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Michael Lamont


Michael Lamont


Michael Lamont

 

Rosalind Marmel

THE STORY OF A CHILD OF THE KINDERTRANSPORT WHO HELD ONTO HER MUSIC-THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE

Rosalind Marmel, Los Angeles, May 7, 2012

Multi-Ovation Award Winner Hershey Felder directs Grammy Nominated Mona Golabek, the daughter of a child of the Kindertransport in THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE…the story of a little girl who was sent away on the Kindertransport and told to hold on to her music.
 
Mona Golabek, who wrote the beautiful book, The Children of Willesden Lane is a beautiful woman. Mona, an acclaimed, Grammy nominated concert pianist plays piano beautifully.
 
The Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse across from UCLA in Los Angeles is a beautiful and intimate theater.
 
Hershey Felder, who is married to Kim Campbell, (Canada’s former Prime Minister),  beautifully directs Mona Golabek, as she stars in the one woman world premiere The Pianist of Willesden Lane.
 
The true-life story of Mona’s family takes place at a time when the world was far from beautiful.
 
Set in 1938 in Vienna, the city of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss and Mahler,  and in London during the Blitzkrieg, through music, words and heart wrenching visuals that were shown in elegant picture frames in the background, Ms. Golabek, by personifying  her mother, Lisa Jura, a 14-year-old Jewish piano student, tells her family’s story.
 
Lisa was a poised and carefree red head growing up in the Jewish district, in a crowded tenement with her beloved parents Malka and Abraham, her little sister Sonia and her older sister Rosie.  Abraham was considered the finest tailor in pre war Vienna known for his impeccable workmanship. Malka prided herself on raising her daughters in a Jewish home.  Abraham also had a gambling habit that infuriated Malka. Besides Lisa’s love for her family, Lisa had two big concerns. One was that she looked “absolutely divine” for her piano lessons. She imagined herself dolled up in makeup that naughtily Rosie would apply when Malka wasn’t paying attention, while Sonia giggled in delight.  She would wear a wool beret bought at the local thrift store on her dark, red hair, propped coquettishly to the side like the models she saw in fashion magazines.  (Mona Golabek was wearing her mother’s beret when I met her).  There was a reason. Lisa’s dream was to make her concert debut playing Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto at the Vienna Symphony Hall.  She had made a secret oath to grow up to be paralleled to the greatest musicians of all time. Her mother was a piano player too.   
Tongues wagged throughout the neighborhood wondering where the Jura family got the money to buy a second hand piano so that Lisa could practice.  Later, ears pressed to windows so that they could listen to the wondrous music that Lisa Jura was playing.
 
It was November of 1938. The sisters were counting the days to Chanukah. It was a Sunday. Starting at age ten Lisa would take the streetcar across Vienna to Professor Isseles’s piano studio. The Sunday Mona Golabek described with her words, as her fingers united with the ivory piano keys on the polished grand piano started as every Sunday did for Lisa.  
 
As that Sunday, progressed Lisa’s world changed as our world was changing forever.
 
When Lisa got off the streetcar, she noticed that the street signs were changed. “Mahler-Strauss” suddenly had the name: “Meistersinger-Strasse.” She gasped but proceeded. She was angry. The Nazis disapproved of such a magnificent street being named after a Jew. 
She decided to try to squelch that anger. It would distract from her precious music.
 
Mona, in an elegant and dignified manner played the music of the maestros her mother yearned to play like on the gleaming concert grand piano as if she were in a trance while telling the story. The audience seemed to be in a trance also.
 
Lisa’s lesson began. As she played, she saw a depressed expression on Professor Isseles’s face. She got frightened thinking that she was playing badly. Nervously she asked if she could play the Allegretto the next week. The Nazis had issued an ordinance. It was a crime to teach a Jewish child. 
 
“I am not a brave man. I am so sorry. You have a remarkable gift, Lisa. Never forget that.”
 
The professor picked up a delicate gold chain with a charm in the shape of a piano. He told Lisa that it was not much, but that perhaps it would help her to remember the music they had shared.
 
Devastated, Lisa made it home. There were German SS storm troopers everywhere. She could not understand why Germans were telling Austrians what to do. She could not understand why Austrians were letting them. She thought everyone was looking at her.  Her perfect posture turned into slouching. Malka got scared when Lisa walked into the living room dropping her music on the bench. Malka guessed what had happened. 
 
As she held her daughter in her arms, she told her not to worry. She had taught her before. She would teach her again. Malka took out the sheet music from Chopin’s preludes. She told Lisa that she would play one hand while Lisa played the other. Then they would reverse. They pretended that things would be okay. Both knew that Lisa had surpassed her mother’s skill.
 
Lisa went to her room smothering her tears in the pillow. Rosie came in telling her that crying would not help and that she would cheer her up by showing her new things to do with makeup. Rosie knew about these things. Rosie was th
 
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