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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.
I love the old American folksong “How Can I Keep from Singing?” first published in the 1860s:
My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth's lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro' all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?
What a wonderful message for our time! “Thro' all the tumult and the strife” of 2020, music has been a sweet solace. And even as difficult as it has been to keep making music in ensemble, we have persisted. Zamir continues meeting weekly even if it has to be on Zoom. We present performances, even if it has to be virtually. Because, as the Psalmist wrote (Psalm 104), “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will chant hymns to my God all my life.” How can we keep from singing? The biblical prophet Amos said, “Just as when a lion roars you can’t keep from being terrified, when I hear the word of God, I can’t keep from prophesying.” And the great conductor Howard Swan wrote, “A poet must write, an artist must paint, and musicians must make music if they are to be at peace within themselves. What we can be, we must be.”
Whatever it takes, we will continue to make inspiring music and bring it to you. How can we keep from singing?
Zamir is delighted to offer free "Zoominars" on various musical topics taught by members of the musical staff and guests. Sessions are held once a month on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 pm.Tickets are free, but we welcome contributions of any amount to help defray our expenses ($18 suggested).
On December 8, Josh Jacobson presented an hour-long program on the significance of the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, including musical and cinematic clips reflecting on Al Jolson’s career as well as topics that resonate in today’s world, such as assimilation and racism.
Conducting intern and university lecturer Andy Friedman (pictured) presented "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing: A Brief History of Jazz" on January 5. Andy took us on a whirlwind historical tour of jazz, from its roots in African-American slave songs, gospel music, blues, and ragtime to the post-bebop innovations of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. WATCH HERE.
SAVE THE DATES! On February 2, Cantor Jeff Klepper will present “Moses on the Air, Izzy in the Square: The Jews Behind the Sixties Folk Revival.” Stay tuned for details of future Zoominars on March 2, April 6, and May 4. Be sure to sign up for our email list to preregister in order to receive the link.
Bringing the Joy of Jewish Music to Your Home
Weekly Musical Message
We hope you've watched and enjoyed our Musical Messages, a weekly email that features a video recording from Zamir’s archives, specially selected and introduced by Maestro Jacobson. As part of the "Kolot Nashim" series, we will feature profiles of several prominent women composers and conductors, as well as a look at some of the roles women have played in Jewish music from ancient to contemporary times. All of these programs can be seen and heard on zamir.org and JewishChoralMusic.com.
Musical Tribute for Lewandowski's 200th Birthday
On March 14, Zamir will stream a “Happy Birthday” program for composer Louis Lewandowski on his 200th birthday. The program will feature videos of our performances as well as historical background, interviews, and a few special surprises. Watch your email for details.
Want to help Zamir continue to bring the joy of Jewish music to homes around the world?
Protect yourself and your community while helping Zamir raise funds by purchasing a face mask! Zamir masks sell for $12 a piece or $50 for a package of five. You can arrange to pick up your mask(s) in Newton, MA, or have it/them shipped to you (free shipping for one; $6 for five). Purchase here.
Enjoy Zamir's performance of "Hallelujah Amen," a Singing from Home Virtual Choir. Just click on the image below.
As always, let us know what you're up to--we love hearing from our friends near and far. Stay safe and be well. And may 2021 be filled with peace, good health, and continued musical blessings for all.
Happy New Year! We hope you are safe and well, wherever you are. Despite the necessary restrictions of the pandemic, we have continued to share our music in various virtual forms—weekly Musical Messages, monthly educational and entertaining Zoominars, virtual choir videos, and informal alumni gatherings. The current choir members meet weekly on Zoom to keep their vocal chops in good condition even though they are singing alone in their homes—guest experts have participated to share techniques and coaching support. So sit back, relax, and enjoy catching up on all things Zamir!
Hanukkah Happens 30th-Anniversary Retrospective
On December 24, Temple Emanuel and Zamir joined up once again—this time virtually—to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our popular annual collaboration, Hanukkah Happens, presented by Emanuel's Music Committee.
Hundreds of people watched the uplifting and wide-ranging program from the comfort and safety of their homes. Hazzan Elias Rosemberg (pictured) hosted the event, which was co-curated from the archives by Josh Jacobson and Larry Sandberg, and featured selections spanning from 1992 to the present, including Jeremiah Klarman’s exuberant “Hallel Shir V’or.” Among the guests was Hazzan Charles Osborne, Emanuel’s former cantor, who reminisced about the beginnings of the annual concert.
Jewish Music by Women
On November 17, more than 400 people attended Part I of our virtual presentation “Kolot Nashim: Jewish Music by Women Composers.” This live-streamed event featured co-hosts Joshua Jacobson and conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya and included fascinating interviews with composers Nurit Hirsh, Alice Parker, and Meira Warshauer, as well as performances of their music.
A highlight of the evening was the world premiere of Warshauer's “Place These Words,” with text from Deuteronomy.
In response to that piece, Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, wrote, "An exquisite, deeply felt performance of a beautiful piece. Most imaginative filming. Bravi!"
This series is dedicated to the memory of Linda Plaut (pictured), z"l, Newton’s longtime Director of Cultural Affairs and founder of the Newton Festival of the Arts, and celebrates the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment.
If you missed our premiere, you can watch Part I by clicking here. Part II will be streamed on May 25 and will feature music by and interviews with Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Elena Kats-Chernin, Achinoam Nini, and others.
Car Choir in Sharon, Mass.
A certain Sharon neighborhood
might have been surprised to see a group of cars gathering on November 22. Thirty-six Zamir singers (split between two forty-five minute sessions) sat in their own cars and, using hands-free microphones through their open car windows, sang their individual part.
Meanwhile, in the driveway nearby, Josh conducted and Ed Swanborn played keyboards while Larry Sandberg, tech genius extraordinaire (pictured), using his multichannel sound board, mixed the voices together in real time with no time lag, and aired the live ensemble on a pre-selected designated FM car radio channel.
The singers could hear themselves and the rest of the choir, which is not possible on Zoom right now. It wasn’t the same as being in person but fun nevertheless! When the weather cooperates, we hope to do it again.
To echo Josh’s Musing, above, “How can we keep from singing?!”