Live tonight: University of Michigan students perform rare Auschwitz music manuscript

U-M music theory professor Patricia Hall teamed up with the U-M Contemporary Directions Ensemble to make a professional recording of The Most Beautiful Time of Life (Die Schönste Zeit des Lebens), a manuscript found in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum archive. Image by Christopher Boyes.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.   University of Michigan students will give the first public performance Friday night of a rare song that was arranged and performed by prisoners in the Auschwitz I men's orchestra during WWII.  

The concert is the result of research by music theory professor Patricia Hall, who recently discovered a music manuscript at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.   

Ironically titled "The Most Beautiful Time of Life" (Die Schönste Zeit des Lebens), the piece is a light foxtrot based on a song by Franz Grothe, a popular German film composer.

Over the last year, Hall has worked with music theory graduate student Joshua Devries to transcribe the handwritten manuscript so that it could be performed by the U-M Contemporary Directions Ensemble, led by professor Oriol Sans. 

According to Hall, it is likely the first time since 1943 that audiences will be able to hear the music, as very few manuscript parts from works arranged and performed at Auschwitz have survived.

The U-M Contemporary Directions Ensemble, which completed a recording of the song last month at U-M's Duderstadt Center, will perform the work live at a free concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, in Hankinson Hall at the E.V. Moore Building, 1100 Baits Drive, on U-M's North Campus.  

Hall will offer remarks before the performance.