UK music scholar seeks forgotten music of the past

UK music scholar seeks forgotten music of the past
UK music scholar seeks forgotten music of the past

A British scholar is looking to trace music from Poland or Lithuania that made its way to South Africa before or during the Holocaust.

“My project seeks to uncover lost or forgotten archives — often just a box in someone’s attic — of Jewish music from Poland or Lithuania either before or during the Shoah, which have made their way through migration to South Africa,” says Dr Stephen Muir, a Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Leeds.

“I’m interested in ‘rescuing’ this music, as it represents the echoes of that lost world”, he says. “I would like to get it published, performed, recorded and back into circulation. I’m also interested in investigating the lives and other music of the musicians concerned — who were these musicians, what were their activities before they were cut short (or before they emigrated), how significant were they within their circles of activity?” Stephen was introduced to some families with such material when he was in Cape Town in February 2012 by Rabbi Stuart Serwator, but had very little time to look at the content.

Therefore he is coming back to Cape Town in July. He will be hosted by the the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the University of Cape Town, and would like to meet with anyone who has such material then.

“I also want to investigate how much more is out there,” he explains. “Are these holdings in Cape Town isolated, exceptional examples; one-off coincidences of circumstances? Or is there a wider pool of archival musical material waiting to be looked at, perhaps lying unappreciated and unrecognised by families?” Stephen will begin looking in Cape Town, but if there are families with such music in Johannesburg or other South African cities, he asks that they please contact him.

In addition, this is a sub-part of a larger project that is looking at similar things in Australia, America and Europe. Please contact Stephen should you have such musical materials. You can email him at, or contact him locally, care of Janine Blumberg, Kaplan Centre, UCT: 021 6503062 (mornings).