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Jacobson Muses on Lenny
Upcoming Concerts
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Last chance to buy Zamir recordings
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Meet Cameron Wetzel

The second movement of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms includes a lyrical, thoughtful setting of Psalm 23, "Adonai Ro'i." The score calls for a boy alto soloist to play the part of David the Psalmist, as a young shepherd. The singer must be able to hold his own with pitch, breath support, and difficult intervals, against complex

harmonies. It is not an easy task. We are delighted to have Cameron Wetzel as our guest soloist for the December and March performances. As you can see, Cameron is already a seasoned musician:

Cameron Wetzel
Cameron Wetzel

E. Cameron Wetzel is a seventh-grade honors student at the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School and a member of the Boston Boy Choir. He performs with the Choir at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge each weekday morning and every Sunday; and at the Christmas and Spring Concerts held at St. Paul's. He also sings with the Choir at events throughout the Boston area. Highlights from last year include singing at Fenway Park. He also performed on the school's trip to Canada, at St. Anne de Beaupré and other locations in Quebec. In addition to singing, Cameron has performed with the Winchester Cooperative Theatre. He enjoys playing soccer and recently achieved his second-class rank in Boy Scouts.

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 WINTER 2010
Dear Friends of Zamir,

We hope you had an enjoyable autumn and a happy Hanukkah! In this edition, catch up on Zamir's busy season of uplifting concerts and collaborations. Get a sneak peek at our 2011 programs, including the April 10 premiere of Mohammed Fairouz's choral symphony, Poems and Prayers. But first, don't forget Hanukkah Happens XXI at Temple Emanuel on Thursday, December 23--this year, we're paying special tribute to Leonard Bernstein. Check out the details below!


In each issue of E-Notes, Artistic Director Joshua
Josh Jacobson 12/5/09
Joshua Jacobson
Photo by Larry Sandberg
Jacobson shares his unique insights and experiences as a world-renowned scholar, composer, conductor, and influential teacher of Jewish music.

Leonard Bernstein was my idol. I identified with him in so many ways. Here was a Jewish kid from Boston who made it big in the musical world. Although thirty years separated us, Leonard and I went to the same high school and the same college. At Harvard, we lived in the same dormitory (Eliot House) and had the same thesis advisor (A. Tillman Merritt). In my senior year, I was doing some research on Bernstein's thesis, and I was able to dig it up from the basement of the Music Library; it was amusing to see all the red ink and criticisms provided by Prof. Merritt.


Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein

Bernstein burst onto the public scene on the front page of the New York Times on November 14, 1943, when the young assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic filled in at the last minute for the ailing Bruno Walter. A star was born! Fifteen years later, Bernstein returned to the New York Philharmonic to become the first American-born conductor to be appointed music director of a major symphony orchestra.


Bernstein's connections to Judaism were deep and strong. He was descended from a long line of Jewish scholars. His father, Sam, was disappointed that his son didn't become a rabbi or at least go into the family business, beauty salon supplies. (Years later, when Sam was asked why he discouraged his son from becoming a musician, his response was a classic: "How could I know my son was going to grow up to be Leonard Bernstein?") But Leonard Bernstein never denied his Jewish roots, and his career as a teacher revealed his rabbinic streak. As he was rising to fame, his mentor, Serge Koussevitzky, advised him to convert to Christianity and change his name to something less Jewish-sounding, but Lenny refused, sticking proudly to his given name.


Many of his major works were based on Jewish themes--the Jeremiah Symphony, the Kaddish Symphony, Chichester Psalms, Halil, The Dybbuk--to name but a few. Even his non-Jewish works have some Jewish connections. His MASS of 1971 includes a setting of the "kedushah" from the synagogue liturgy. The musical that would become West Side Story in 1957 was originally to have been East Side Story, based on conflicts between Jewish and Catholic youth at Eastertime. And Bernstein was a passionate supporter of the State of Israel, guest conducting the Israel Philharmonic on many occasions, including performances for Israeli soldiers at the end of the wars of 1948 and 1967.


We were amazed that Bernstein could be so successful in so many careers. He was conductor (with his own orchestra and in many guest appearances), educator (at Brandeis, at Harvard, at Tanglewood, and on television), writer, pianist, composer of popular Broadway musicals, and composer of "serious" concert music. Bernstein himself felt the conflict and requested a sabbatical in 1965 from his conducting duties with the New York Philharmonic. During that time off, after much musical wrestling, he was able to produce that choral masterpiece, the Chichester Psalms. The composer summed up the process in a poem sent to the New York Times. It ends with the following lines:

These psalms are a simple and modest affair,

Tonal and tuneful and somewhat square,

Certain to sicken a stout John Cager

With its tonics and triads in E-flat major.

But there it stands--the result of my pondering,

Two long months of avant-garde wandering--

My youngest child, old-fashioned and sweet.

And he stands on his own two tonal feet.


Hanukkah Happens XXI:
Tribute to Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Thursday, December 23,7:30 pm, Temple Emanuel, 385  Ward St., Newton. Don't miss this special tribute concert marking the 20th anniversary of Bernstein's death, Hanukkah Happens XXIfeaturing Emanuel's Hazzan Elias Rosemberg. The program showcases the composer's Hebrew music (including Chichester Psalms), and includes highlights from three of his stage works: West Side Story, On the Town and Candide. Proceeds go to American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA)-Boston. Contact Temple Emanuel for more information.


Encore! Bernstein with the Brookline Chorus at BJMF

Sunday, March 13, 2011, 2:00 pm, Sanders Theatre, Cambridge. If you can't make it on December 23, be sure to come to Sanders as Zamir offers an encore of the all-Bernstein program, in collaboration with the Brookline Chorus, directed by Lisa Graham. This concert is part of the 2011 Boston Jewish Music Festival. Check BJMF in the coming weeks for ticket information.

Concert and Symposium: April "Middle East Harmonies" Events Include Premiere of Choral Symphony by Mohammed Fairouz

On Sunday, April 10, 2011, 2:00 pm, Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, the Zamir Chorale will present the world premiere of Symphony #3: Poems and Prayers, a large-scale choral Mohammed Fairouzsymphony by Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz. This exciting new work creates an artistic framework for dialogue between Arab and Jewish cultures and narratives. Zamir will be joined by the Zamir Orchestra and the Northeastern University Chamber Chorus, both conducted by Jacobson; the Boston City Singers, an inner-city children's chorus directed by Jane Money; and renowned soloists Lynn Torgove, mezzo-soprano; and Dana Whiteside, baritone.

Co-sponsored by Northeastern's Middle East Center for Peace, Culture, and Development, and the Consulate General of Israel to New England, the first movement of Poems and Prayers provides a setting of the Aramaic Kaddish (ancient Jewish prayer praising the Eternal One). The second movement, an intimate lullaby that a mother sings to her deceased son, is the setting for a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, and includes solo clarinet and mezzo-soprano solo. Then, a men's choir sings "Oseh Shalom," a call for peace, set as a minyan. The third movement features a solo setting of a Fadwa Tuqan song in Arabic. Next, the children's chorus sings "Oseh Shalom," followed by a large-scale finale--a setting of Yehuda Amichai's "Memorial Day for the War Dead." The symphony ends with a plea for peace and a vision of hope and reconciliation. 

On the following evening, Monday, April 11, the "Middle East Harmonies" symposium will be held at 7:30 pm, at Northeastern University's Fenway Center, 77 St. Stephen Street, Boston (free admission). A distinguished panel will address the use of music to increase empathy and mutual understanding among people who have been separated by borders of various kinds and alienated by conflicting politics. Presenters include Jacobson, Fairouz, Prof. Denis Sullivan, and featured speaker Prof. Benjamin Brinner.

Other cooperating groups include: Northeastern's Department of Music and Department of Jewish Studies, Harvard Hillel, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, American Jewish Committee, and the New Center for Arts and Culture.

For further details on Middle East Harmonies, go to  www.chorus.neu.edu/meh.


Alumni Luncheon Honors Pernick and Ehrmann


Over 80 members of the Zamir family--including some from as far away as New York and Philadelphia--attended a delightful and delicious luncheon on December 5, when the Zamir Alumni Relations Committee (ZARC) honored alumna Ruth Birnbaum

Pernick and veteran Zamir member Johanna Ehrmann at Temple Reyim in Newton.

Alumni lunch 2010
The Zamir women serenade Johanna.
Photo by Larry Sandberg

Alan "Tep" Teperow, Chair of ZARC, kicked off the song-filled (naturally!) festivities. Before the honorees were toasted, longtime Zamir tenor Leila Joy Rosenthal presented a moving tribute to alumna Donna Levy,who passed away last summer.

Next, past honoree Larry Sandberg offered words of tribute to Ruthie, who sang with Zamir from 1973 to 1985. Herb

Josh Jacobson and Ruth B Pernick

Josh Jacobson and Ruth Birnbaum Pernick           

Photo by Larry Sandberg

Birnbaum, also a Zamir alum, spoke in honor of his sister. Herb, two of Ruthie's children, and a few Chorale "veterans" offered a parody of "My Favorite Things" that included a guessing game about Ruthie's past. Rachel Seliber presented a gift of pottery handcrafted by fellow alumna Cheska Komissar.


Johanna, who joined Zamir in 1979 and has served as alto section leader for many years,was treated to tributes by fellow alto and past honoree Sue Carp-Nesson, whose special parody song included a lineup of soprano and alto dancers.

Jeanne Segal, Leila Joy Rosenthal and Johanna Ehrmann
Jeanne Segal, Leila Joy Rosenthal, Johanna Ehrmann 
Photo by Larry Sandberg

Bass Mark Stepner and alto Phyllis Werlin also offered original skits songs to celebrate Johanna, joined by a group of Zamirniks. Alumna Joanne Camann, who presented the gift of a "Cheska original" to Johanna, spoke about Johanna's unique qualities and contributions not just to the alto section but to the entire Zamir family. Josh Jacobson led the assembled group in a sing-along of the honorees' favorite Zamir tunes.

Fifth Annual Open Sing

Following the December 5 luncheon, choral singers representing a half-dozen choruses, as well as conducting students from the Greater Boston area, gathered at Temple

Open Sing 2010
Open Sing 2010
Photo by Larry Sandberg

Reyim for this year's Open Sing. The afternoon featured choruses from Handel's Judas Maccabaeus and Bloch's Sacred Service. Alumnus Hazzan Scott Sokol served as baritone soloist for the Bloch--we are always grateful for Scott's sublime voice. As in past years, non-singing listeners formed an appreciative audience for the "instant" choir. We hope to see you again next year! Zamir is grateful to Phyllis and Michael z"l Hammer and the Newton Cultural Council for underwriting the Sing.

"Upward" with the Mystic Chorale and Zamir 

On the night of the dress rehearsal for "Upward," a joint concert of Jewish spiritual music with the Mystic Chorale, our dear friend Nick Page, Mystic's founding director, was hospitalized with a health emergency. (He is recuperating nicely.) So, what do 200 spiritually minded, big-hearted musicians do when one of their fearless leaders suddenly falls ill? They sing. They celebrate life. They come together as one. And that's just what Zamir and the Mystic Chorale did on November 20 and 21 in Converse Hall at Boston's ornate Tremont Temple Baptist Church, raising the roof with joy and prayer.

Under such challenging circumstances, both groups more than rose to the occasion in single and combined sets featuring themes of spirituality and ascendancy.

Mystic Chorale
Mystic Chorale performs with Zamir 
Photo by Liz Diamond

Filling in for Nick was Ruth Roper, as Mystic kicked things off with a lively set including "Nign," and "I'm Gonna Get Through This World." Zamir's 50 singers then joined Mystic's 150 singers onstage for "Halleluhu," "Go Down Moses," "Erets Zavat Khalav," and "There's Honey in the Rock," arranged by Page. Zamir's Edwin Swanborn accompanied on the piano, with Taki Masuko on percussion, and Becky Wexler on clarinet.


Zamir opened the second half with selections by Carlebach and Rossi, followed by "Sanctus/Kedusah" from Bernstein's MASS,and Page's rousing new work, Kodesh Hem, with Cantor Scott Sokol filling in for Nick as soloist. When the two groups rejoined, "Alle Brider" ("All Brothers") took on new meaning. The energy reached a peak with Nick's "L'Eyla," followed by Leonard Gregory Burks's "Every Day Is a Day of Thanksgiving," with Mystic's Mark Parisi as soloist. The tears flowed but so did the cheers and clapping, as audience members danced in the aisles, reaching upward...and upward.


In an email to Josh after the concerts, Nick wrote: "I wanted to thank you for your prayers. I also wanted to thank you for what I hear was an amazing weekend. The Mystic community, which has always been strong, has become even stronger

 Nick Page and Josh
Nick Page pays a surprise visit to Zamir's November 30 rehearsal at Hebrew College.
Photo by Larry Sandberg

because of you. I am delighted that you brought people to tears with your performances of the Rossi and the Bernstein ... For me, this concert was always about "L'Eyla," spiritual transcendence. The deep well of Jewish music was the ONLY vehicle for this deep and joyful transcendency. My eternal thanks to all of you."


Thank you, Nick, for who you are and for bringing the true passion of singing to so many for so long. Get well soon!

Hartford Happened 

On Sunday, October 24, Zamir traveled to West Hartford for an exciting late-afternoon concert at Beth El Temple, presented by the Charter Oak Cultural Center. The appreciative crowd enjoyed a full slate of Zamir's best, including liturgical favorites mixed with jazz, folk, and Yiddish. Special thanks to our guest clarinetist, Adam Berkowitz. New to the touring repertoire are Brubeck's exhilarating "Shout unto the Lord" and excerpts from Jeremiah Klarman's Hallel Shir V'Or. Whenever we go out of town, we're reminded of our mission to bring Jewish choral music to new audiences. Thank you, Charter Oak. We hope to return again soon. 

Halleluyah/Alleluia: Psalms of Praise

In celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church and the fifth anniversary of Boston Jewish Spirit, Zamir joined Boston's Spectrum Singers and Orpheus Singers for another collaboration filled with energy and the

Halleluyah perfomers
The combined choirs and conductors take a bow. (From left: James Olesen, John Ehrlich, Josh Jacobson) Photo by Matt Griffing

spirit of community: "Halleluyah/Alleluia," on October 17 at the Emmanuel Center in Boston. The concert opened with the combined group of over 100 singers processing into the sanctuary, singing Josh Jacobson's arrangement of "Showt to the Lord al the Earth," from the Ainsworth Psalter.


Each group presented a set of Jewish and Christian musical interpretations of psalms of praise from ancient to modern times. Commentary from Reverend Pamela Werntz and Rabbi Howard Berman bookended the event, which concluded with all three groups performing Bernstein's "Hinei Ma Tov," from Chichester Psalms.


Highlights of Zamir's set included Shlomo Carlebach's mystical "Lekhu Neranena," for which Zamir creates a "surround-sound" effect; and psalm settings by Rossi and Lewandowski. John Ehrlich led Spectrum in lyrical works by Boulanger and Schubert, ending with Ives's thrilling bitonal setting of Psalm 67. James Olesen's Orpheus Singers presented pieces by Brahms, Lassus, and Wolpe--and wowed the audience with a stunning new a cappella work for men's voices by Orpheus singer and composer Brett Johnson, "Out of the Depths." 


"This special collaboration was a wonderful fulfillment of Zamir's mission to broaden the audiences of Jewish music, to introduce non-Jewish audiences to the variety and beauty of Jewish music," said Josh Jacobson of the afternoon's festivities.

As always, let us know what you're up to--we love hearing from our friends near and far. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and peaceful 2011.
Barbara Gaffin              
Managing Director 

Deborah Sosin
Editor, E-Notes