Faculty/staff honors: Holocaust commemoration, new compositions, a top local album of 2020

UW News staff

Recent honors and achievements by University of Washington faculty include a keynote address at a national Holocaust commemoration event, an album of new compositions and a best-of-2020 musical nod from the Seattle Times.

Sephardic Studies chair Devin Naar speaks at Holocaust commemoration event

Faculty/staff honors: Holocaust commemoration, new compositions, a top local album of 2020

Devin Naar

Devin Naar, UW professor of history and Jewish studies and chair of the Jackson School’s Sephardic Studies Program, delivered a keynote address for Sephardic Heritage International DC’s third annual Congressional Holocaust Commemoration, held virtually on Jan. 28.

The event, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, had the theme of “Refugees of the Holocaust.” The featured speaker was Albert Bourla, CEO of the pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, who told of his Sephardic Jewish family’s Holocaust survival; his parents were among the few Jews to survive the Nazi onslaught on Thessaloniki, Greece.

Naar spoke of Claire Barkey Flash, author of the 2016 memoir “A Hug From Afar: One Family’s Dramatic Journey Through Three Continents to Escape the Holocaust.” The Barkey family emigrated from the Mediterranean island of Rhodes to Tangier, and finally to the United States. Naar, who is the Isaac Alhadeff Professor in Sephardic Studies, wrote a foreword for the book.

Sephardic Heritage International DC is a nonprofit that celebrates Sephardic culture and raises awareness of the histories of underrepresented Jewish communities. Watch a video of the event.

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Melia Watras releases new album, ‘Firefly Songs’

Faculty/staff honors: Holocaust commemoration, new compositions, a top local album of 2020

Melia Watras

Violist, composer and music professor Melia Watras put out a new album in January. “Firefly Songs,” with14 of Watras’ compositions played with the ensemble Frequency and other guests, was released by Seattle-based Planet M Records.

Album notes say the compositions “are a reflection on stories, artistic influences and people that are interconnected points of light from her own personal folklore.” Watras composed the music, for various instruments and voices, from 2015 to 2018.

Members of Frequency are Watras, viola and voice; Michael Jinsoo Lim, violin and voice; and Sæunn Thorsteinsdottir, cello. Also on the album are the voices of Catherine Connors and Vina Vu Valdés, as well as excerpts of recorded viola lessons given by Atar Arad. Watras is the Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professor, viola.

Watch a video preview of the album.

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Ted Poor’s ‘You Already Know’ noted among best local albums of 2020

Faculty/staff honors: Holocaust commemoration, new compositions, a top local album of 2020

Ted Poor

An album by Ted Poor, assistant professor in the UW School of Music, was named on The Seattle Times list of the top albums of 2020. Poor’s “You Already Know” was released in March.

The Times asked 15 music critics to submit their top 10 lists for 2020 and then combined the results. “You Already Know” tied for No. 19 on the list. Though COVID prevented an in-person album release, the Times wrote, “this beautifully austere duo set with Seattle-reared sax man Andrew D’Angelo … hardly went unnoticed.”


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