Local conductor honors Catholic saint with musical composition

Paul Stanberry, musical conductor of the Hamilton-Fairfield Orchestra, composed the piece “I Maximilian….” at the request of St. Maximilian Catholic Parish in Liberty Twp.

caption arrowCaption
Paul Stanberry, musical conductor of the Hamilton-Fairfield Orchestra, composed the piece “I Maximilian….” at the request of St. Maximilian Catholic Parish in Liberty Twp.

A martyr’s life is being honored through the music of a Butler County conductor.

Paul Stanberry, musical conductor of the Hamilton-Fairfield Orchestra, has composed the original composition “I Maximilian….” in honor of the Catholic priest who died saving the life of one man and attempting to save the lives of many others at a death camp in Auschwitz, Poland.

“He was a simple Catholic priest who found himself in Auschwitz because the Nazis deemed him a dangerous person because he was actually hiding Jewish refugees — over 2,000 of them,” said Stanberry, who wrote the musical piece at the request of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Parish in Liberty Twp.

This past August marked the somber 75th anniversary of Kolbe’s 1941 death. He was canonized as a Saint of the church in 1984.

When Nazi soldiers discovered a fellow prisoner of the priest’s cell had escaped, they selected 10 men to send to a “starvation bunker,” where they would be starved to death to set an example, according to Stanberry, who extensively research the priest while composing the musical piece.

“So they picked the 10, but they did not pick Maximilian — they picked the man next to him, who immediately started to sob and cry,” Stanberry said. The story goes that Maximilian told the soldiers to take him instead.

“He gave his life for this man,” Stanberry said.

While he was in the starvation bunker with the other men, Maximilian would sing hymns, recite Bible verses and pray with the others.

“He would try to pump them up and give them courage,” Stanberry said, adding that Maximilian was the last one alive after the 10 days. When the Nazis needed space, they injected him with a lethal drug.

The premiere performance of Stanberry’s “I Maximilian….” will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday at the church, 5720 Hamilton Mason Road. The Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony Orchestra will perform the musical piece.

The concert will also feature Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture,” Beethoven’s “Symphony #5” (“V” for Victory in WWII) and John Williams’ “A Hymn to the Fallen” from the movie “Saving Private Ryan.”

The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education is also contributing some displays that that will be available for those in attendance to view.

About the Author