Engelchen (“Little Angels”)
Music composed and performed by Alison Cotton inspired by the heroic lives of Ida & Louise Cook, two sisters who spent their early years in Sunderland. Amongst the most effective British transporters of Jews from Nazi persecution, these compositions focus on the sisters’ brave and important work in rescuing 29 Jews from the Nazis. The music is also inspired by meetings Alison has carried out with clients of the north east refugee charity The Other Perspective / North East Migration Partnership where refugees have told her their stories, about their journeys and the barriers they have faced. One of these refugees has written a letter to his family and friends about some of these experiences which he will read out at the event. Letters play a very important part in Ida and Louise’s story.
“Engelchen” (“little angel”) is the term which was used to address the sisters in letters written by some of the people they were trying to save.
As well as Alison’s performance, there will be a short talk on the lives of the sisters by Professor Angela Smith of the University of Sunderland. Professor Angela Smith has researched Ida and Louise in her work on the Rebel Women of Sunderland project and will talk of the sisters’ rescue work, journeys, their love of opera and their link to Sunderland.
Also taking place will be a poetry reading of London based poet Hilaire’s ‘‘The Cook Sisters Contemplate a Final Visit to Nazi Germany’ (from the book London Undercurrents, a joint poetry project with Joolz Sparkes). This will be read by local residents who will be announced nearer the time.
The sisters were opera fanatics, travelling the world to attend opera performances and meet and befriend their favourite female opera stars. It was this obsession that led to their important rescue work. They held “gramophone parties” at home when they weren’t travelling the world. As the audience arrive and leave the event, a gramophone will play Ida and Louise’s favourite opera singers of the time.
Inspired by the sisters’ incredible acts of kindness, there will be stamped envelopes around the venue where the audience will be invited to write a letter or note to themselves, or to someone else with their own promise.
This will all take place in the incredibly beautiful, historically important Grade I listed building, 17Nineteen. Holy Trinity Church was formerly the area’s parish church. “A place for everyone. 1719 gives people a sense of place and the freedom for contemplation. We believe in the power of the past to stimulate the future – remembering where you’ve come from” (1719)
This work was made possible by Sound and Music’s Composer-Curator programme in partnership with Sunderland Culture. Composer-Curator is supported by Arts Council England and PRS Foundation. Composer-Curator Sunderland was made possible with the generous support of The Joicey Trust.
Poster and artwork by Graeme Hopper