July 30, 2016

We have been very very busy trying to raise the funds for the concert. As of today, we have 78 days to go. We need the money in the next 40 days.

A GOFUNDME campaign is up and running. Go there now…


Here’s the challenge. Instead of a latte today, make a pledge to the campaign. Then, challenge 5 friends to do the same – and they have to challenge 5 friends…let’s keep the challenge going until we are funded!

Thank you, Iris Colyn, for translating the libretto into Hebrew. What a great gift to the concert. In July, Nomi Yeshua of the Jerusalem Foundation was in Victoria. Ed Fitch, also on our committee, had met her in Jerusalem in May. What a person! What a foundation! They are on board to help us promote the concert, secure musicians and more. We are thrilled.

We met Randi Winter who led us to Doug Kooy…who is trying to lead us to others to help. We are grateful every step of the way.

We also mourn the loss of a great voice – Elie Wiesel – whose words will live forever. His passing makes the music of A 20th Century Passion that much more important…because music lives forever.

Please tell all of your friends … and donate TODAY.

Holocaust survivor shares nightmares of Bergen-Belsen, 70 years on

From CBC:

It's 70 years since Dr. Peter Gary was freed from Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, but he is still haunted by the atrocities he witnessed during three years as a prisoner there.

"I have my nightmares, at least once every four weeks and it's always the children," said Gary, who shared his experiences of the Holocaust with the B.C. Legislature on Thursday.

Now living in Victoria, Gary remembers British Forces arriving on April 15, 1945 — the same day as his 21st birthday —only to find 60,000 half-starved prisoners inside, and 13,000 unburied bodies.

"We shall not forget....This was a terrible blot on western civilization. Not in medieval times, not in the times of the inquisition, but in the 20th century... that this could happen — systematically taking people from all countries."

'This way I defeated Hitler'

Since moving to Vancouver Island, Gary has founded the Victoria Holocaust Remembrance and Education Society and shared his story of life during the Holocaust with thousands of students. 

Holocaust survivor Dr. Peter Gary has written an oratorio he called 'A 20th Century Passion' to honour the innocent children murdered in Nazi concentration camps. (Robyn Burns/CBC)

During the 1970s, he even wrote an oratorio he called 'A 20th Century Passion' to honour the innocent children murdered in Nazi concentration camps.

Gary says many people questioned why he was writing about the Holocaust, concerned it may be too difficult a topic to broach.

"People asked me while I was writing it, 'Aren't you afraid you may vulgarise it?' I said, 'My God, after three years, it is mine. Why would I vulgarise it?'"

Gary's musical composition has never been performed due to costs and logistics, but there is a small group in Victoria trying to raise $50,000 for a live performance.

He says he's still writing new music and for him, it symbolizes his triumph over a tragic past.

"This way I defeated Hitler. Those that still live it, unfortunately too many of the few that are still alive, they have lost to Hitler. Hitler may have gotten my body...but never my spirit."

Holocaust Survivor Gives Last Talk To Students After 23 Years

From the Huffington Post:

Holocaust survivor Dr. Peter Gary — who has spent the past 23 years sharing his story with tens of thousands of students — has given his last talk at the school where it all began.

On Monday, the 92-year-old Vancouver Island resident spoke one last time to the students at Stelly's Secondary School in Saanich.

Isabel Lizama, a teacher at Stelly's who has known Gary for all of those years, said it was his stepson that informed teachers about what Gary had gone through and had him come in to talk about his experiences to the students.

"There are teachers here who actually were former students. You can ask them if there was a speakers who came to Stelly's School … who had an impact on you, they'll always say that it was Peter Gary," she told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

Now more than two decades later, Gary says he considers the students at Stelly's "his kids" and the school is a "second home."

"Unfortunately, what I have to say is still very, very important, because hate still has its ugly fires burning all over the world" he said moments before beginning his last talk.

"These are the only persons in the world who can put it out, the kids. This is what I tell them."

The timing of his last talk was significant, but not just because it was two days before Remembrance Day.

It was also the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht — the night when coordinated anti-Semitic attacks in Germany and Austria destroyed Jewish-owned shops, homes and synagogues in a prelude to further Nazi atrocities.

Before stepping forward to address the students one last time, Gary said he hopes they will take away an openness to different people and a willingness to stand up to racism in their daily lives.

"I will bring it through, hopefully, to these kids who are sitting there, bright-eyed, never had any confrontation, never heard gunfire, and tell them yes, it can happen. and to be alert, so it doesn't happen on their watch," he said.

May 27, 2016

We have been blessed with so much kindness in the last few weeks, we just have to share.

The Carmel Bach Festival has provided us with ad space in their program book (the festival is in July) at a very special rate. Peter began the journey we are on in the 1970s when he was listening to St. Matthew’s Passion. Usually he brought his score to the festival; the year he forgot to pack the score was the year that INSPIRATION struck. Just so happens that the theme for the 2016 Bach Festival is “Inspiration”.

Walter A. Chacón, Walter See Designs, has begun working with us a graphic designer; Walter turned our first ad around in record time. Thank you to Zak Posner and Sid Tafler for their editing contributions.

Committee member Bill Southward (based in Victoria, BC) is in Jerusalem right now. So happens that another friend of the Oratorio, Friedemann Meussling (based in Stuttgart, Germany) is also in Jerusalem. So many friends, it is starting to feel like divine providence.

We are starting to see an uptick in donations to support the concert – but we still have a long way to go. All funds need to be in by the end of August if the performance is really going to happen. We have 142 days until the concert. Please tell all of your friends … and donate TODAY.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In 172 days, A Twentieth Century Passion will premier in the Jerusalem Theater, conducted by Barak Tal. Join us in Israel on October 17, 2016 for what will be the first of many performances.

Written by A. Peter Gary, A 20th Century Passion tells the story of the SHOAH, from the end of World War I through the Nuremberg trials. Trained as a classical composer/conductor, Peter pulled the words and music from the horrors of his personal experience under the Nazi’s. Three death camps could not break him. 

Dedicated to the 1.2 million children who perished, each one a heartbeat, the libretto and the music push the stark realities of the SHOAH into the face of the audience.  Peter was inspired to write A 20th Century Passion while attending the Bach Festival in Carmel, California. Over a 3 year period, he wrote and edited his greatest composition.

Peter has spent the last 25 years talking to young people – over 66,000 middle and high school students – about stamping out hate. To keep his legacy alive, there will be a documentary about his life, about how the concert came to be; there is a text for schools being developed with the libretto, a history of the Holocaust and a study guide. 

Liberated on his 21st birthday from Bergen-Belsen, weighing only 76 pounds, Peter, at 92 lives a full and robust life. Please help him experience his opus magnus by supporting A Twentieth Century Passion

March 21, 2016

We are in the process of compiling a book with the libretto, student/teacher guide and historical perspective that can be sold to schools throughout North America for their Holocaust Education Programs. An edition in French will follow.Once the concert is fully funded, the books will be available to schools, organizations and museums along with a PowerPoint presentation, the documentary and film of the concert. We will have more information soon in conjunction with our upcoming GOFUNDME campaign.

March 4, 2016


Meet Judy Estrin from Victoria, BC. 

Judy found her visit to LAMOTH today extremely moving. Her husband, Peter Gary, is a Survivor of the Majdanek, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen camps who now speaks in schools in the Vancouver area. Judy has been working tirelessly to produce an oratorio written by her husband that depicts the Holocaust from the end of World War I through the Nuremburg trial. You can learn more about the project here: a20thcenturypassion.org

Thank you, Jill Brown, Interim Associate Director of Development for your kind words – and your time. jill@lamoth.org

March 3, 2016


Intermezzo: Carmel Bach Festival inspires Holocaust survivor’s ‘Passion’

A few months ago, at a Carmel Bach Festival event, Executive Director Debbie Chinn introduced me to a lovely woman by the name of Judy Estrin. She told me of her composer husband Peter Gary’s “A 20th Century Passion” oratorio and its unusual connection to J. S. Bach and the festival.

In 1941, torn from his home and comfortable world in Hungary, Gary, age 17, entered the unspeakable horror realms of the Nazis. When liberated by the British Army from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on his 21st birthday, he weighed only 76 pounds. He survived the holocaust and his love of music survived with him.

Born to a prominent musical family, he began his studies at the age of 5. His aunt was the world-famous pianist Lili Krause and his mother’s cousin was Eugene Ormany, the well-known conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Gary studied to be a composer and conductor before the war, and picked up his education again after the liberation. In 1950, he arrived in the United States to start a new life.

Though he found he couldn’t make a living at it, Gary continued to write music. In the 1970s, while enjoying a festival performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,” a momentous occurrence took place for him.

“I attended these excellent (Bach Festival) concerts several years in ideal settings, following these masterpieces with my ears and heart as well as my eyes looking at the musical score I took with me to the concert,” he says.

One summer he left the score at home. As he listened to the sounds of Bach, conducted by Hungarian maestro Sandor Salgo, a strange feeling came over him.

He said to himself, “How come the life and death of one Jew, namely Jesus Christ, is depicted with the greatest music ever written from Bach to Bernstein in oratorios, requiems, passions, but ... there is nothing in the world musical literature about the life and death of 6 million?”

Then he remembers his hand turning the program over without his own conscious direction and penning the words “A Twentieth Century Passion.”

He says it was as if those who lost their lives in the holocaust guided his hand. So began the creation of his own monumental oratorio passion about the Holocaust, which starts with the rise of Nazi power after World War I and ends with the Nuremberg trials 26 years later.

Estrin says fundraising is still underway for the project, which includes both the world premiere of “A 20th Century Passion” in Jerusalem and a documentary about the life journey of the composer. For more information about this remarkable undertaking sparked by Bach in Carmel, 

February 23, 2016


It isn’t your typical weapon, music.

It doesn’t physically deal blows or graze skin or break bones.

But as I sat in Oak Bay high school’s new theatre, pondering the power of music at the reading of Dr. Peter Gary’s oratorio for his musical composition, A Twentieth Century Passion, I wondered if something as harmless as notes strung on a staff could carry a power of its own. Not the physical kind of a round of bullets, but an entirely different type altogether.

A Twentieth Century Passion is not your typical composition, and neither is its composer, Dr. Peter Gary. Gary is a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, and his composition, to debut in Jerusalem on April 16 (Gary’s 92nd birthday) has been a lifelong dream. The piece is a musical representation of the story of the Jewish people from the end of the First World War, through the Holocaust, and up until the Nuremberg Trials which saw Nazi war criminals tried at the end of the war.

As fascinating as it sounded, I was curious as to Gary music, of all mediums, to express his people’s experience.“That is my real language,” Gary explained simply, his words richly imbued with his accent, after I finally managed to corner him in the bustling foyer. “Human language is very limited. Music has the nuances that the good, bad, beautiful, the ugly, are so well represented [in].”

At this time Gary leaned in closer, taking his time to choose his words.“It is an international language; you don’t need to take lessons. If you have a heart, a mind, you can listen, and it approaches you.”

As always, Gary’s words were weighted with wisdom, with which I could only agree. The oratorio provided the background information to the meaning of the composition, but the actual music, would be the propelling force which would bring the message to life. 

A Twentieth Century Passion is not a history book. It may not detail facts or figures or statistics, but it conveys something else – emotion. And it’s that emotion, coupled with a message, such as the experiences of the Jewish people and the importance of ending hatred, which holds a power all of its own.

Instead of just hearing the message, you feel it, because as Gary so eloquently explained, music is a universal language. All you have to do to understand it is wait for it to approach you.

Theresa Wong is a Grade 12 student at Spectrum Community School.February 23, 2016

February 18, 2016

Just two months out from what should have been the premier performance, Conductor Barak Tal has agreed that the concert should be postponed, as there are insufficient funds to produce the concert properly at this time.

It is anticipated that the concert will be rescheduled for later this year, ideally after the High Holidays.

This allows us to continue fundraising in earnest in order to mount this amazing concert.

February 16, 2016

Prior to his speaking to the Jewish Community in Victoria about what is happening between Canada and Israel, Ambassador Barak stopped by to have coffee with Peter and Judy. Peter was thrilled to be able to ride with the Ambassador from their home to visit the Chabad Synagogue under construction as well as accompany the Ambassador to his talk downtown.

Monday, December 14, 2015

An Interview with Peter Gary, Composer

By Mary Hannon, Editor and Publisher of Piano Forte


Mary Hannon: When did music become important to you?

Peter Gary: I come from a musical Hungarian family. My aunt was a world famous pianist by the name of Lili Krause and my mother’s cousin was Eugene Ormandy, Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra for many decades. I started piano lessons at age 5 and the first orchestral music I remember owning was a vinyl record of Ravel’s Bolero. It got my attention because of the haunting rhythmic pattern and textual building in the orchestra. From then on, music became my most intimate language.

MH: How did your career in music develop?

PG: After studying piano privately, I attended the National Music School while attending high school and then went on to the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest. My intention was to become a composer/conductor rather than an instrumentalist because I realized early in life that I was not able to express myself mechanically with an instrument as well as hearing and writing as a composer or hearing and translating music with groups of musicians as a conductor. I had to learn to play an instrument in each orchestral group, practice all instruments and do the composition work. Often they would lend us out to play for opera or ballet rehearsals. It was a grinding existence. 

MH: Tell us about your classes with Kodaly and Bartok.

PG: Kodaly and Bartok were colleagues at the Royal Academy at the same time. Both were exploring the melodies of peasants but Kodaly was very different from Bartok. He stayed within the accepted Western melodic style, was far more conservative in his orchestrations and the bulk of his music library consisted of choral music. He was the more accessible of the tow and taught solfeg and choral conducting. I took solfeg from him and I’d describe him as aloof, not your charming teacher. His method of choral conducting is still practiced today because it is considered the best method of communicating with choirs. When I was 17 and in the upper classes of the Royal Academy, my Aunt Lili recommended that I attend Bartok’s master class. She had studied piano with him and because of her, I was accepted as one of 7 students in his class. He never taught composition, only piano, so that was my only exposure to him. The 7 of us were pianists and composers but I was a poor example of a pianist. He asked each of us to play for him and after my performance he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You know, you’re not very good” and I said, “I know.” He said, “How come your aunt is” and I said, “Well, so it goes.” He asked me how I was going to make a living and I told him I wanted to be a conductor. Little did I know that both he and Kodaly hated conductors because they thought conductors screwed up their music.

MH: Were your master classes about piano technique and interpretation?

PG: No, they were more abstract. He wanted to know how we envisioned our musical life in view of what we had learned and experienced at the Royal Academy. It was quite rebellious in those days and there were two camps at the Academy – everyone was either a Wagnerian or a Debussyian. We Debussyians believed you can’t bang on the doors of Heaven with over-orchestrated garbage and the Wagnerians believed we were little tutu-dancer-people moving to the lean sensitivities of Debussy and Ravel. Bartok was greatly influenced by Debussy. I found Bartok to be a very quiet, shy, elegant man. Communicating in words was not his forte but he answered all our questions. We were baffled by his chromaticism. We learned that he was bringing music forward by interweaving 3 elements – modes, chromaticism and folk melodies. Music advances to new horizons when a composer has something to say and Bartok had a lot to say. This quiet man exploded with new ways to incorporate his ideas into different forms – piano, orchestra, opera - and always with the heart of the peasant unadulterated. Sincerity is very important in the arts and music is the most abstract of all the arts. European artists, during the tumultuous years of World War I and World War II, lived through social change that affected their music. Bartok, in his quiet way, incorporated a warning into his lectures of the different pitfalls that we could encounter by fate or fortune. He had an absolutely lasting effect on my life not only as a pianist and composer but also as an utterly genuine and sincere human being.

MH: Did you ever see him in America?

PG: No. He died in America a heartbroken man. He and his wife lived in a Hungarian lady’s house outside of New York City and he worked for Columbia University cataloguing folk songs for $2,000 a year. My uncle told me that when Bartok came to Los Angeles in the early ‘40s to give a recital at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, there were 46 people in attendance. When he was dying of leukemia, my Aunt Lili was instrumental in having Koussevitzky’s widow commission an orchestral work in honor of her late husband. Bartok received a cash advance for writing one of his last works, Concerto for Orchestra.

MH: Did you continue your musical career after the Royal Academy?

PG: No. Then came 3 ½ horrendous years during World War II when I was caught in the claws of history and taken to the Warsaw ghetto and 3 different death camps. I had a complete divorce from everything normal in my life, including my musical development. After liberation, I worked for the American Military as an interpreter and they transferred me to Paris where I continued my musical life with studies at the Sorbonne and classes at the conservatory. I conducted small orchestras in France and Germany before coming to the United States in 1950.

MH: What happened when you came to America?

PG: My uncle was a staff writer at MGM Studios and he got me into the Music Department that was full of Hungarians. I worked for Miklos Rosa who was set conductor at the time. I did orchestrations for the movie Quo Vadis, working at MGM for 4 ½ months before the Studio went under. Then I left music and developed a career in medical rehabilitation. I retired 16 years ago and wrote an oratorio that deals with the life and death of 6 million Jews 60 years ago. The title is The 20th Century Passion, for orchestra, chorus and soloists. It has been recorded and portions of it have been performed. I was a visiting professor at UCLA for 14 years and taught a special graduate course in ethnomusicology. I took my own experience and expanded it into how simple peasant melodies from countries such as Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia and Bosnia, impacted the music of composers like Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Khachaturian.

MH: What does music mean to you?

PG: On April 15, 1945, the day of my birthday, I was liberated from the death camp and I promised myself that I would use every second to enrich my life. I will follow the sun with music, sharing myself with others. Music is melody and rhythm, song and dance. Great artists don’t play instruments, they make music. Any person can fiddle with the blacks and whites and all of a sudden you hear yourself making music. By opening the door to this magical world you get the joy of your own participation in what Life is all about. And that is what music can provide. 


From Piano Forte, Vol. 18, Number 4, Fall/Winter 2015 

Original interview conducted in 2007

Used by Permission

Piano Forte is a quarterly publication for lovers of music, particularly those who have returned 

to the piano as adults. 

Subscription information:

Piano Forte

P. O. Box 3124

South Pasadena, CA 91030-6124 USA

Friday, December 11, 2015

Who are the Volunteers?

For over a year, a dedicated group of volunteers has been working behind the scenes to fundraise and organize both the concert and the documentary.  They are:

  • Ed Fitch
  • Dora Leicht
  • Isabel Lizama
  • Reinhold Lohsen – Project Manager, A Twentieth Century Passion
  • David Malysheff – Documentarian, Gamut Productions
  • Don Morris
  • Hilary Pryor – Director/Producer, May Street Productions
  • Joseph Querengesser
  • Bill Southward
  • Edie Southward

Advisory Committee

  • Judy Estrin 
  • Peter Gary – Composer – Advisor to Committee
  • Barak Tal – Conductor, Tel Aviv Soloists 
  • Fundraising
  • Gerry Walker


  • Gerry Walker

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Exciting news! Congratulations to Barak Tal, Orchestral Music Conductor and the Tel Aviv Soloists on winning the Landau Award.

Barak also conducted and played in a Vivaldi concerto for violin and mandolin, with mandolin player Yaki Reuven, on December 5 in the Greek Orthodox Church in Haifa. You may hear a bit of the concert.

Donations are coming in. Thank you everyone for your marvelous support. With your help, we will STAMP OUT HATE.

You can click on the DONATE 

  1. Click on Support/Donate or the Donate Now link on every page which will direct you ETC: Educating Toward Change
  2. Click on General. 
  3. Select A 20th Century Passion from the drop down menu.
  4. Follow the prompts to make your donation.

Make sure your email is entered correctly in order to receive your receipt.

Or, if you prefer: Make check payable to:

  • Education Towards Change (ETC)
  • Society4412 Wilkinson Road
  • Victoria, BC V8Z 0C1 Canada

Indicate on memo or via note: A 20th Century Passion 

A tax receipt will be sent to address on check or as request.

Donations are accepted in Canadian or US Dollars (preferred).

Monday, November 9, 2015

During this Remembrance Day assembly at Stelly’s High School in Victoria, Peter Gary addressed over 300 students who followed his talk with a dramatic reading of the Libretto from A Twentieth Century Passion. 

The entire assembly and reading has been captured on film as part of the documentary on Peter and his Oratorio.  Robyn Burns, herself a graduate of Stelly’s, interviewed Peter for her CBC Broadcast – All Points West. Here is a link to that broadcast.

In this week, when the world was rocked by the brutal attacks on Paris, Peter’s message to STAMP OUT HATE is more important than ever. Help us get his message out to the world. Peter has a strong connection to Paris: he got his doctorate at the Sorbonne. Please see our donate page to support his desire to stamp out hate.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Peter Gary and Hilary Pryor had an engaging morning in studio with David Malysheff. In addition to the 3 hours of video shot in June with Peter and Barak Tal (Music Director, Tel Aviv Soloists and Conductor of A 20th Century Passion), there is now more in depth information on the life and background of Peter Gary ready to edited for the documentary.

Help us complete “the conversation” with your donation in support of the concert and documentary.