Sunday, March 25, 2007

Oh Happy Day

Nobody, but nobody, thinks of Jewish music as choral music. Instead, the image is of a male cantor with an operatic voice singing traditional melodies with lots of embellishments.

Today we traded in that image for an experience to sing the music of composer Simon Sargon with 200 other local Jewish voices from 10 congregations. And even more special was the fact that as the composer in residence this weekend, he was the conductor.

Sargon is a professor of composition at Southern Methodist University and for many years was the Director of Music at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas. He is one of the pre-eminent composers of contemporary Jewish liturgical music.

This type of event always points out what non-conformists we at Temple Micah are. Our instructions were to wear whatever we liked, whereas other choirs came uniformed in black and white, or with matching tallit, or with some other planned “look”. We just looked happy.

As luck would have it our piece was Yom Gila (happy day). We were arranged in a semicircle with Teddy singing bass as well as conducting. We knew to get our heads out of the music, to watch, and to smile. Simon Sargon beamed after the final note of our piece, which of course he had composed.

We also did 3 pieces with the group, all 200 of us on the bima at the upscale Temple Sinai, where the congregation tops 1,000 families. All of the choirs learned the music ahead of time, getting together before the concert to work with Simon Sargon on polishing it. It is always nice to know what the composer really intended.

It’s interesting to see some of the same faces every time we get together for one of these choir-fests. But in addition today I saw my friend Elizabeth’s sister and her husband and a woman from the agency where I work.

Make a joyful noise we did this afternoon. It was one of the highlights of my choir year.


Anonymous David said...

Today's concert was really good, although we Micah choir members were very glad to have our Yom Gila solo piece and not a couple of the ones sung by other choirs. Simon Sargon seemed like a very generous, kind soul as well as a brilliant composer.

As far as Jewish choral music, most Reform congregations are exposed to it at least part of the year. Given that Reform Jews make up over 40% of all American Jews, it's not that nobody thinks of Jewish music as choral. But, I think you're right in that most non-Jews don't associate choral music with Jewish music. I don't think most Orthodox synagogues have choirs, although we did when I was growing up. Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews - I'm not sure.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I could never belong to a religion or a denomination without music. It's such a wonderful form of expression. Psalms 98 works for me: "Sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things."

10:57 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

It must be a great satisfaction to have your music performed by people happy to sing. So glad you can take part in that sort of music making.

6:58 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

That sounds fabulous! It would have given me chills and watery eyes to sing with all those people. It's such a neat feeling to do that.
My Canata choir sang last night at a little country church which is very old. I felt like I was in Little House On The Prairie!

5:27 PM  

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