Sherr headshot
Laurence Sherr
Fugitive Footsteps

Fugitive Footsteps for baritone soloist and a cappella mixed chorus (2002)
Poetry of Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Nelly Sachs
in a composition honoring the survivors of the Holocaust
Duration: 12–14 minutes

Performance Video; Score and Audio Excerpts


Full performance
Stuart Orme, baritone soloist, Stephen Muir, conductor
Leeds, England


Fugitive Footsteps score page
Fugitive Footsteps audio link
Corresponding audio and score excerpts
Cantor Daniel Gale, baritone, Kennesaw State University Chamber Singers, Leslie Blackwell, conductor
Atlanta, USA

Program Notes

Fugitive Footsteps is a tribute to Holocaust survivors. Jewish poet Nelly Sachs survived by fleeing from Germany to Sweden in 1940, and she spent the following phase of her career bearing witness to the Holocaust through her writing. She was awarded the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature for her work. I chose her poem “World, do not ask those snatched from death” because it reflects the experiences of Holocaust survivors like Sachs and my mother, both of whom fled Germany and survived the war in neutral European countries. Also significant in my choice of the poem is the universality of its meaning and message, both of which address the plights of survivors of all tragedies. My hope is that my setting of Sachs’ words will promote healing, awareness, and understanding.

Fugitive Footsteps is dedicated to my mother, Alice Bacharach Sherr. Born in Egelsbach, Germany in 1931, she was sent on a Kindertransport to a children’s home in Switzerland in 1939. She was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust.


Poetry

World, do not ask those snatched from death
Nelly Sachs, Holocaust survivor and 1966 Nobel laureate

World, do not ask those snatched from death
where they are going,
they are always going to their graves.
The pavements of the foreign city
were not laid for the music of fugitive footsteps–
The windows of the houses that reflect a lifetime
of shifting tables heaped with gifts from a picture-book
          heaven–
were not cut for eyes
which drank terror at its source.
World, a strong iron has cauterized the wrinkle of their
          smile;
they would like to come to you
because of your beauty,
but for the homeless all ways wither
like cut flowers–

But we have found a friend
in exile: the evening sun.
Blessed by its suffering light
we are bidden to come to it with our sorrow
which walks beside us:
A psalm of night.

"World, do not ask" from O THE CHIMNEYS by Nelly Sachs, translated by Ruth and Matthew Mead. Translation copyright 1970 and translation copyright renewed 1998 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Used by arrangement with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.








Nelly Sachs
Nelly Sachs (1891–1970)