Anne Frank: A Living Voice
Linda Tutas Haugen
Anne Frank: A Living Voice was commissioned by the San Francisco Girls Chorus in celebration of its Silver Anniversary. The text is based on excerpts from The Diary of Anne Frank, taken from the 1952 and 1991 English translations of the book. The first section, It Is The Silence, was premiered by Chorissima on November 1, 2002, and the entire composition in seven movements premiered on May 6, 2004.
Anne Frank was between 13 and 15 years old when she wrote her Diary, while living in a secret upstairs annex over a warehouse in Amsterdam with her family, the Van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer. Despite all the fears and frustrations she experienced in over two years of hiding from the Nazis, Anne learned how to survive, to find beauty in small things, and to hold on to her ideals.
Composer Linda Tutas Haugen writes, “My goals for this composition are to honor the life of Anne Frank, and to gain a deeper understanding of what she, her family, and friends experienced during the Holocaust.”
The text excerpts are chronologically arranged, and span more than two years. They portray a psychological progression from fear and despair to strength and hope. The first three movements explore the grim reality of the war and her situation. Anne’s feelings of helplessness are expressed when she discovers that one of her best friends, Hanneli Goslar, has been captured and deported.
In the next three movements, she finds meaning and purpose in nature, her writing, and her first love with Peter Van Pels. In the final movement, she recognizes the chaos and destruction of society and ideals, and faces the likelihood that she and her family will not survive. Amazingly, she is able to look beyond the present and herself, to a time when she believes that peace will return. The hope that one day she would be able to realize her ideals and dreams gives her strength and courage.
Through her words, Anne Frank portrays the triumph of the human spirit in the midst of suffering and cruelty. Otto Frank, Anne’s father and only annex survivor, states: “I hope that Anne’s book will have an effect on the rest of your life so that insofar as it is possible in your circumstances, you will work for unity and peace.” The composer adds: “It is my hope that Anne Frank: A Living Voice, sung by these young women, will also be an inspiration to this end.”
The Diary has been published in 67 languages, and over 31 million copies have been sold.
Anne Frank: A Living Voice Text Excerpts
I. It Is the Silence
July 11, 1942. “It is the silence that frightens me so in the evenings and at night. … I can’t tell you how oppressive it is [to] never…go outdoors….I’m very afraid that we shall be discovered and shot….We have to whisper and tread lightly during the day, [or] the people in the warehouse might hear us. Someone is calling me.”
January 13, 1943. “Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of…day,…helpless people are being dragged out of their homes….Families are torn apart; men, women, and children are separated….Everyone is scared,…the entire world is at war,…and…the end is nowhere in sight,…All we can do is wait…for it to end. Jews and Christians alike are waiting, the whole world is waiting, and many are waiting for death.”
II. My Nerves
October 29, 1943. “My nerves often get the better of me, especially on Sundays….The atmosphere is stifling, sluggish, [and heavy as lead]. Outside you don’t hear a single bird, and a deathly…silence hangs over the house and clings to me as if it were going to drag me into the deepest regions of the underworld….I wander from room to room, climb up and down the stairs and feel like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage. ‘Let me out, where there’s fresh air and laughter!’ a voice within me cries. I don’t bother…to reply anymore, but lie down….Sleep makes the silence and the terrible fear go by more quickly, helps pass the time since it’s impossible to kill it.”
November 8. 1943. “I simply can’t imagine the world will ever be normal for us again.”
November 27, 1943. “Last night just as I was falling asleep, Hanneli suddenly appeared before me. I saw her there, dressed in rags, her face thin and worn. She looked at me with such sadness…in her enormous eyes….And I can’t help her. I can only stand by and watch while other people suffer and die….Merciful God, comfort her, so that at least she won’t be alone….if only You could tell her I’m thinking of her with compassion and love, it might help her go on.”
IV. Sunshine and Cloudless Sky
February 23, 1944. “I go to the attic almost every morning….This morning…Peter was…cleaning up. He finished quickly and came over to where I was sitting…on the floor. The two of us [Peter and I] looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak….We
breathed in the air, looked outside, and both felt that the spell shouldn’t be broken….’As long as I this exists,…this sunshine and cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?’”
March 7, 1944. “I lie in bed every night, after ending my prayers with the words, ‘thank you God for all that is good and dear and beautiful,” and I’m filled with joy….At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains….”
V. My Work
April 4/5, 1944. “For a long time now I didn’t know why I was bothering to do any…work. The end of the war…seemed so far away, so unreal, like a fairy tale….until Saturday night…I slid to the floor…and began…saying my prayers….I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried….I finally realized that I must do my…work,…to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write….I don’t want to have lived in vain….I want to go on living even after my death….I’m so grateful to God for [giving] me this gift which I can use…to express all that’s inside me! When I write I can shake off…my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!”
April 11, 1944. “One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews!”
April 19, 1944. “Is there anything more beautiful in the world than to sit before and open window and…listen to the birds singing, feel the sun on your cheeks and have a darling boy in your arms? It is so soothing and peaceful to feel his arms around me, to know that he is close by and yet to remain silent…this tranquility is good. Oh, never to be disturbed again….”
VII. Ideals and Hopes
July 15, 1944. “It’s twice as hard for us young people to hold on to our opinions… when ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when the worst side of human nature predominates, when everyone has come to doubt truth, justice and God….We’re much too young to deal with these problems….dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality.
It’s…impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us,…I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty…will end, that peace…will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realize them!”
Bella Voce Singers
Heather Janis Gaw