Magazine article Musical Opinion

Zemel Choir

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Zemel Choir

Article excerpt

A varied programme of American-Jewish Music including an ebullient account of Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and the jazzy Kiddush by Kurt Weill, displayed the outstand- ing choral qualities of energy, enthusiasm and expressivity of the Zemel Choir at their St Johns Smith Square concert on 14 June, given before a capacity audience, and presented in association with Spiro Ark. One of the leading mixed voice Jewish choirs in Britain since its inception in 1955 by Dudley Cohen, the Zemel has evolved an exciting repertoire and style through successive Musical Directors such as Anthony Saunders and Malcolm Singer, and the incumbent Ben Wolf. A highly gifted composer, scholar and pianist, Wolf has encouraged creative collaborations with non-Jewish choirs and Youth Choirs, and under his command the Zemel have attained an arresting precision and vigour evident here in their zestful opener, the folk-inspired Zions Walk by Aaron Copland. It was followed by an evocative jazzy Psalm 121 by New York composer Steve Cohen, and a moving liturgical setting by Max Janowski (1912-1991), a Berlin émigré to Chicago, with Zemel soprano Louise Barnett as eloquent soloist, characterfully supported by the fine piano accompaniments of Michael Cayton. Sephardi, Yiddish and Music Theatre hit songs were delivered with panache by the Zemel expanded by participants of their regular vocal workshops. But especially fascinating were performances by Quorum, a finely honed church choir, of liturgical Jewish works by Isadore Freed (1900-1960), a Russian-born Philadelphia-based composer and student of Bloch and Boulanger, and by Heinrich Schalk, a pupil of Mahler's teacher Fuchs who emigrated from Munich to the USA in the 1930s. …

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