by Frank Alkyer

There are stories that seem so unbelievable they have to be true. Such is the case with the film No Place On Earth, a documentary about a group of 38 Jews who hid in the caves of Southwestern Ukraine for 511 days to survive the Holocaust.

It’s not the kind of story that typically gets covered in DownBeat, except for one reason—music. Singer Rondi Charleston and pianist Fred Hersch wrote the original song “The Cave Knows” for the film. And when No Place On Earth had its Midwest premiere on April 10 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, Charleston was there, too.

It was the most unlikely of performance spaces for Charleston, but she confidently performed to an appreciative audience that included three of the film’s subjects, who are now in their 80s.

“The thing I kept in mind was, ‘This isn’t about me,’” Charleston said after the performance. “It was about them and serving their story.”

She added that in writing the song, she and Hersch struggled to come up with the right theme. “It became most logical to us that the cave was another character in this story. The cave knew everything that they went through. The cave would not forget.”

A trailer and information on the film are posted on its website.

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