A Song is Born
‘Mademoiselle’ Andrée Geulen In the summer of 1942, as persecution of Belgium’s Jews began, an underground Jewish group took form in cooperation with the Belgian underground and set out to rescue Jewish children by hiding them in various places around the country. The most active team consisted of twelve-women, mostly non-Jewish, who managed to hide some 3000 children. This admirable clandestine campaign was unique by the complexity of its structure and the degree of its success.
The only remaining survivor from the team is Andrée Geulen, and on September 4, a great number of the children who had been hidden, celebrated her ninetieth birthday. The celebration included a screening of a DVD in which singer Keren Hadar performed a song in her honour. The song stirred a great deal of emotion.
This song, composed very shortly before the event, arose from an impulse on the part of one of the hidden children — Shaul Harel, who today is a professor of paediatric neurology.
And this is how it happened…..
One warm summer day at the Isrotel Dead Sea Hotel, the Harel family was visiting for a performance of the opera Aïda at Massada. Shaul Harel was lolling alone in the whirlpool bath. As the warm water and the complete solitude began to take effect, he wondered intensely what gift he could bring to Andrée for her birthday. “After all, she already has everything. After the war, she married a Jewish attorney, they were blessed with two daughters and with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to this day she is surrounded by the love of the children she rescued.”
Suddenly, as to Archimedes in his warm bath, the Muse descended to him. Although he did not emerge with a mathematical equation — since mathematics was never his subject — he just as suddenly decided to write her a poem. And this is not to be taken lightly, since for many years he had written nothing but medical documentation and articles.
The warmth of the water and the atmosphere brought lines tumbling into his mind, and as if possessed, he burst into the hotel room and told his wife, Dahlia, to sit down and transcribe because otherwise the lines would “get away” from him. His wife raised her eyebrows, thinking that the desert heat had overpowered him. But she consented and soon a poem was on paper telling Andrée’s story. Shaul’s imagination took him further and he said that the poem should be set to music and his favourite singer, Keren Hadar, should perform it.
Since the poem was written in free verse, Dahlia worked rhymes into it. The poem was read to Keren and she was moved to tears. She said that it was suitable for setting to music and that she would like to sing it. She recommended Rafi Kadishzon, a prolific and well-known composer. Rafi heard the poem, liked it, and immediately recommended Dan Almagor, a master of the Hebrew word, to adjust the text for the music. In the end, Dan Almagor contributed greatly to the rhythm, to the refrain, and to the perfect fit of the lyrics.
All this occurred in the course of two weeks. A week later, the song was recorded, the DVD visuals were prepared, and copies were printed with graphics and with a French and English translation. Everyone who saw it was moved, and now, here it is for you……
‘Mademoiselle’ sung by Keren Hadar, with English translation – To watch click HERE