Heartfelt musical tribute

Toronto’s Senior Strings are former members of major orchestras “who just didn’t want to stop making music when they got to retirement age,” explains composer John Reeves. And it’s these splendid musicians, under conductor Victor Feldbrill, who’ll bring to vibrant life In Memoriam Primo Levi, Reeves’ tribute to a remarkable man.

Primo Levi was one of a group of 650 Italian Jews sent to Auschwitz; at war’s end, only four returned home. He believed he had a duty to survive the horrors and bear witness — his Se questo e un uomo (If This Is a Man) is regarded as a classic of Holocaust literature. An acknowledged modern master of Italian prose, Levi is now required reading in Italian schools. Reeves, a former CBC radio producer, met Levi in Turin in 1969, having adapted two of Levi’s books for radio. The two began a friendship that was to last until Levi’s death in 1986. In Memoriam Primo Levi is a work in two movements: Shema (Hear), a poem by Levi; and This was a man, a poem Reeves wrote in tribute on Levi’s death.

Although it will be sung in Italian by the splendid Canadian mezzo-soprano Sandra Boyes, Reeves will read the text in glish before each movement. A copy of the text in both English and Italian will also be available.

“It’s a marvellous thing for a composer to hear his own work after he’s conceived it in his study,” says Reeves. “To hear it with strings will be a real thrill and the Toronto Senior Strings are marvellous musicians.”

The program, which also includes classical and romantic pieces, begins at 2 p.m., Thursday, June 4 at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Toronto. For more information, call Ann C. Harris at (416) 769-5071.