth anniversary season, Gesher Music Festival considers ‘degenerate’ music and art

Sara Sitzer, artistic director, Gesher Music Festival.
(Courtesy Gesher Music Festival)

“Gesher” is the Hebrew word for ‘bridge’ or ‘connection,’ said Sara Sitzer, artistic director of the festival: connections between musical styles, St. Louis and the larger artistic community, and across cultures.

Now in its fifth year, the Gesher Music Festival continues to explore multicultural connections through the performance of complex music by younger artists—this time, with some changes to format. The Festival is now based on an overall theme and involves an assortment of venues in keeping with its mission to connect disparate aspects of St. Louis life and music.

“A big part of the bridge building is finding themes in the Jewish experience that speak to all of us,” said Dana Hotle, program director.

To that end, this Festival season’s performances are centered on a common theme: how music and art can respond to bigotry and thrive in the face of oppression. The season will explore instances of artistic creativity during the Third Reich by honoring those musicians, musical styles, and composers labeled ‘degenerate’ by Nazi propaganda, from cabaret to jazz to Stravinsky.

“We’ll explore the music of about 10 [composers] throughout the week at three main programs,” Sitzer said. The Nazis felt that Jewish music, and modern music in general, was chaotic and destructive.

Along with traditional performance venues, the Gesher has partnered with the Missouri History Museum’s ongoing “State of Deception” exhibit documenting Nazi propaganda; and with the St. Louis Art Museum, which will offer a docent-led tour of ‘degenerate art.’

The desire to bridge gaps also refers to overcoming the perceived barrier between musicians and audiences, Hotle said. Performances will be followed by receptions in which audience members can meet and speak with the musicians about the degenerate composers, the history behind their music, and what it means today.

Related events

Grit & Glamour: A Night of European-Jewish Cabaret
Sunday, August 16, 2015
7:30 p.m.
Jewish Community Center's Wool Studio Theater, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, St Louis, MO 63146

Degenerate Music
Thursday, August 20, 2015
7:30 p.m.
Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63112


Friday, August 21, 2015

6:30 p.m.

St. Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Dr., St. Louis, MO 63110

From Degenerate to Hollywood
Saturday, August 22, 2015
7:30 p.m.
560 Music Center, 560 Trinity Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130

Voices From Imprisonment
Sunday, August 23, 2015
3:00 p.m.
Jewish Community Center's Wool Studio Theater, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, St Louis, MO 63146

Cityscape is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.  

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