Set in the Jewish Autonomous Region, this epic new musical looks at the lives of an American family and a European family who each move to Siberia participating in the real-life movement to create there a Yiddish-speaking Socialist utopia, and at how they must rise to the challenges they then face in achieving the freedom they seek.
SOVIET ZION explores themes of belonging and identity in a unique setting through the lives of six ordinary people participating in a movement that saw tens of thousands of pioneers move to Siberia in search of a home and explores why only one of the two 20th century endeavours in Jewish statehood would succeed.
Featuring all-new arrangements created with Brian Freeland, this Concept Album will present SOVIET ZION in full as a lavishly orchestrated and beautifully sung feature-length radio play distinguished by the cinematic sound of a film-score style orchestration and a cast of uncommonly strong vocalists.
A new website has been launched at www.sovietzion.com.
Writer and producer Giles Howe explain “I discovered the Jewish Autonomous Region and found the curious history of the place fascinating”. Giles wrote the show with Katy Lipson and Roberto Trippini. In 1928 an area in the Far-East of Russia was set aside for Jewish settlement, creating the first Jewish homeland of the modern era – a national policy granted each of the peoples within the Soviet Union a territory in which to exercise cultural autonomy. Conceived on principles that would revolutionize the profile of Russian Jewry through agriculture as paragons of Soviet social engineering success, “that any nation could come to exist under such strange ideological circumstances and almost be forgotten struck me as a rich source of inspiring stories” shares Giles.
Realized years before Israeli independence and with broad international support, it was presented as a viable alternative to Israel and even as a companion state before the values of the pioneers it attracted were used against them and the utopian vision that drew the settlers became at the time for many a dystopian reality. Although the attempt at Yiddish statehood would not succeed, the territory known as Jewish Autonomous Region still exists today.
Work has continued on the musical SOVIET ZION since a preview concert at the London Jewish Museum in 2014. “Using the latest technology, I am able to make this ambitious project a reality working online with a creative partner I’m actually yet to meet. With the unconventional and cinematic arrangements we are developing unrestricted by the size of what could fit in a theatre’s orchestra box we can really explore the full potential of this music,” says Giles. “This innovative approach is already redefining my expectations!”
An unusual feature of this release is a Yiddish language translation being made to accompany the album. “I wanted to honor the role that the language played in defining the identity that Birobidzhan sought to create.” Poet and translator Gittel Schwartz continue “People often say that Yiddish is dead, but we’re proud to suggest otherwise. Growing up Hassidic I never had the opportunity to explore my language in this way before, so this is a very exciting project to be involved in!!”. A Russian language translation is also being prepared by Helena Gelfor, herself a prominent Bay Area klezmer musician.
“A Concept Album demonstrates the potential of a new show has for a life on the stage or screen. What may one day make it to the stage could be completely different, so this recording Giles is producing is an opportunity to discover an authentic piece of unique musical theatre as it was first imagined by its writers.” says co-writer Katy Lipson who after contributing music to the score founded her own award-winning theatre company Aria Entertainment. “A recording like this offers excellent value as it is less expensive than just one ticket to many live shows and can be enjoyed at your own pace again and again. Several successful musicals in a similar style started life as concept recordings including Evita, Chess, and Les Miserables.”
Technically capable singers are given an opportunity to shine in this lavish score telling an original story. Giles continues “I wanted to write something in the grand style that excites me most as a theatre lover, but drawing from across genres to create my own voice. Katy and I had written a musical together before, but this time I wanted to attempt something significantly more ambitious. It has been a much greater challenge but I have enjoyed every minute of creating SOVIET ZION and am thrilled to share it with you.”
You can find out more information and pre-order your copy now at www.sovietzion.com.