May 14, 2004

52 Weeks: Song Of Survival
(Originally aired 14th May 2004)

Jan Turkenburg is a music teacher and "obsessive collector of amazing sounds" from Holland. When he's not teaching or producing charmingly quirky sample-based music, he's overseeing 52 Weeks, the slightly-more-modest Dutch "child" of the 365 Days Project. Every week since the beginning of this year, Turkenburg has been posting a new album of interesting and/or unusual music on this site; most of it from the Low Countries.

Last week, he posted something truly beautiful and inspiring which would have to count as one of the highlights of this project so far...

In 1943, Margaret Dryburgh, a Presbyterian missionary who was being held captive in a Japanese prison camp in Southern Sumatra, sought escape from her plight by reconstructing entire works by composers like Beethoven, Debussy and Dvorak entirely from memory - without the aid of musical intruments. With the help of Norah Chambers, a professional musician and fellow internee, these works were transcribed on scraps of hoarded paper and arranged for a choir consisting of thirty other inmates. (Of those 30, only half would survive the war.)

In 1983, one of the surviving members of the original ensemble organised a recording of Drybugh's prison-camp arrangements by a Californian women's choir. That recording will be up on the 52 Weeks site till next week. I urge everyone to go there and download it.

Posted by Warren at May 14, 2004 12:06 AM | Prison Music