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Home Away From Home was conceived and put together by Willy Schwarz. Most of the titles are the musicians’ own compositions. New stylistic elements have been added to traditional themes, and new lyrics written – resulting in something that is new and yet seemingly familiar to us. The Immigrant Orchestra bases its name on the world-famous fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, but has the edge on its fi ctional counterparts in one signifi cant respect: its musicians actually arrived in Bremen. Willy Schwarz, the brains behind the ensemble and also its musical director, has had some experience in Chicago with similar projects: the All – American Immigrant Orchestra and the Chicago Immigrant Orchestra.
A project such as this one, featuring eleven musicians from nine nations, raises a lot of musical questions. What can any person from one culture contribute to the repertoire of any other? The concept of the Immigrant Orchestra is to maintain traditions on the one hand while simultaneously developing a new musical repertoire together on the other. In this respect, the musicians, each trained in a particular traditional music style, still do not regard themselves as a ‘folk’ ensemble, nor are they eager to present a fashionable mix of „global“ music (indeed, they dispense with electric instruments for that very reason). Instead, ambivalence and complexity become a principle of the compositions. Curiosity about the music of „others“ and the ability of the individual musicians to feel at home instantly in all kinds of different musical worlds make the The Immigrant Orchestra into an ensemble that is quite unique. If music is indeed the international language, then what we have here is a lively roundtable discussion.
In fact, the Immigrant Orchestra is a futuristic model for a multicultural society. The German language and German culture here serve the cause of international understanding rather than that of world domination. And a good thing too, because understanding takes mutual respect for granted. „Home Away From Home” was conceived and put together by Willy Schwarz. He was born in Michigan, USA, the son of Italian and German refugees. At a time when the concept of global music was as yet unheard of, Schwarz traveled the world from Brooklyn to Bombay and Katmandu to Kabul, researching, studying and playing music in all the musical languages of the world. In doing so, Willy Schwarz gained inestimable knowledge and also became a highly impressive musical all-rounder. He has played with such luminaries as Tom Waits, Ravi Shankar and Steve Martin. His excellent theater music won him the Drama Desk Award in New York. His last two CDs – „Home, Songs of Immigrants, Refugees and Exiles“ and „Jewish Music around the World“ received great acclaim from the international press and are now available from JARO Medien.