An Inspirational Story, on International Women’s Day

by Mike Mcdonnough on March 8, 2010

in Miscellaneous News

Today is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.  In countries such as China, Russia, Vietnam & Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is even recognized as a national holiday. The American based National Women’s History Project (www.nwhp.org) also this year celebrates 30 years of “Writing Women Back into History” for National Women’s History Month. The history of women often seems to be written with invisible ink. National Women’s History Month provides the opportunity to honor all the historic achievements women have made, while also acknowledging the extraordinary women within our own families and communities. The award-winning Janson Media documentary Song of Survival tells one such story, an inspiring one, about a group of brave women who survived three-and-a-half years in a Japanese prison camp in Sumatra during World War II.

Even as disease and malnutrition thinned their ranks, these Australian, Dutch and British women – missionaries, teachers, nuns, wives and children – used their unique choir to sustain a spirit that refused to accept defeat. These courageous women had something special going for them: the great music of Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin. Having no instruments but the human voice, they recreated from memory the complex symphonic music they had loved. Here is their remarkable story, told by the survivors themselves, aided by rare archival footage.

Songs of Survival was inspired by the book of the same name written by Helen Colijn. A World War II refugee, Colijn used “vocal orchestra” to survive the harsh reality of war camps. Since 1981, the Song of Survival project filled her life. Her sister Antoinette donated her vocal orchestra scores from the camp to Stanford University. Years after her death, Colijn’s music continues to help people find solace.

Songs of Survival was produced by Veriation Films and is now available for all television, DVD, VOD, non-theatric, and new media markets worldwide exclusively through Janson Media. The 70 minute DVD contains a 33-image Photo Gallery as an extra feature. The book Song of Survival: Women Interned by Helen Colijn, and the music from the camp sung by the Women’s Choir of Harlem, Holland (compact disc and cassette) are available from White Cloud Press, PO Box 3400, Ashland, Oregon 97520.