Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Natural Leader for Jewish Chorale

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Natural Leader for Jewish Chorale

Article excerpt

Linda Stewart Tucker's penchant for lifelong learning brought the classically trained musician to her new role as Sarasota Jewish Chorale director.

She had sung in a variety of languages while touring Europe and worked briefly as a cantor at a Philadelphia temple, but the sixth- generation Manatee County resident yearned to become more familiar with Jewish music.

"I'd sung French, Italian, Spanish, English and German, but I'd never sung a lot of Jewish music," she said. "I was looking for some new experiences."

That led Tucker, who attended Trinity Lutheran as a child and now considers herself a nondenominational Christian, to answer a newspaper ad for chorale singers in 2005. She had cared for her father until his death in 2004 and was ready for a change.

"I just knew I needed to establish some new traditions," the soprano said. "My entire life I've looked for new musical experiences, that's part of being a musician."

She sang with the chorale for three years, falling in love with Jewish folk songs. Tucker left the chorale to care for her mother and sang when needed for the next few years.

When longtime conductor Martha Kessler stepped away temporarily for health reasons, Tucker was tapped as a guest conductor. When it became apparent Kessler would not return, Tucker decided to pursue a path she had not previously considered.

"I always said I don't direct because I love to sing too much," said Tucker, who also plays the piano. "I love to perform. It wasn't until that guest directing that I fell in love all over again with the people and thought I could be happy doing this."

The guest conducting opportunity in March at Temple Beth Israel on Longboat Key involved overseeing the performance of a cantata, "Esther's Story." The narrated tale of a young couple, Yankel and Esther, going through the Holocaust and coming to the United States, was written by chorale members Ritzka Chatman and Brenda Lederman. The task was more than ably handled by Tucker, chorale founder Arlene Stolnitz said.

"We were very pleased with her," said Stolnitz, who began the chorale 15 years ago. "She got a lot of pleasure out of doing it and seeing what could be done. That got her interest up."

Stolnitz was aware of Tucker's pedigree, including singing with the chorale society in Philadelphia under Riccardo Muti, now the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Because Tucker is well-liked and respected by the group, Stolnitz said, she will fit perfectly as the chorale tackles a second cantata either this year or next. "Hear Our Voice," also written by Chatman and Lederman, focuses on people coming from different places and backgrounds to work together.

Stolnitz said Tucker's selection was purely based on her talent and her religious background was irrelevant. Language coaches help with the correct pronunciation of tunes sung in Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino. …

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