Film documents daughters’ musical gift to honor their father, a Yale alumnus and WWII veteran

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A screening of the film “Letter from Italy, 1944: A New American Oratorio” which tells the story of the oratorio created by the daughters of Yale School of Medicine graduate and World War II veteran Dr. John K. Meneely Jr., will take place on Monday, Sept. 21, at 4 p.m. in the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St.

The film was created by Emmy Award-winning documentarian Karyl Evans, who is a fellow at Jonathan Edwards College, and is narrated by Meryl Streep.

John Meneely was a young medical student when he was catapulted into World War II at the age of 28. He served in the 10th Mountain Division, enduring the hardships and horrors of war in the Aleutian Islands and later in the Apennine Mountains of northern Italy. He described his experiences in letters sent to his wife, in which he told of his boredom and dread, and injury and loss. But some of his hardest battles were fought after returning home, where he suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome and struggled to become the husband, father, and doctor he had aspired to be before the war. He eventually committed suicide.

Two of Meneely’s daughters, Connecticut poet Nancy Meneely and Grammy-nominated composer and Yale School of Music alumna Sarah Meneely-Kyder, used their father’s letters to create the oratorio in memory of their father. The Greater Middletown Chorale premiered their “Letter from Italy 1944” in 2013.  Evans’ documentary first aired on Connecticut Public Television in June of this year.

The screening is sponsored by the Yale Medical School Alumni Association, among other Yale organizations. It will be followed by a panel discussion on post-traumatic stress disorder and its impact on families.

For more information, visit the film’s website.

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