Written by on 6th March 2023

A Sunderland-born musician and composer will present a newly composed song inspired by the heroic lives of two sisters who helped 29 Jews escape Nazi Germany.

Photo of Alison (Alison Cotton © Al Overdrive)

Composer Alison Cotton will perform “Engelchen” at Seventeen Nineteen, Holy Trinity Church, in Sunderland on Saturday, March 11 (5pm).

It is based on Ida and Louis Cook; two opera-obsessed sisters who spent their early years in Sunderland. In English, Engelchen translates to “Little Angels” and refers to a term used to address the sisters in letters written by some of the people they were trying to save.

The performance is also inspired by refugees, who met with Alison via the charity North East Rise and spoke of their journeys and barriers they have faced.

As well as Alison’s performance, there will be a short talk on the lives of the sisters by Professor Angela Smith of the University of Sunderland. Professor Smith has researched Ida and Louise in her work on Sunderland Culture’s Rebel Women of Sunderland project and will talk about the sisters’ rescue work, their journeys, their love of opera and their link to Sunderland.

Alison said: “I’m proud to be from Sunderland, it’s a strong part of my identity. It’s wonderful to see how much culture continues to thrive in the city and I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this in my own small way for one evening.

“I hope to create a moving experience though my event by performing music inspired by the lives of Ida and Louise Cook. A story of such bravery and kindness which is so relevant to the times we live in today. Given their connection to Sunderland, I hope it is something that local audiences will find an interest in.”

Tracey Mienie from Seventeen Nineteen said: “We are absolutely delighted to be hosting Engelchen. Sunderland has such a rich and diverse history and thanks to Alison we can celebrate and remember the amazing work of Ida and Louise Cook. A unique event not to be missed.”

Tamsin Austin, Venue Director of The Fire Station said: “It’s right and proper that Ida and Louise have joined the illustrious ranks of Sunderland Culture’s Rebel Women of Sunderland – theirs is a remarkable story of bravery and determination.”

Click here for tickets.

Event poster (Artwork by Graeme Hopper)

Current track