Column: Pacific Symphony to present ‘Defiant Requiem’ in Costa Mesa

Scott Seigel, Yael Aronoff and Eyal Aronoff attend a donor reception for the Pacific Symphony
(Photo by John Wolfsohn)

In a week when the Newport-Mesa community has received national news coverage over a high school beer pong party using Nazi symbols and salutes, the community can be commended for its swift condemnation of the actions of these young people.

Residents have gathered in town hall meetings, flooded social media with commentary standing against hate and for tolerance, education and decency. At the same time that a group of our misguided youth engaged in an evening of neo-Nazi themed partying, another group of OC citizens gathered to announce the upcoming debut of Pacific Symphony’s concert presentation of “Defiant Requiem” April 16 at the René and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

For the record:

2:15 PM, Mar. 11, 2019An earlier version of this column stated that Carl St. Clair would conduct `Defiant Requiem.’ In fact, Murry Sidlin, who also created the concept for the program, will conduct.

This coincidence is worthy of reporting as it speaks to the true core values of the majority of Orange County residents. The “Defiant Requiem” is a compilation of the complete Giuseppe Verdi Requiem Mass presented with its magnificent and moving choral score, adapted to pay homage to imprisoned Czech conductor Rafael Schachter and fellow prisoners held at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp (“Terezin”) during World War II. The full concert title is “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin.” It will be presented by the Pacific Symphony, conducted by Maestro Murry Sidlin, combining the music of Verdi with historical footage from Holocaust archives, as well as testimony from survivors of the original chorus from the camp.

The performance is being made possible by community members underwriting the concert. Paying tribute to those stepping up to bring “Defiant Requiem” to Orange County, Seth and Yasuko Siegel joined Newport Coast hosts Yael and Eyal Aronoff in welcoming some 100 patrons for a dinner celebration in support of Pacific Symphony.

Given the blended ethnic, cultural and religious roots of the hosts, the reception was both a nod to the Lunar New Year and Buddhist tradition along with recognition of the Siegel and Aronoff families’ Jewish roots and the significant relationship between the OC Jewish community and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. The lead gift of $100,000 in support of the “Defiant Requiem” concert is coming from The Jewish Federation & Family Services of Orange County in conjunction with the Albert Weissman and Rhoda Yvette Weissman Estate.

“Pacific Symphony has a long history of engagement with the Jewish community,” said John Forsyte, president of Pacific Symphony. “In the early 2000s, the symphony performed concerts called ‘Three Jewish Tenors,’ a benefit for the Jewish Federation featuring great cantorial talents from around the country. Subsequently, we brought our elementary school program to Tarbut v’Torah Day [Day School in Irvine], and [conductor] Carl St.Clair, the musicians and myself have spoken or performed for the Bureau of Jewish Education of Orange County and at synagogues throughout Orange County.”

Major additional support for the concert is coming from Charlie and Ling Zhang, Nancy and Irving Chase, Terry and Tom McDonald, Ken and Odette Freed, Joe and Ingrid Gallin, Scott and Leslie Siegel, Blossom Siegel and event co-hosts Yasuko and Seth Siegel. Also supporting Pacific Symphony are Linda Berkowitz, Marilyn Harran, Babette Bay, Myrna Chatow, Heritage Point and the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education.

Education may indeed be a pivotal key to understanding circumstances that lead to such epic depravity as unfolded during the Holocaust, as well as at many other horrific junctions in the history of mankind. Lessons learned, taught and embraced may hopefully prevent future genocide.

But education is not enough. Orange County joins the rest of this nation in the midst of a radical awakening. The message is simple: Stand up against hate wherever, whenever, however it manifests. The importance of the story behind “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin” comes from the depth of heroism by those who refused to bend to the evil of their oppressors. The spirit of the requiem is a message of resistance, triumph of good over evil, hope and remembrance of those who suffered and perished.

And that is why it is important to recognize that the Newport-Mesa community rallied with purpose and passion letting all know, including their own local children, that hate has no place in this community.

To learn more about the April 16 performance of “Defiant Requiem,” or to purchase tickets visit

B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.