Martin Franklin & Michael O'Dempsey – Kolbe

C45 with on-body printing in jewel case, printed two-sided j-card and wrap-around o-card sleeve

Experimental soundtrack to a play you probably didn’t think existed, and definitely didn’t think you’d hear, steeped in historical context, and comprising a sonic mixture of early digital synthesis with eerie tape loops, feedback and 80’s stomp box effects.

Kolbe tells the story of a Polish Catholic priest who volunteered to die in place of another man in Auschwitz during WWII. In July 1941, a prisoner escaped from the camp, prompting the deputy commander to pick ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the men selected, Franciscek Gajowniczek, a young husband and father, cried out, Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take his place. According to an eyewitness, who was an assistant janitor at that time, in his prison cell Kolbe led the prisoners in prayer. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. After they had been starved and deprived of water for two weeks, only Kolbe and three others remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied, so they gave the four remaining prisoners lethal injections. He died on 14 August 1941. Years later he was beatified as a Confessor of the Faith by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonised as a saint by Pope John Paul II in 1982, with a feast day celebrated since on the day of his death as part of the General Roman Calendar.

Over the course of 1985-86, the production company Theatre of Poland, toured Kolbe, a play based on the book by Desmond Forristal, to Catholic churches around Europe. The recordings presented here are part of a cassette that sold on the tour, recovered in Lyttelton, New Zealand, and then mastered in Brisbane, Australia, in April 2023. Audio snippets have also been added to the cassette, including live recordings from the theatrical performance at St Edwards Church, Windsor, September 1986, as well as snippets from the films, Tag der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht (1935), and Festliches Nuernberg - Ein Film aus der Stadt der Reichsparteitage (1937). Please note these are exclusive to this version and do not feature on the digital recording.