Jewish choirs’ ‘Sing Out’ was OUTstanding
By Cantor Sheldon F. Merel
LA JOLLA, California–Jewish Choral Music is alive and well at the Jewish Community Center.
It was truly a “ Sing Out” on Sunday Afternoon, April 3rd at the JCC featuring two separate choral concerts from several local congregations plus independent choral groups. It was a showcase of San Diego Jewish choirs under the auspices of the JCC s Music Series Committee to highlight the diversity of choral talent in our community. The 1 p.m. concert was already reviewed by Sandy Golden on this website, so I will attempt to describe the 4 p.m. concert which played to a full house.
Both concerts were presented in memory of Cantor Henri Goldberg, who made a major imprint as Choir Master for several choirs in San Diego after retiring from the active cantorate. The Concerts were inspired and chaired by Eileen Wingard, and smoothly produced by D.Candi Paule. It was an important first of its kind and offered audiences an opportunity to hear local Jewish choirs in a neutral setting, outside their respective congregations.
The San Diego Jewish Women’s Choir/ Sisterhood /Shira opened the program under the fine direction of Bracha Cyark with Rhoda Gaylis at the piano. It is rare to hear a women’s choral group and a delight to hear these 19 women make a splendid vocal blend with two Hebrew and one Ladino songs.
Not to be outdone, 20 members of the San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir followed with two Hebrew folk songs and the classic setting of Psalm 150 by Louis Lewandowski, which they also performed at the earlier 1 p.m. concert. They were well prepared and sang with gusto under the sharp direction of Ruth Lopez-Yanez. It was a fine program balance having them follow the lighter voices of the Women’s Choir. The Jewish Men’s Choir has been entertaining audiences around San Diego for many years, and rehearse once a week to hone their skills and broaden their repertoire. I had the pleasure of participating in one of their programs as guest soloist several years ago when they were under the direction of the gifted Rhoda Gaylis.
For the balance of the concert we heard the magic of Beth Israel’s Cantor Arlene Bernstein, directing the 12 member Shabbat/Festival Adult Choir, 65 youngsters in the Teen/Youth Choir and 6 instrumentalists of the Chai/Teen Band in eclectic selections of Jewish songs. They Youth Choir filled the stage and hall with their beautiful voices. Their Passover Medley with Echad Mee Yo-dayah words sung in Hebrew, Ladino and Yiddish was a gem!
The combined Adult and Youth choirs accompanied by the Chai/Teen Band closed Beth Israel’s segment of its program with an original composition, Anim Z’mirot by Andrew Meyer at the piano. An outstanding violin solo by Myla Wingard, and a too brief solo by Cantor Bernstein highlighted Meyer’s music. Arlene Bernstein’s programming and direction for the afternoon was a class act!
For the piece de resistance, all the choirs in the program returned to the stage to sing Y’rushalayim, (arranged by Henri Goldberg), L’shana Haba-ah, and Hatikva. Maestro David Amos of the Tiffereth Israel Community Orchestra conducted the combined choirs with Rhoda Gaylis at the piano. Becca Myers added moving narration prior to the singing of the Hatikvah.
On a personal note, Henri Goldberg was a colleague and friend of mine in the early 60s in the San Francisco Bay Area, when he was cantor of the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center, and I was cantor for Temple Sinai in Oakland. In 1962 we participated in a unique Interfaith concert, A Sacred Music Bridge from Synagogue to Church for the American Guild of Organists in Walnut Creek, California. Cantor Goldberg was a prodigious arranger and composer, and was always eager to share his creativity, friendship and vast cantorial talent. Thanks to the many hours Eileen Wingard and Ted Parker spent in organizing and cataloguing Henri’s musical manuscripts in the JCC library, they found a liturgical arrangement he had dedicated to me back in 1965, which I never seen. Henri Goldberg’s memory will live on through his music and friendship.
The programs on April 3, 2011 was called Sing Out San Diego Jewish Choirs, and indeed they did SING OUT to bring a wonderful afternoon of Jewish music to an enthusiastic audience. Kudos to the singers of every age who spent countless hours learning, memorizing and rehearsing their individual parts. We commend the choral directors for consummate time spent in researching, selecting and arranging appropriate songs. Thank you JCC, and all the choirs who made Jewish choral music history in San Diego.
Sheldon F. Merel is cantor emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel.
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