Toronto teen gets Grammy nomination for album featuring songs by Holocaust victims
Katherine DeClerq, CTV News Toronto
Published Friday, February 8, 2019 7:22PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 8, 2019 7:48PM EST
A Toronto teen is on his way to the Grammy Awards this weekend after an album he sang on that features songs written by Holocaust victims was nominated.
Fifteen-year-old Isaac Rosenberg was interested in music at an early age. He started playing the piano when he was five years old and then learned the guitar and joined a choir.
“I know it’s something I really enjoy when I can just sit there for hours without being bored in any way,” Rosenberg told CTV News Toronto.
About four years ago, Rosenberg’s mother, who is a professor of Jewish studies at the University of Toronto, told him about a project that involved lost songs from the Holocaust and said they needed a young voice to perform some of the songs.
Rosenberg said that he wasn’t interested at first, but then he read the lyrics.
“I actually started crying,” he said. “For multiple weeks I couldn’t bring myself together to sing it.”
The album ‘Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II’ showcases lyrics that were all written by Holocaust victims and survivors.
The collection of Yiddish songs was found in unnamed boxes by librarians in the 1990s. According to the project’s website, many of the lyrics detailed the experiences and stories of Jewish people during the Second World War and the Cold War. The songs discovered had not been performed since 1947.
“Many songs turned out to be the first grassroot testimonies of the German atrocities. Their authors used music and poetry to describe violence and destruction that could not be easily comprehended or described in prose,” the website states. “For the first time, the public will hear the voices of the Soviet Jews who were thought to be silenced by Hitler and Stalin.”
After hearing the lyrics, Rosenberg auditioned to be part of the project and started recording the music when he was 12 years old.
“One of the songs that I sing, it’s about this grieving child who had just lost their mother and they are asking questions like ‘who is going to tuck me in at night’ and ‘what am I going to do without you?’”
He said the song reminded him of his grandmother, who ran away from home when she was 15 years old. Rosenberg said his grandmother’s 11 siblings were all killed during the Holocaust.
“It’s really special to me to sing this music about her. I’m singing it almost for my family and everybody else.”
Rosenberg said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw ‘Yiddish Glory’ had been nominated for Best World Music Album at the Grammy Awards.
“I can’t believe it’s happening,” Rosenberg said. “I can’t even picture it in my head.”
Rosenberg is the youngest member of a Toronto-based ensemble of musicians who perform on the album.
“I don’t expect to win, but that would be totally mind boggling. But it’s just such an honour to be nominated with all these incredible musicians all of which are doing music that is extremely important throughout their own cultures and telling amazing stories.”
Rosenberg will be going to the Grammy Awards with his dad, who said he is “so proud” of his son.
“It’s so amazing that Isaac went and learned this material and really paid tribute to what those children went through at the time. Children that wanted to share their experiences knowing that the chances were so low that these songs would ever be heard again,” said Dan Rosenberg, who also produced ‘Yiddish Glory.’
“It’s kind of hard to imagine. I look back to when I was his age and I could never in my wildest dreams imagine going to the Grammy’s.”
The Grammy Awards will be held on Feb. 10 at 8 p.m.