Cynthia Dretel '10 Receives Fulbright Award

Cynthia Dretel ’10 has been awarded a Fulbright grant to study at Wroclaw University in Poland.  She will be continuing her research into Polish music from the Holocaust that she began as an Honors student last year.  Dretel discovered manuscripts of szopki, Polish Nativity puppet plays, written in two Holocaust concentration camps. The musical manuscripts were filed away in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and little or no scholarly work had been done on them. During the year of her Honors project, Dretel learned Polish in order to translate and analyze the plays to show their historical importance and how the symbols were code for life in the concentration camps.

“Cynthia’s project was unlike any other Honors project I have directed. She literally brought to life a musical manuscript,” said Dretel’s advisor, Dr. Larry Lipkis. “She transcribed the music, created a modern edition that can be performed by choirs, and researched the szopki tradition. It was a prodigious task—practically two Honors projects in one—and necessitated an inordinate amount of hard work. “

“I was thrilled to learn I was chosen for a Fulbright research grant to Poland and also very honored that my host country is interested in my research,” said Dretel.

The scholarship will further Dretel’s research on two szopki written in the concentration camps of Ravensbrück and Dachau. Dretel will research Polish culture, folklore, and music through University of Wrocław’s Eastern studies, musicology, and ethnography departments to undertake in-depth study of each folk song and carol in the plays. “This study will help me decide accurate tempo markings and musical expressions, as well as provide a better understanding of each song’s symbolism and context,”  she explained.The Polish Catholic inmates who wrote the plays provided insights of camp life by altering lyrics to popular songs. In the play from Dachau, one myth was altered to secretly describe what it was like for a prisoner to arrive at the camp.

Dretel credits opportunities at Moravian, such as an internship and SOAR projects at the Moravian Music Foundation and with music professor Hilde Binford, for providing the music editing skills that enabled her to make performance editions of the two manuscripts. “These experiences also gave me the chance to work as an independent researcher on my Honors project,” she said. “Dr. Lipkis, my advisor, gave me the confidence to trust my intuition as I began the original research on these plays, and he offered valuable insights along the way.”

“When Cynthia’s szopkis from the Dachau and Ravensbruck concentration camps are eventually published, she will have created a singular and significant addition to Holocaust studies, “ said Professor Lipkis. “Choirs in Polish Catholic congregations whose members may have lost relatives in Dachau and other camps will have a poignant musical connection to their past.”