Classical pianist tells story with song, theater

By Ben Tinsley

Mona Golabek

DALLAS — Renowned classical pianist Mona Golabek will use a combination of music and theatrical storytelling to recount her mother’s horrific experience as a child in Nazi-occupied Vienna during a special presentation Wednesday, June 10.
The story of Lisa Jura, Golabek’s mother, will be a prominent part of “An Evening With Pianist Mona Golabek: The Children of Willesden Lane,” at 5 p.m.  Wednesday at the Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora Street. The event is hosted by the Young Leadership Committee of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.
When Golabek performs, she hears her mother’s voice telling her to share “the spiritual power of great words and music to heal our souls,” according to a museum statement.
“That is why she often does not simply play music,” the statement reads. “She also tells stories — especially her mother’s story.”
Long before she was married or a mother, Lisa Jura was a 13-year-old Austrian pianist and child prodigy who aspired to perform in Vienna’s Musikverein concert hall.
But those dreams were crushed by the invasion of the Nazi Party’s invasion of her community during Kristallnacht.
Jura — a Jew and Vienna native — saw her father stripped naked and humiliated on the street. Her beloved piano teacher was told he was no longer allowed to teach Jewish children.
Young Lisa escaped Austria — and the threat of Gestapo concentration camps — with her life. But only because she gained passage on the Kindertransport.
But she would never see her parents again.
After the war, Lisa Jura moved to Paris, where she met Michel Golabek, a French resistance fighter she would later marry. They immigrated to the United States. The now-married Lisa Jura Golabek  began teaching music to her daughters Mona and Renee Golabek.
Mona Golabek later co-wrote the book, 2002’s The Children of Willesden Lane, which chronicles her mother’s experience with the Kindertransport. A play titled The Pianist of Willesden Lane was adapted and directed by Hershey Felder, based on the book.
In an interview documented as part of the Annenberg Learner Series, Golabek was quoted as saying it took her nearly 10 years to write The Children of Willesden Lane.  But she first started learning about it from her mom at age 7.
“It was like a fairy tale, in a strange way,”  Golabek said. “She told me the stories during my piano lessons with her.”
Lisa Jura Golabek died in 1997. Golabek’s sister, Renee Golabek-Kaye — an accomplished pianist in her own right — died in 2006.
But the music lives on in Golabek, who was taught piano in most part by her mother (who learned in turn from her mother Malka Jura).
When asked in an interview whether she had other piano teachers aside from her mother, Mona answered: “I studied with several outstanding pianists: Leon Fleisher, Reginald Stewart, and Joanna Graudan. But my mother was my true teacher and inspiration.”

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