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August 02, 2002 - Image 81

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-08-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

FREE

OAK p

AD MISSION
AND OPEN
TO
THE PUBLIC

A Patchwork Life

Schwarz evokes his parents' flight in
another song:
"A newlywed couple with a baby
girl/ Forced to flee to a faraway world/
Out on the ocean, the wide Atlantic
ocean/ My . father and mother, out on
the ocean, comin' home."
They had applied for exit visas to
Argentina, Uruguay and the United
States in 1938, when Italy's fascist gov-
ernment imposed harsh anti-Semitic
laws and Schwarz's father lost his job.
"The U.S. visa came through first,"
said Schwarz. "Maybe it was because
their financial guarantor was Clara
Clemens, Mark Twain's youngest
daughter, who was an opera singer
married to a Russian Jewish orchestra
conductor (Ossip Gabrilowitsch, who
headed up the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra from 1918-1935). My
grandfather, the furrier, had been
friends with her."
Schwarz's parents ran into more
trouble, however, once the United
States entered World War II in 1941.
As immigrants with German and
Italian nationality, they were regarded
as enemy aliens and his father again
lost his job.
"In the town where they lived, there
were only two other Jewish families
and neither reached out," Schwarz
said. "But an Irish Catholic intellectu-
al befriended them, helped them, and
gave my dad a job. Eventually, my par-
ents both converted to Catholicism."
In personal terms, Schwarz has
reversed his family's immigrant experi-
ence. Married to a German woman,
he lives today in Bremen, Germany.
This patchwork background is seen
in much of Schwarz's music.
The subtitle of the Home CD is
"Songs of Immigrants, Refugees and
Exiles," and Schwarz has spent decades
living in different countries and study-
ing and playing the music of different
cultures, from the Caribbean to India,
from Italian folk songs to klezmer.
"I have a grounding in the immi-
grant experience," he said. "At the
same time, I'm grounded in eclecti-
cism, what with my German mother,
my Italian father, and then the
American influence."
Still, despite the fact that his parents
— and other family members in Italy
— converted to Catholicism, Schwarz
said he considers himself a Jew "in my
whole nature, if not in practice."
"I feel that the Jewish influence per-
meates my music, even when it is not
overt," he said.
"It's there, no matter what instru-
ment it is played on."

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