Westminster Abbey

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80th anniversary of Kristallnacht with a special service to be attended by survivors and members of the Jewish and Christian communities. The service will include music from Zemel Choir.

Armistice Day Concert

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Meet Nicky Gluch

2018/19 Zemel Junior Conducting Fellow

Nicky Gluch is looking forward to working with the Zemel Choir as Junior Conducting Fellow after having made a big impression with us at the 2017 Lewandowsky Festival in Berlin. Nicky made her conducting debut with the Eastern Sydney Chamber Orchestra and has since gone on to conduct choral-orchestral projects of her own. Having undertaken a Masters degree, Nicky’s interests include exploring aspects of conducting in the 21st Century and this year Nicky started working on her PhD. 

EUAJC

Zemel is a founder member of EUAJC

Thursday
Nov012018

8th November 6.30pm - A Service of Solemn Remembrance and Hope on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht at Westminster Abbey

Next week will mark the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, (‘Night of the broken glass’) where on the 9th and 10th November 1938,  the Nazis carried out a massacre of the Jews in Germany and Austria.  To commemorate this horrific event, Westminster Abbey is holding a service of solemn remembrance and hope. How poignant is it that the world has just witnessed another massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh?

This is the third time that the choirs of Belsize Square and West London Synagogues, along with the Zemel Choir, have performed for a service of this kind. Under the direction of Dr. Benjamin Wolf,  these services have sought to provide music that is appropriate for the purpose of Holocaust commemoration, while also remaining true to elements of both Jewish and Christian liturgical practice. During the service they will perform a selection of music that spans many hundreds of years, including compositions by three living composers.

Four Rabbis will be officiating in the service including Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and Rabbi Baroness Neuberger DBE, alongside the Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall. There will also be personal testimonies of survivors. 

The service begins with organ music by Walter Arlen (born Aptowitzer). Arlen was born in Vienna in 1920 (he is now ninety-eight years old) and fled that city in 1939. He has spent most of his adult life in the USA, where he worked for many years as music critic for the Los Angeles Times. His compositions have been discovered and performed relatively recently (the first CD of his music came out only six years ago), and many of them are inspired by his direct memories of Kristallnacht, as well as the memory of his father’s removal to Buchenwald, and of his mother’s subsequent suicide. The organ music at the end of the service is by Ernest Bloch – an earlier (and more famous) Jewish émigré composer who also spent most of his life in the USA, and his known for music that combines both classical and Jewish musical traditions.

The service is introduced by one of the earliest pieces of Jewish choral music. Composed by Salamone Rossi—a Jewish musician who worked for the Gonzaga court in Mantua in the sixteenth century—this is one of a collection of compositions through which Rossi brought the world of contemporary polyphony into the synagogue. The famous text of Psalm 137 is also appropriate, recalling a previous era when Jews went into exile as a result of violence. The service continues with a traditional High Holyday melody (Shema Koleinu) that is sung throughout the Anglo-Jewish communities, and with music by Louis Lewandowski, Director of Music at the Neue Synagoge in Berlin, and the most famous composer of nineteenth-century Jewish choral music. His music formed part of the liturgy that was familiar to German Jews of the 1940s, is regularly performed at Belsize Square Synagogue, and is an important part of the Anglo- Jewish repertoire. The Enosh Ke’Chatzir is probably his most famous memorial piece. The short excerpt from his Deutsche Schul-Lieder, however, has probably not been performed since the nineteenth century. This collection of songs was created for the children that he taught at a Jewish school in Berlin. It was evidently popular in its time, as it ran to five editions, but these songs for children have not achieved the same ongoing popularity as his liturgical music. The short song that will be performed seems particularly evocative as it speaks of children seeking shelter.

Aside from Arlen, living composers are represented in Malcolm Singer’s Meditation and Cecilia McDowall’s Through a Glass Darkly. Singer’s piece was composed in memory of Rabbi Hugo Gryn, a Holocaust survivor and former Rabbi of West London Synagogue who was very involved in inter-faith dialogue. This evocative piece concludes with an arrangement of Nurit Hirsch’s famous setting of the Oseh Shalom (may he who makes peace in the highest bring peace to all of us). McDowall’s composition was commissioned by the Zemel Choir and the Jewish Music Institute for Westminster Abbey’s Kristallnacht Commemoration in 2013, and will be performed again for this event.

 

Friday
Oct262018

World Premiere of "Armistice" to comemorate Centenary of WW1 Armistice

Press Release

World Premiere of “Armistice” composed by Dr. Benjamin Wolf, in Concert to commemorate the Centenary of the Armistice of WW1


“It’s exciting to hear a hundred voices sing aloud what I’ve had in my head all these months!  There’s still work to be done, but it’s coming together in rehearsal,’ reflects Benjamin Wolf about his new piece, ‘Armistice’, which gets its world premiere on Sunday 18th November. 
 
The 40-minute oratorio will be performed by the Zemel Choir and the Royal Free Music Society and accompanied by members of the Wallace Ensemble, conducted by Wolf.  He is the Musical Director of all three North London groups.  They will be joined by soloists, Charlotte-Anne Shipley (sop) and Edmund Hastings (tenor).
 
‘Armistice’ was composed especially for this concert to mark 100 years since the end of World War One – and to remember the millions of war dead.   
 
The oratorio’s text is taken from haunting First World War poems and sacred funerary texts all set to original music, combined with arrangements of World War 1 songs. 
 
“It’s a contemplative work and the songs and poems have been carefully arranged so they feed into each other.  It doesn’t tell a narrative story but hopefully it tells an emotional story,” says Wolf.  
 
He has selected the powerful words of war poets Laurence Binyon (“For the Fallen”), John McCrae, who wrote one of the most popular wartime poems “In Flanders Field” following the death of a friend in battle, and Charles Hamilton Sorley (“When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead”), who died when he was just twenty - one of the more than 80,000 Allied and German casualties at the 1915 Battle of Loos.
 
“The poets were responding to what they saw at the time and I’ve set the poems mainly as solo arias.  I wanted to use the First World War songs differently - as comments, or representations of the soldiers themselves singing.  I was partly inspired by the way that Tippett uses spirituals in ‘A Child of Our Time’, so the new music is interspersed with familiar melodies which have their own impact.”
 
The work sees new arrangements of “Keep the Home Fires Burning”, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Roses of Picardy” – songs popular with both wartime soldiers and their loved ones back home, and familiar to modern-day audiences as well.
 
“I enjoyed arranging the First World War songs,” says Wolf.  “The songs have their own identity, and although they aren’t inherently cheerful, they are in a popular style and provide a lighter element.  Some of the poems are pretty hard – and the music is meant to be a contemplative, it’s not cheerful.  In terms of style, I would say that the whole piece is fairly accessible but within the traditions of Twentieth Century music.” 
 
Wolf, who is 41, lives in North London. He studied at Oxford University, Trinity College of Music, King’s College London and Royal Holloway.  He is now Senior Lecturer in Music at Regent’s University, London. This is his first long choral work.  Previous compositions include music for concert hall and theatre, including two concertos.  His main focus has been on Jewish music – and in ‘Armistice’ Wolf includes a beautiful section in Hebrew.  
 
“There is one movement that combines religious funeral texts - from the Book of Common Prayer and from Psalm 144 which is sung in Hebrew.  I included this partly because the Zemel Choir is performing and partly because November 18th is also AJEX (The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women) Day, which commemorates Jewish servicemen in both world wars.  So it still has that memorial element, but it is not completely located in World War 1.” 
 
Tickets are still available - https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/rfms - for the concert, which starts at 7.30pm on Sunday 18th November at the Free Church, Hampstead Garden Suburb.  It will also include the tender and haunting ‘The Spirit of England’ by Sir Edward Elgar and music by Ravel, Schubert and Finzi.

 

Friday
May032013

Zemel goes Stateside

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -3rd May 2013

Contact: Anthony Cohen

Organisation: The Zemel Choir-The UK’s Leading Jewish Choir

Subject: “Zemel goes Stateside”

Venues: 21st May Temple Kehillath Israel, Boston, MA

              22nd May Temple Emanuel, Providence, RI

              25th May Touro Synagogue, Newport, RI

              26th May The Hampton Synagogue, Westhanpton Beach, NY

              28th May Temple Israel, New Rochelle, NY

              30th May Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Montreal

Tel: +44 (0)7770-345679

E-mail: marketing@zemelchoir.com

Web: www.zemelchoir.org

Twenty-five years on and the Zemel Choir is going stateside. Last seen by US audiences in 1987, the UK’s leading mixed-voice Jewish choir is looking forward to a whistlestop tour of the East Coast and Canada, with concerts in Boston, Rhode Island, Long Island, New Rochelle and Montreal. You remember the Spice Girls, you’ve heard Adele, you’ve listened to Mumford and Sons. Now, armed with two cantors and a tour bus, the Zemel Choir brings you its very own British invasion (but without the spangly Union Jack dresses).

The Zemel Choir is known for its wide repertoire, punchy performances and the enjoyment that its choristers bring to their audiences. It has performed at many of London’s principal concert venues, and has also participated in significant cross-community events, including recent performances for the Mayor of London and the BBC’s Songs of Praise. In recent years the choir has also become increasingly focussed on its links with Jewish organisations throughout the world, representing the UK at the inaugural Lewandowski Festival in Berlin in 2011, and hosting its own International Jewish Choral Festival in London as part of the Cultural Olympiad of 2012. It has also toured Europe, giving concerts in Paris, Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg, while in 2009 it visited Israel. A visit to our cousins in the US is long overdue, so come and listen to some of the best in British, American and international Jewish choral music.

The Zemel Choir performs a wide repertoire, including music in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and English. Some music will be familiar, featuring North American composers such as Joshua Jacobson, Sholom Secunda, Steve Cohen and David Shukiar. We will also be performing music by the great composers of British Jewish choral music, Samuel Alman, Abraham Saqui and Julius Mombach, as well as by living British composers such as Stephen Glass, Cecilia McDowell and the choir’s musical director, Benjamin Wolf. From liturgy to Leonard Cohen, Zemel’s performances promise something for everyone.

The Zemel Choir’s concerts will benefit from the participation of two cantors from the UK. Robert Brody is the regular cantorial soloist with the Zemel Choir. He has recorded for RCA, EMI and the BBC, as well as participating in services and concerts throughout England, Europe, Israel, Canada and the U.S.A. Richard Newman is a recent graduate of Trinity College of Music (London) and is now based in Jerusalem and studying to become a full-time cantor. The Zemel Choir will also perform with their musical director, Benjamin Wolf, who is known as a choral and orchestral conductor, singer, composer and academic, and by the wonderfully versatile Michael Cayton on piano and organ. The choir is also delighted to be performing with cantors Natanel Hershtik, Brian Mayer, Erik Contzius and Gideon Zelermyer. From the land of afternoon tea to the land of the free, this promises to be a tour full of fun, friendship and beautiful music.

For further information about the choir and its performances, visit www.zemelchoir.org.

Thursday
May172012

Press Release - The Zemel Choir’s International Jewish Choral Festival Gala Concert – Sunday June 17th 2012 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -17th May 2012

Contact: Anthony Cohen

Organisation: The Zemel Choir-The UK’s Leading Jewish Choir

Subject: “International Jewish Choral Festival”

Venue: West London Synagogue

Tel: 07770-345679

E-mail: marketing@zemelchoir.com

Web: www.zemelchoir.org

 

It is 2012, and London is looking forward to the impending Olympics. First, though, Londoners have the opportunity to savour another cultural milestone: the first Zemel Choir International Jewish Choral Festival. While some Londoners are worrying about impending travel chaos, and others are saddened by their failure to procure athletics tickets, many more are embracing the spirit of international cooperation and extending a welcome to visitors from overseas. Come and join them, and enjoy a unique opportunity to hear choirs from across Europe singing their favourite music in harmony.

The Zemel Choir’s International Jewish Choral Festival is officially linked to the Olympics through the Cultural Olympiad and the Inspire programme, and features performances by choirs from France, Italy and Austria, alongside Britain’s very own Zemel Choir. Four days of activities culminate in a gala concert at West London Synagogue, one of Central London’s most beautiful venues. The concert will include music never before heard in Great Britain, as well as favourite songs performed by a choir of over 120 singers. This event is unique in the history of British Jewish choral music, and we warmly welcome both long-term fans and new audience members.

The Zemel Choir is proud of its international reputation as one of the world’s finest mixed-voice Jewish choirs. It has recently performed in Strasbourg and Berlin, and plans to visit the USA in 2013. It has forged links with other Jewish choirs from three different continents, while its performances in the UK have included the Mayor of London’s Holocaust Memorial Service and the BBC’s Songs of Praise. For its 2012 Festival it is joined by the Vienna Jewish Choir, the Coro Hakol of Rome and the Zamir Choir of Paris. Whether you are bored by the Olympics or thrilled at the thought of watching Usain Bolt, this is an opportunity to get into the spirit of 2012 and experience the rich cultural fabric of contemporary London (and no travel chaos, guaranteed).

 

 

Notes to Editor

The Zemel Choir, established in 1955, is proud of its international reputation as one of the world’s finest  Jewish choirs.  Under the Musical Direction of Benjamin Wolf (www.benjaminwolf.co.uk) Zemel’s wide ranging repertoire embraces all the traditional Jewish cultures, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yiddish and Israeli. Zemel regularly performs in major venues throughout the U.K. and overseas, and besides singing well known favourites, is particularly proud to present new music, often specially commissioned, from contemporary composers.