Morris Hollender, a Holocaust survivor now living at Evans Park at Newton Corner, has a front-row seat for a performance of his music at the residential facility for seniors.
NOTES IN HISTORY: In pursuit of his Eastern European Jewish musical heritage, prominent jazz and klezmer musician Hankus Netsky of Newton estimates, he has collected 200 musical pieces from Morris Hollender since meeting the Holocaust survivor at Temple Beth Israel in Waltham in 1993.
Netsky, chairman of contemporary improvisation at the New England Conservatory, has used the tunes in his teaching as well as performances with the Klezmer Conservatory Band and Hebrew National Salvage. In addition, he provided all of the content and helped design a permanent exhibition about Hollender’s cultural legacy at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst in 2007.
Netsky recently brought 10 students and faculty members to meet 88-year-old Hollender, a Czechoslovakian native who moved this winter from Watertown to the Evans Park at Newton Corner facility for seniors. They performed traditional melodies and songs that Netsky had learned from Hollender for 60 of his fellow residents, many of whom were dancing by the end.
Netsky, who has collaborated on film and television projects with Itzhak Perlman, Robin Williams, Joel Grey, and Theodore Bikel, said that the residents seemed to understand that they were hearing something special. In turn, Hollender appreciated that his music — which originated in a place where so many perished — has been so enthusiastically adopted by a new generation.
“Morris is an educational force in the community,” said Netsky, noting he was originally drawn to the music not because of its historical significance, but because it’s good.
“I wanted my students to see this musical heritage as something that’s alive, and Morris is a one-in-a-million source,” he added. “I’ve been very lucky to have a mentor who has so much to teach and share.”