Dear Friends,

Happy 2023! We hope this finds you healthy, peaceful, and warm, wherever you are. After a busy, glorious series of in-person fall events, we are gearing up for even more delights coming up, starting in March. Our season will end in June with our annual spring concert, Viva L’Italia, a journey through 400 years of Italian Jewish choral music. Also in this issue, you’ll find Josh Jacobson asking, “Are We HIPP?” (It’s probably not what you think.) So, please relax with some tea or cocoa and catch up on Zamir’s latest!

Josh Jacobson's Musings


In each issue of E-Notes, Artistic Director Joshua Jacobson offers his unique insights and experiences as a world-renowned scholar, composer, conductor, and influential teacher of Jewish music.


Are We HIPP?

What right do we in Zamir have to perform the sacred music of Salamone Rossi? Is it wrong for our large mixed choir to sing these pieces that were written for a small all-male ensemble?

I recently watched performances of Rossi’s music by an amazing ensemble, Profeti della Quinta—a few men who perform this music as it might have sounded in the composer’s time. It’s extraordinarily beautiful! This is “historically informed performance practice” (HIPP), an attempt to replicate the sound that the composer heard when he wrote his music and the way it was performed in his time.

profetti della quinta

But how do we know what that sound was? Obviously, there were no recordings. The notation from that period is bare bones. Unlike modern sheet music, there were no indications of tempo, dynamics, phrasing, articulation, or performing forces. Just pitches and rhythms and lyrics. So, we have to rely on period informers—accounts by people who witnessed their performances.

HIPP is all about the perspective of the composer and the performers. But what about the perspective of the audience? Recently, culture scholars developed what they called “reception theory”—how music (or a book, movie, or other creative work) is not simply accepted passively by an audience. Listeners interpret meanings of music based on their individual cultural backgrounds and life experiences.

Audiences today are quite different from those who heard the first performances of Rossi’s music. Consider that Rossi’s audiences had never heard Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Stravinsky, Gershwin, John Coltrane, or Joni Mitchell. The pace of life in Rossi’s time was likely much slower than ours and their environment perhaps less noisy. And they were hearing Rossi’s music in a worship service in a synagogue.


It is wonderful to hear music performed as close as we can get to what the composer heard in his/her head. But take the case of Johann Sebastian Bach. He often complained about his singers and instrumentalists. What he heard in his time was probably awful compared to performances of his music in our own time. Does HIPP demand that we perform Bach’s music with less-than-competent performers? What would Bach have thought of Glenn Gould’s idiosyncratic performances of his harpsichord music on a modern grand piano; or Stokowski’s orchestration of his Prelude and Fugue and its incorporation into Disney’s film, Fantasia (pictured)or Ward Swingle’s jazz arrangements of his fugues with the Swingle Singers?

I’m all for making the music of the past relevant to the audiences of today. While it is a revelation to hear Profeti’s performances of Rossi’s music as it might have sounded 400 years ago, I feel strongly that it is possible to present this music today in a way that speaks to our audiences—even if we perform it with a large mixed chorus. Why deny our singers the pleasure of singing it? Why deny our audiences exposure to the fascinating culture that produced this music 400 years ago? I really think Rossi was writing it for us.

Holiday Pops 2022

Hot Off the Press

Josh Jacobson’s popular arrangements of two Hanukkah songs, “Ma’oz Tsur” (arr. Binder/Jacobson) and “Drey Dreydeleh” (arr. Ellstein/Oysher-Jacobson/Hollenbeck), were performed at this year’s “Holiday Pops” concerts with the world-renowned Boston Pops Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus at Symphony Hall in Boston.

Of the arrangements, Marc Hirsh, in the Boston Globe, wrote: “‘Ma’oz Tsur’ was a sweeping Hanukkah chorale, while ‘Drey Dreydeleh’ offered a zippy klezmer romp.” And Dennis Alves, the Pops’ director of artistic planning, wrote in an email: “Your reputation means a lot to our Jewish musicians and, of course, to Keith [Lockhart], James [Burton, TFC conductor], and the entire Boston Pops staff.”

Upcoming Concerts

Julia Zavadsky

Nashirah: We Sing!

Sunday, March 12, 2023, 3:00 pm, Temple Reyim, 1860 Washington St, Newton: Save the date for this fabulous joint concert with Nashirah Choir of Philadelphia. This community-based chorale performs the broadest possible range of Jewish repertoire under the direction of Julia Zavadsky (pictured), who was born in Kyiv and studied in Israel before immigrating to the United States. Nashirah was featured in our “A Choral Rainbow” series last year. Watch your email for ticket information.

Sarah Boling

A Jimmy Fund Benefit Concert in Memory of Sarah Jane Boling 

Sunday, March 26, 3:00 pm, Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward St, Newton (in person and livestreamed): This special concert will feature the world premieres of music commissioned from composers Cantor Charles OsborneCantor Robbie Solomon, Nick Page, Daniel Gil, and Richard Craswell. The event is being produced by longtime Zamir bass Jordan Wagner in memory of his late wife and Zamir alto Sarah Boling z’l, in cooperation with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Performers include Zamir and Koleinu, plus several chamber ensembles under the direction of Elijah Botkin. All funds go to the Glioblastoma Brain Tumor Research Fund at Dana-Farber. More details here.

Voices of Humanity

Sunday, May 7, 3:00 pm, Vilna Shul, 18 Phillips St, Boston: In what has become an annual tradition, Zamir will perform as part of the “Voices of Freedom” concert, along with other local choirs. More details will be available in our spring issue. Check out the Vilna Shul website as well.

Viva L’Italia!

On Thursday, June 8, 7:30 pm, Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward St, Newton: For our spring concert, Zamir will celebrate the quadricentennial of the publication of Salamone Rossi’s pathbreaking and beautiful collection of synagogue music, “Ha-shirim Asher Lishlomo.” The first half features music by Salamone Rossi and Leon Modena, both sacred and secular, accompanied by period instruments. The second half includes Italian Jewish music from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Ticket information will be available in the spring.

Fall Roundup

Hallelujah! Hanukkah Happened at Emanuel

On December 22, Zamir presented the 32nd annual “Hanukkah Happens” concert, sponsored by Temple Emanuel. This year’s performance featured 18 varied settings of “Hallelujah,” including works by classical composers Salamone Rossi, Wolfgang Mozart, George Frideric Handel, and Louis Lewandowski; as well as contemporary composers Leonard Cohen, Jeremiah Klarman, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, and David Shukiar. Temple Emanuel’s Cantor Elias Rosemberg was our featured soloist, continuing our longtime partnership.

Concert at Temple Beth Shalom, Needham

On November 13, Zamir was delighted to perform an afternoon concert at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham. The event showcased music by Rossi, Weill, Weiner, Klepper, and featured conducting interns Cantor D.J. Fortine (who serves as TBS’s cantor) and Liana Perlman making their Zamir debut.

A Rossi Celebration

On October 26, Zamir presented a fascinating and uplifting YouTube Premiere program, hosted by Joshua Jacobson. The event coincided with the Jewish date of the publication of Rossi’s “Ha-shirim Asher Lishlomo,” ראש חודש חשוון, and included narration, music, and excerpts from Josh’s interviews with scholars in the field, including Prof. Howard Adelman, Prof. Barbara Wisch, Prof. Ben Ravid, Prof. Francesco Spagnolo, and Doron Schleifer and Elam Rotem of Profeti della Quinta. You may view the video here. And, BONUS, enjoy a newly produced YouTube video, an even deeper exploration of Rossi’s “Ha-shirim,” here.

To learn more about Rossi’s world and music, visit for interviews, performances, and articles.

Temple Reyim’s 70th!

On October 23, Zamir performed as part of Temple Reyim’s 70th-anniversary celebrations. Our set included Lewandowski’s “Mah Tovu,” Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s “Barukh Ha-ba,” and Machtenberg’s “Shehekheyanu.”

Keep in Touch

Wishing you a safe, healthy, and harmonious new year! And keep in touch—we love hearing from our friends from all over the world.

Barbara Gaffin

Managing Director

Debbie Sosin


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