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The Zemel Choir: Zemel Goes Stateside

 

The Zemel Choir: Celebrate With Song

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Celebrating with song

Founded in 1955 by Dudley Cohen the Zemel Choir from Britain is arguably one of the world’s finest mixed voice Jewish choirs. They perform regularly in the United Kingdom, USA and many parts of Europe. In March 2009 the choir performed three concerts in Israel to enthusiastic audiences

Lloyd Masel

Published:

04.14.09, 13:32 / Israel Culture

 

The repertoire of Zemel is vast and covers a broad range of traditional Jewish melodies; Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Yiddish and Israeli. In 2006 the choir revived parts of a Jewish opera which had not been performed since 1912.

The opera, ‘King Ahaz’ was written in Yiddish by Samuel Alman, probably Britain’s foremost composer of Jewish liturgical music. Alman made a major contribution to synagogue music with choral arrangements of traditional tunes.

In 2005 the choir was featured in a Chandos recording of Ernest Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service) with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Simon.

In recent years the choir has reached out to non-Jewish audiences through appearances on the BBC. Its annual festival of Jewish Choral Music, called ‘Celebrate with Song’ aims to bring Jewish music to audiences and amateur singers of all denominations.

On Sunday June 14, 2009, the choir will perform ‘Celebrate with Song’ at St. John’s, Smith Square with a program of American Jewish choral music featuring composers Gershwin, Lehrer, Weill and more.

Talented young British conductor Benjamin Wolf has been conductor of the Zemel Choir since 2003.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3701458,00.html

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Jan 13, 2009 14:44|Updated Jan 13, 2009 14:47

UK’s Zemel Choir plans Israel tour

 

The Zemel Choir, a leading mixed-voice Jewish choir from the UK, will return toIsraelin March, with concerts scheduled in Ra’anana, Karmiel and Rishon Lezion.

THE ZEMEL Choir will mix 19th century works with Lennon and McCartney.
Photo: Courtesy

Under Musical Director Benjamin Wolf, the choir performs a wide range of music in Hebrew, English, Yiddish and Ladino, written by composers from allaround the world. The Zemel Choir performs regularly in London to both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, has been on the BBC and recently released an album of Jewish choral music.

On itsIsraeltour, the choir, accompanied by British cantor Robert Brody, expects to sing synagogue music by 19th century composers Lewandowski and Sulzer, works by Israeli composers such as Gil Aldema and Yehezkel Braun, American music by Copland and Tom Lehrer, liturgical and folk music by British composers, and lighter numbers by the likes of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach.

The choir, which was established in 1955, was last here in 1996.

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http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1231774444336&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

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The Zemel Choir return visit Israel

 

 

 

 

 

In March 2009, the Zemel Choir – the UK’s leading mixed-voice Jewish choir – makes a welcome return visit to Israel, performing concerts in Ra’anana, Karmiel and Rishon LeZion. In the years since its last visit – to the Zimriyah in 1996 – the choir has been expanding its international contacts, having visited the Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Its members are now looking forward to renewing the choir’s long-standing friendship with Israeli audiences.

The Zemel Choir is well known to London concert-goers, both within and outside the Jewish community, performing regularly in both Jewish venues and London’s major concert halls. In recent years it has reached out to non-Jewish audiences through appearances on the BBC, and in the last few months released its latest CD of Jewish choral music. Its annual festival of Jewish Choral Music – entitled Celebrate with Song – aims to bring Jewish music to audiences and amateur singers of all denominations.

Under Musical Director Benjamin Wolf, the choir has earned a reputation for performing a wide range of music in Hebrew, English, Yiddish and Ladino, written by composers from all around the world. For this tour to Israel, the choir will perform classics of synagogue music by the nineteenth-century composers Lewandowski and Sulzer, works by Israeli composers such as Gil Aldema and Yehezkel Braun, American music by Copland and Tom Lehrer, liturgical and folk music by British composers, and lighter numbers by the likes of Lennon and McCartney and Burt Bacharach. It is accompanied by the much-loved British cantor, Robert Brody.

A tour like this only happens once every thirteen years, and is a chance not to be missed. Don’t wait until 2022 to hear it!

http://www.tourism.gov.il/Tourism_Euk/Tourist+Information/Press+Releases/The+Zemel+Choir+return+visit+Israel.htm

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French choir the Polyphonies Hebraiques de Strasbourg make British debut at Belsize Square Synagogue

From The Jewish Chronicle November 13, 2008

French Jewish choir the Polyphonies Hebraiques de Strasbourg made its British debut at Belsize Square Synagogue on Sunday. The 40-strong French choir is based at the University of Strasbourg, which contains departments of Hebrew and musicology. According to its founder and conductor, Argentinian-born musicologist Hector Sabo: “We sing Ladino songs, Yiddish, Italian and modern Israeli.” The concert, marking Remembrance Sunday and Kristallnacht, also featured soloist Eliot Alderman - son of JC columnist Geoffrey Alderman - with the Zemel Choir under its director Ben Wolf.

Last updated: 3:45pm, November 13 2008

http://www.thejc.com/articles/french-choir-polyphonies-hebraiques-de-strasbourg-make-british-debut-belsize-square-synagog

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Zemel remembers Kristallnacht in song

From The Jewish Chronicle Leon Symons November 6, 2008

The Zemel Choir will be taking part in a special concert to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht at Belsize Square synagogue in north west London on Sunday evening.

The Zemel will be joined by the Polyphonies Hébraïques de Strasbourg, a 40-strong mixed choir that is based in the Jewish studies and Hebrew department of the Marc Bloch University of Strasbourg.

The programme will include French compostions, classic compositions by the great 19th century German composer Louis Lewandowski, as well as works by Solomon Secunda and lighter items in English, Ladino and Yiddish. Belsize Square Synagogue, which was started by refugees who fled the Nazis, willcelebrate its own 70th anniversary next year.

http://www.thejc.com/articles/zemel-remembers-kristallnacht-song

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Singing the praises of choral works old and new

12/06/2008

By Roderic Dunnett

It was working in Jerusalem with the Ankor Children’s Choir which prompted Gregory Rose to compose Sha’alu Shlom Yerushalayim, his new 23-minute choral work for upper voices and harp, which receives its world premiere in London next week.

The choir — attached to the Jerusalem Rubin Conservatory of Music and Dance and run by Dafna Ben-Yohanan — is made up of children aged roughly 8 to 16. They have appeared with most Israeli orchestras as well as with major orchestras abroad.

“Dafna is an inspiring conductor, and really motivates the children, and as a result she gets fabulous results,” says Rose, who is currently professor of conducting at Trinity College of Music in Greenwich in London. “We met at the Hereford International Summer School, where I taught conducting, and she invited me to Israel to conduct and work with children. They were marvellously alert and responsive, and extremely rewarding to work with.”

Sha’alu Shlom Yerushalayim, which will be performed alongside Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms by harpist Vicky Lester and soprano and alto members of the Jupiter Singers under Rose’s direction, consists of strikingly beautiful and energetic settings, in the original Hebrew, of half-a-dozen or more psalms.

“The opening mood is quite gloomy,” he explains, “but the mood gradually turns more happy and optimistic. The message is partly political: I hope it will communicate an affirmative message: the idea that the generation now growing up in Israel may find peace in a better future.”

Meanwhile, also in London, the Zemel Choir is presenting its second Celebrate with Song mini-festival, which aims, by means of workshops and performance, to introduce audiences and participants (of any denomination) to mixed-voice Jewish choral music.

Choir director and conductor Benjamin Wolf says the festival is unique. “Lots of people don’t really know how much Jewish choral music there is available. Our workshops are open to both intermediate and more experienced singers, and span 10 centuries of Jewish music, from early Hebrew plainsong to Baroque cantatas.”

Sha’alu Shlom Yerushalayim is performed at St James’s Piccadilly, London W1 on Wednesday June 18 at 7.30pm. Tel: 020 7381 0441. Celebrate the Song continues at St John’s, Smith Square, London SW1, with a choral performance on Sunday June 15 at 7.30pm. Tel: 020 8236 0317 for details, 020 7222 1061 for tickets.

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Choir delving deep into musical past

05/06/2008

By Leon Symons

Ten centuries of Jewish music were in play as the second year of the Zemel Choir’s “Celebrate With Song” got under way in Central London on Sunday.

Participants grappled with scores from early Hebrew plainsong to baroque cantatas in intermediate and advanced workshop groups. Each is learning several pieces that will be performed in a concert also featuring the JFS and Pandemonium choirs at St John’s, in Smith Square, Westminster, on June 15.

The programme, the brainchild of Zemel musical director Ben Wolf, is sponsored by the Harold Hyam Wingate Trust, the BBC’s Play It Again campaign, the Jewish Music Institute and the Spiro Ark Foundation.

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Jewish radio for a new generation

17/02/2008

Hannah’s guest this week is Benjamin Wolf - conductor, composer, pianist and academic. They will discuss his role as Musical Director of the Zemel Choir and the work he has done conducting the Wallace Ensemble, of which he is co-founder. They will also explore his varied compositions, ranging from Jewish liturgical music to settings of Homeric poetry in Ancient Greek, while they delve into the social history of 20th century music, on which he is currently writing his PhD. Tune in for a fascinating chat with a multi-talented portfolio practitioner par excellence.

Music will include works by Wolf himself, as well as pieces by Britten, Tallis, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Lewandowski and Kriwaczek.

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Keeping the chair

14/06/2007

A workshop designed to revive interest in choral music was given by theZemelChoir in Covent Garden, central London, on Sunday.

Organised by musical director Ben Wolf and backed by the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, the workshop attracted 35 new singers. A second workshop will take place this Sunday, ahead of an evening concert at St John’s Smith Square.

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10 June 2007

Sunday 10 June 2007 18:30-20:00 (Radio 3)

Aled Jones talks to composer Judith Bingham about her latest project and discovers riches of a choral variety in London’s financial district.

Singer: Psalm 117
Zemel Choir
Olympia OCD647

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Jewish Chronicle 5th April 2007

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Chorus of approval

24/11/2005

Gaby Wine

MUSIC: The Zemel Choir’s 50th anniversary concert was a poignant as well as a triumphant occasion

The Zemel Choir 50th Anniversary Concert

St John’s, Smith Square

It’s around this time of year that I am struck down by Christmas Carol envy, writes Gaby Wine.

However, last Sunday’s extraordinary concert marking the 50th anniversary of the Zemel Choir was a timely reminder that Judaism has its own rich and beautiful tradition of choral music.

The audience packed into St John’s, ready to applaud the Zemel (the name is an acronym for the Hebrew for “North-West London” — “Tsphon Ma’arav London”). This talented group of amateur singers flies in the face of Jewish Orthodox convention by having males and females singing together.

For the occasion, all seven of the choir’s past conductors joined the current musical director Benjamin Wolf on the podium, giving every song added poignancy.

The evening opened with a jubilant “Halleluyah” by 19th-century composer Louis Lewandowski, which set audience expectations high. With a performance spanning 30 songs over three hours, the choir lived up to them.

The highlights included ana capella version of “Shir Hama’alot,” by 17th-century musician Salamone Rossi. It’s a song habitually raced through after eating, but this version savoured every note.

The traditional Chasidic niggunim “Ken Bakodesh” and “Ai Di Di Di Dai” were fittingly upbeat, and the rich vocals of tenor Robert Brody led Kurt Weill’s “Kiddush” in the jazziest version of the piece I have ever heard.

The evening was also an opportunity for conductors to premiere their own impressive compositions, including a deeply moving Psalm 95:1-7, composed by Malcolm Singer and dedicated to his late mother. Indeed, it was fascinating to see the contrasting style of the conductors — from choir founder Dudley Cohen’s controlled and focused approach to Geoffrey Simon’s flamboyant movements.

For the final numbers, around 100 previous Zemel members squeezed onto the stage to sing some old favourites, and the audience was invited to join in with the British and Israeli national anthems.

While it was rousing to sing in a hall with such great acoustics, I personally would have preferred to sing along with Israel’s 1979 Eurovision winner, “Hallelujah,” sung by the choir earlier in the night.

That, after all, summed up how most of us were feeling.

http://website.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=40644&ATypeId=1&search=true2&srchstr=zemel%20&srchtxt=0&srchhead=1&srchauthor=0&srchsandp=0&scsrch=0

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Vocal heroes

16/11/2005

Simon Round

The Zemel Choir is celebrating its 50th birthday. Simon Round reports

This week, the Zemel Choir really has something to sing about.

The Jewish mixed-voice ensemble celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday night with a concert — expected to be a sell-out — which will be attended by all six of the ensemble’s previous musical directors as well as hundreds of former members and well-wishers.

The choir’s history actually goes back even further than 50 years. In 1948, a keen musican called Dudley Cohen formed a youth choir, the first to bear the name Zemel (an acronym of Tsfon Ma’arav London — North-West London). In 1955, after completing his National Service, Dudley revived and reconfigured the choir and remained its conductor and musical director until 1975.

Notable performances over the course of its history include the “Kaddish For Terezin” at Canterbury Cathedral, which was broadcast live on the BBC in 1986, and singing in BBC1’s “Songs of Praise” Holocaust Day broadcast this year.

The ensemble’s repertoire embraces Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yiddish and Hebrew songs.

Fittingly for a choir with such a cosmopolitan range, it has travelled widely, with tours to the USA, Canada, Israel, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, where it sang at Polish Holocaust memorial ceremonies at Warsaw and Treblinka.

This Sunday’s concert will feature liturgical pieces, concert works and folk music, including compositions by George Gershwin, Ernest Bloch, Kurt Weill and Naomi Shemer, plus world premieres of new works written specially for the choir by former musical directors.

The Zemel Choir 50th anniversary concert takes place on Sunday at St Johns, Smith Square, SW1, at 7.30pm. Tickets on 020 7222 2779

http://website.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=40423&ATypeId=1&search=true2&srchstr=zemel%20&srchtxt=0&srchhead=1&srchauthor=0&srchsandp=0&scsrch=0

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Relocation

31/03/2005

Two Purim spiels in one issue! Fortunately, members of Hendon Reform Synagogue have a sense of humour, and enjoyed the joke of seeing the Zemel Choir, led by Danes-croft’s own choir-leader, Benjamin Wolf, photographed on our unmistakable bimah.

The joke, of course, was the caption, which relocated them to Nottingham’s Hebrew Congregation, and stated that the leader was Robert Brody.

Almost as good as the “new Israeli flag.”

ED JC: We sincerely apologise for Hendon’s inadvertent relocation (but do take some pleasure in the response to our report on “new Israeli flag.” In Washington, we are told, Egyptian officials called the Israeli Embassy for further clarifications on the new banner.)

 

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East meets West

26/11/2004

The autumn’s big Jewish music event takes place this Sunday on the South Bank. Musical Dialogues of East and West is a day-long celebration of how Arabic and Oriental sounds have impacted on the western classical tradition,

The highlight of the day is a performance, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, of Handel’s great oratorio, “Judas Maccabaeus,” by the London Chorus and the New London Orchestra, with special guest conductor, Rudolf Goldsmith.

But with 12 hours of concerts, discussions, and dance, there’s plenty to choose from. Klezmer band She’koyokh, team up with theZemelChoir and chamber musicians the Wallace Ensemble for what promises to be a fascinating orchestral concert at the QEH, while Middle Eastern music is brought to the fore at the Purcell Room with a performance of traditional Jewish and Arab folk song.

Presented by the Jewish Music Institute, and supported by the JC, Musical Dialogues of East and West features some of the most prominent performers in the field — Lucie Skeaping and the Burning Bush play a range of Jewish folk, there’s outstanding jazz from Avishai Cohen and Yonathan Avital, and mezzo soprano Ruti Halvani pays tribute to composer Paul Ben-Haim.

Full details of the programme are on page 51, tickets are available on 08703 800 400 (online bookings at www.rfh.org.uk).

 

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Zemel hits high notes with new director

14/02/2003

The Zemel Choir has named Benjamin Wolf as its musical director.

The North-West London-based mixed choir was led, until December, by Vivienne Bellos, who announced last summer she was to leave after four seasons as musical director.

Mr Wolf, 26, has a double first from Oxford, where he was a choral scholar.He has a postgraduate diploma in conducting from Trinity College of Music, London, and has participated in masterclasses with a variety of leading musicians, as well as the London Soloists Chamber Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra of Lithuania.

He regularly performs with cellist Alison Holford and is co-conductor and founder of the Wallace Ensemble, a professionalgroup of students and former students of London music colleges. As well as presenting musical items on Radio Three, he is also involved in the choir at Bromley Reform, where he and his family are members.

He is now working on a composition for piano and orchestra called “L’Chaim,” funded by the Millennium Commission and the Jewish Music Institute. Part of the composition was premièred in 2001.

Welcoming Mr Wolf’s appointment, choir chairman Philip Roth told CC: “The choir is very excited to to have appointed Benjamin Wolf as its director and looks forward to working with him on a varied programme of concerts, tours and recordings, exploring the world of Jewish music.”

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Zemel head goes solo

30/08/2002

The musical director of the Zemel Choir, one of the UK’s leading Jewish choirs, is to step down after four seasons in the post.

Vivienne Bellos has said she will leave at the end of the year to devote more time to her career as a soloist.

In a tribute, concert manager, David Craig said: “The four years under Viv have done much to rejuvenate a much-loved institution. Her musical technique and professional vocal experience have brought new insights to the choir, and her enthusiasm and warmth ensured that each rehearsal was fun and challenging.”

Her commitment to Jewish music had brought “many bonuses for the choir,” which had sung at a many key events in the Jewish calendar, he said.

A spokesman said the choir was now seeking a successor.

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Community’s top mixed choir selects first woman director

08/01/1999

DAVID SONIN

FOR THE FIRST time in its 44-year history, the community’s leading mixed-voice ensemble, the Zemel Choir, is to have a woman as its musical director.

At its annual meeting held on Monday, members of the choir voted in favour of soprano Vivienne Bellos, who is the musical consultant to the Reform movement, being given the post.

Ms Bellos — who also directs the Alyth Choral Society — will succeed Robert Max.Mr Max is leaving the choir after five years to pursue other musical interests.

Ms Bellos expressed delight at her appointment, not least because she is the first singer to hold the Zemel’s top job.She begins her duties at a rehearsal on January 18. Her first major concert in charge will be in June.

Zemel chairman Rusty Davis told the JC: “The appointment of a woman is novel. But I am sure that no doors that have been open to us will be closed as a result.

“I am equally sure that Ms Bellos will open many other doors.”

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Zemel Choir in Riverdale

Liturgical pieces and folk tunes will be performed in Hebrew, Yiddish and English by the Zemel Choir of London tomorrow night at 8:45 at the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale, at Henry Hudson Parkway and 250th Street in the Bronx.

The 35-member choir, started 25 years ago, will be directed by its founder, Antony Saunders. Tickets are $7.50 ($3 for students), and proceeds benefit the synagogue. Information: 543-8400.

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/05/08/arts/zemel-choir-in-riverdale.html_________________________________________________________________________________________

2001 “Sunday Worship” for Holocaust Memorial Day - BBC Radio 4

1996 Zimriyah Opening Concert broadcast - Israel National Radio

1993 East European Tour broadcast on BBC World Service

1990 “Expressions of Reconciliation & Hope” broadcast on TV from York Minster

1987 “Home on Sunday” with Yehudi Menuhin - BBC TV

1987 “Music of a People” with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Stanley Black - BBC Radio 2

1986 Kaddish for Terezin (World premiere) broadcast on TV & radio from Canterbury Cathedral

1981 Canadian Radio broadcast

1980 “Come Sunday” - Southern Television

1969 “Let The People Sing” Songs of Praise - BBC TV

1965 International Llangollen Eisteddfod - BBC TV us 1965 Music for the film “Cast a Giant Shadow” starring Kirk Douglas

1965 “Hallelujah” - ABC Television

1962 International Llangollen Eisteddfod Celebration Concert broadcast