The Story Behind the Tim Lorsch’s “The Suitcase”
By Jeffrey Jamner
For most of his musical career, Tim Lorsch has been a session musician and a member of the bands in Nashville, but not the featured artist. He is a thorough professional who has always loved playing a support role.
“I have spent my lifetime avoiding the spotlight. I have been perfectly content and happy to be a role player and figure out what it is I need to do to help someone else’s vision. And I have never been the instigator or the creator of a vision.”
Lorsch did not see himself as a creator, because he didn’t really believe that he had a story to tell. . . until the day that the suitcase arrived.
Prior to that day Tim had developed an interest in his family who perished in the Holocaust. This interest grew after being contacted by a genealogist, after going through boxes of family photos, and after transcribing ten hours of interviews that were produced by two cousins, interviews with his parents and a grandmother.
Although he understood what it took to tell a story through music, he still did not feel like he had a cohesive story worthy of sharing through his art form. And then, in 2016, the suitcase that had belonged to his father’s uncle arrived from the Czech Republic. It was sent to him by a Catholic man named Miroslav Berger who devoted much of his life to finding the possessions of Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, and return them to their families.
For five days, the large box containing the suitcase remained unopened. It was too overwhelming to face it so quickly. And after opening the suitcase, and seeing the writing inside that had his Great Uncle’s name, an address, and his transport number (from Berlin to Theresienstadt concentration camp), everything began to crystalize for him. For members of our community who watched the 2022 Louisville Jewish Film Festival, you may have already noted some parallels between Lorsch’s journey that begins with the discovery of a suitcase in the film “A Starry Sky Above the Roman Ghetto.”
Tim Lorsch now had a big story to tell, and as an artist, he felt like he was “the luckiest person on the planet.” For the first time he felt ready to begin stepping into the spotlight as a creative artist.
It took five years to develop his vision into a full-length program ready to share with audiences. There were many learning curves related to mastering the complex technology to get the results he wanted out of his electrically amplified string instruments. And then there was the risk that lurks in the minds of all creative artists, “you do it, and you have no idea if this was going to work.” But his belief in the power of these stories propelled him.
Now in its third incarnation, Tim Lorsch’s “The Suitcase” will come to Louisville on December 8th at 7:00 PM as part of the Trager Family JCC’s Three Pillars programming. What will you experience? Tim Lorsch’s program will combine storytelling, visual projection of photos and videos, and original music designed to convey the emotion behind the stories that go beyond the words themselves.
All the music for the program is original and performed live on violin, baritone violin (tuned lower than a viola), and cello. Mr. Lorsch uses a process called “live looping” which allows him to create a chamber orchestra by himself without using any prerecorded music. He plays a musical phrase and has that phrase start automatically repeating itself. He then adds another phrase on top of that one. Mr. Lorsch continues to add layers until he has fashioned a full string ensemble producing a listening experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen or heard.
Lorsch shared why it is important to tell and to hear these stories. He talked about living in an age of “alternative facts” and disinformation. To those who deny the history of the Holocaust, he responds by explaining something unique about this history: when something terrible happens to a group of people, you usually rely on the personal stories of the victims for historical evidence. In this case, we also have the meticulous records kept by the perpetrators that confirm these events, adding “this is what happened to my family. When you hear their story, I hope that you will feel their humanity.”
To purchase tickets to the event, please go to jewishlouisville.org/3-pillars.