Benjamin Wolf


Sacred Days of Strasbourg

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The Zemel Choir: Zemel Goes Stateside


The Zemel Choir: Celebrate With Song




Organised and hosted by the Zemel Choir in its 60th year, the 4th European Jewish Choral Festival was a wonderful event. The Ukrainians came. So did the Germans. The French hopped over the channel, and the Italians flew in from Rome. As Britain contemplates a referendum and a lonely future, over 400 people joined the Zemel Choir to celebrate what is best about the European Union, at least where Jewish music is concerned. In the middle of June 2015 the Fourth European Jewish Choral Festival took place with a very special gala concert on the 14th of June 2015. The European Jewish Choral Festival began life in London in 2012, and was the brainchild of the Zemel Choir’s Musical Director, Benjamin Wolf. Kick-started during the London Olympics and the Cultural Olympiad, this event has since been held in Vienna (2013) and Rome (2014). This year the festival came home (it’s coming home, it’s coming home). The British may not always win at football, but they are pretty good at spreading a love for Jewish choral music. Performances during the festival comprised a concert in Wembley, a Shabbat service at Belsize Square Synagogue, and a final gala concert at West London Synagogue. The Zemel Choir sang alongside five visiting European ensembles and also collaborated with the professional choir of Belsize Square Synagogue. The visiting performers included professionals, amateurs, instrumentalists and soloists. There was liturgical music and folk music, as well as show-tunes and music from beyond the synagogue. From Germany the hosts welcomed the Synagogal Ensemble Berlin, a professional choir which hosts its own annual choral festival in Berlin. They also welcomed the Leipziger Synagogalchor, a semi-professional group whose membership includes many non-Jewish German singers who are interested in the performance of Jewish music. From Paris – a city much troubled by recent events – we were delighted that the Ensemble Choral Copernic took part, as well as also being reunited with old friends, the Coro Ha-Kol of Rome, hosts of the 2014 festival. The line-up was completed by the Varnitshkes Ensemble, a troupe of enthusiastic players and singers from the Ukraine, who took the bus the bus all the way from Lviv to be with us in London. The Fourth European Jewish Choral Festival marked the culmination of a busy season for the Zemel Choir and in recent months the Zemel choir has performed at Westminster Abbey and sung for its annual Celebrate with Song event at London’s JW3.