Quarternotes Newsletter


The Exponent of Kolot HaLev

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1Quarternotes • Issue #6 • December, 2016
On December 4, KHL had the honor and pleasure of participating in Shalshelet’s Sixth International Festival of New Jewish Litergical Music. Shalshelet’s mission is to give composers of Jewish sacred music from all over the world the opportunity to share their music with affiliated and unaffiliated Jews across all denominations. Hazzan Dr. Ramón Tasat is president of Shalshelet and several members of KHL are deeply involved in the organization’s work.
This year the event took place in the Philadelphia area, with morning workshops at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and an afternoon concert at the Main Line Reform Temple. KHL sang four new works, including one at the workshops. Knowing even a little about a composer can enhance one’s understanding of the music on many levels. Many of us attended the three workshops, where composers talked about their music, giving us insight into their professional backgrounds, musical experience, and creative process. Beside performing one piece during the workshops, we enjoyed listening to solos, small groups, and full choirs during the morning event.

While refreshing ourselves with a generous and delicious lunch provided by Shalshelet, we had time to share conversations with composers from far and wide, members of other choirs who attended from New York and Pennsylvania, and even getting to know our own choir members who might sit on the other side of our rehearsal space every week.

During our short rehearsal for the concert, we worked with Dr. Julia Zavadsky and the members of Nashirah: The Jewish Chorale of Greater Philadelphia. Dr. Zavadsky will be our annual Day of Learning instructor this coming year. We also will sing with Nashirah in Philadelphia on March 19. Nashirah will sing with us at a free concert April 2 at Ohr Kodesh Congregation.

In the afternoon, the sanctuary slowly filled in anticipation of the concert to follow. We later were treated to an amazing variety of styles, moods, and types of music during the concert program. The contrasts reflected the many talented people coming from different walks of life, who all share their passion for Jewish liturgical music. In addition to other performers, KLH sang three more works; two of them with other choirs. Beside the pleasure of singing these beautiful songs, we had the fun and excitement of first, two, and finally three choirs crowded on the bimah singing a beautiful energetic Mi Khamokha with the composer playing a piano accompaniment. The excitement in the air, the big smiles on the faces of the audience and participants, and the feelings of success by those who worked so hard to create this day were strong enough for us to pack up and enjoy these feelings for the next few hours, as we floated down I-95 on our way home.
2Quarternotes • Issue #5 • December, 2015
During the fall season we’ve been hard at work learning how to pronounce Italian, read Hebrew using Italian spelling, become familiar with some exquisite Italian-Jewish melodies and songs, and learn a bit about the long existence of the Italian Jewish community. Along the way, we’ve learned that this year happens to be the 500th anniversary of the Venetian ghetto, which emphasizes the long Jewish presence in Italy.

We are looking forward to present Cantata Ebraica, The Music of the Italian Jews Through the Centuries on Sunday, April 3, 2016 at Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase.

Meanwhile, we’ve taken a break from most things Italian during the last weeks of November to connect with our own community of greater Washington. As a participant in the Annual Interfaith Concert presented by the Interfaith Conference of Metro Washington, we shared our music with Protestant, Mormon, and Sikh groups, as well as the Chamber Choir from Magruder High School in Rockville, and the Mighty Men’s Chorus of Metropolitan AME, an African American men’s choir. Kolot HaLev sang two Hebrew songs and two pieces in English. Our rendition of Emma Lazarus’ words carved onto the Statue of Liberty felt particularly ironic on this day when there are heated debates about immigration issues.

Beside the wonderful music from every group, participants felt the richness of living in a country where we can cherish our own culture and also experience the amazing music and dance of others. In the end it seemed that there is no “mainstream” culture, but we are all “other” and “minority” and find much enjoyment in sharing each others’ music and dance.

The following Sunday evening we continued our outreach to the greater community by participating once again in an interfaith Thanksgiving community event with members of the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church, Tikvah Israel choir, and several other groups. We have enjoyed this event for several years.

Upcoming events include our Chanukah service at Shirat HaNefesh on Saturday morning, December 12; and a special service for the Martin Luther King holiday in January.
3Quarternotes • Issue #4 • December, 2014
In 2014, Kolot HaLev continued to experience and express a deeper understanding of the soul of Jewish music that resides in each member.

Last year our voices commemorated the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, demonstrating how music can express the complex feelings of despair, hope, and optimism. This year our annual concert gave voice to the melodies of Russian Jews, and we discovered how every member of the choir had roots in the traditions and melodies of the Russian Jewish Culture. From classical to modern liturgical music, to melodies sung in Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew, we helped more than 500 people in the audience discover their own roots in this culture.

As a follow-up to this musical “high,” we presented much of the same concert several weeks later at the Library of Congress, singing before a full auditorium of people with diverse backgrounds and cultures.

This year we once again joined several groups for an interfaith Thanksgiving community experience at the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church. The music of each culture easily crossed its boundaries and communicated clearly to everyone else the feelings of joy and celebration. We were uplifted by the melodies sung by the Christian Youth Fellowship, the Christian Women Fellowship, and Chai Dynamics, as well as music sung by the combined choirs of Tikvat Israel and Kolot HaLev. The evening ended with the combined choirs and congregation joining for a spirited rendition of the African-American spiritual “I’m Going to Live So G-d Can Use Me.”

We also participated in the Jewish Folk Arts Festival, which is a celebration of the talent and diversity of Jewish performing and visual arts in the Greater Washington DC/Baltimore Region. The richness of our values, culture, and heritage is passed from generation to generation through our singers, writers, dancers, visual artists, storytellers, and craft people.

On Sunday, March 29th, 2015, Kolot HaLev will devote its sixth Annual Concert to musical selections for Pesach—The Sound of Freedom. We are delighted to share this performance with the Adas Israel Choral Ensemble and most especially with Hazzan Arianne Brown, a remarkable guest artist.

The concert will be devoted to a variety of musical selections from the Haggadah as we tell the story of our freedom, to love songs reflecting the main theme of the Song of Songs, and to beautiful Psalms from the Hallel service. Finally, Kolot HaLev will conclude the concert with rousing renditions of “Le Shana haBa’a,” “Sheheheyanu,” and “Shnirele Perele,” inviting the audience to dream of a future when redemption will arrive for the whole world.

We look forward to your active participation and support. May we continue to go from strength to strength.
4Quarternotes • Issue #3 • December, 2013
Kolot HaLev has been very busy the past few months marking historic events and holidays in the way that speaks to us most strongly: with song. We learned new music, participated in events with other choirs, and learned from Ramón, of course, as well as other conductors.

In early November we participated in the “Voices of the Holocaust” concert commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. This historic musical event at the Strathmore Music Center involved 23 choirs from the Greater Washington area; the Juniata College Concert choir; 21 cantors, hazzans, and music directors from area synagogues; and eight instrumentalists, all under the amazing direction of conductor Jason Love.

The 22 pieces performed began with the burning ghetto, then continued with powerful music and lyrics of loss, despair, bravery, love, hope, and strength. Heart-wrenching songs were interspersed with hopeful songs, with melodies that perfectly reflected the emotions of the text. These songs were created during the period of the Shoah by its victims. The powerful music placed the words in their historic time and place in a way that made the essence of the stories come alive. The thundering finale—Never Say This Is the Final Road for You—full of strength and optimism, is sometimes called the official anthem of the underground resistance. It left us all with gratitude and reverence for the very brave people who experienced this period.

A few days before Thanksgiving we joined several groups for an interfaith community Thanksgiving Sing at the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church. In stark contrast to the despair Jews felt being alone in the world amid the terror of the Holocaust, we could only feel positively uplifted as part of an American community whose members respected and appreciated each others’ religion and culture. We sang American standards for Thanksgiving and several songs for Hanukah, and delighted in listening to songs from other cultures and places, all expressing the best attributes of humankind. Everyone was inspired by each others’ lively and mesmerizing music, at times hardly able to stay in our seats.

Finally, we paid homage to Nelson Mandela at our monthly Choir Shabbat, through music that reflected his life, that was woven into the Shirat HaNefesh Friday night service. We sang a Sufi version of Hine Ma Tov that described Mandela’s eagerness to bring people of all colors and parties together into a grand tent and a version of Shalom Rav, composed by Hazzan Natasha Hirschhorn, that captured Mandela’s desire for peace. We learned, in record time, Bobby McFerrin’s musical setting of Psalm 23 (sung in English) that brings to our awareness a deep emotion that Mandela surely embraced. Finally, we all sang together Shnirele Perele, a Yiddish song that invites us to dream of the whole earth touched by blessings. Its universal message is one Mandela wholeheartedly affirmed.

We continue to sing, an activity that we hope makes the world a tiny bit better each time. We are looking forward to our upcoming Annual Concert on June 8, 2014, which will feature Jewish Russian Melodies. We invite you to join us.
5Quarternotes • Issue #2 • August, 2013
It is a great pleasure to present the second installment of Quarter Notes. The summer is a good time to reflect on the past year’s activities, while also allowing time to plan new and exciting programs. We hope the new year’s activities will afford Kolot HaLev ever-growing opportunities to continue our mission of using our voices and our hearts to convey the “soul” of Jewish music from around the world.

In November, 2012, Kolot HaLev participated in a service of song, praise, and thanksgiving at the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church. Included in the program was the Cameroon Woman’s Choir, Chai Dynamics a cappella Choir, Eine Kleine Tikva band, a bell choir, and musical selections with a combined choir of Kolot HaLev, Tikvat Israel, and the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church.

This past January, as part of Kolot HaLev’s monthly participation in Shabbat services at Shirat HaNefesh congregation, the 40-member choir celebrated Shabbat Rosh Hodesh. The service featured choral compositions steeped in the language of 19th century European Romantic composers, including Emil Jonas, Felix Mendelssohn, Jacques F. Halevy, and Samuel Naumbourg. These remarkable musicians captured the meaning of ancient Hebrew texts in compositions that evoked opera and oratorio as they celebrated the immensity of G-d through the text of the Psalms.

Our year culminated with our fifth anniversary concert, “On the Wings of Song: New Music from Israel,” a program celebrating contemporary Israeli composers. The concert focused on Israel’s music from the past three decades. Hazzan Dr. Ramon Tasat reflected that “people have a vision of Israel as a country that is mostly at war” or in a constant state of stress and fear. He wanted to show another side of Israel: its artistic creativity, by introducing a new generation of Israeli songwriters and their songs to American Jews. The concert at Ohr Kodesh synagogue attracted our largest audience to date.

The coming year is already filled with exciting programs and challenges to enhance the scope of musical diversity presented by Kolot HaLev. The following list of events is provided in the spirit of “Save the Dates” for your calendar planning:
1) Kristallnacht 75th Anniversay Concert “Voices of the Holocaust” at the Music Center of Strathmore, performed by cantors, music directors, and choirs from the Greater Washington area. November 10, 2013 at 7:30pm. (includes a 6:30 pre-concert discussion). Tickets now on sale (www.strathmore.org).
2) Thanksgiving Service at the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church on Nov. 24, 2013.
3) Kolot HaLev’s Annual Concert, “Russian Jewish Music” on June 8, 2014 at Ohr Kodesh Synagogue at 4 pm.
4) Concert at the Library of Congress, Pickford Theater, at noon, June 16, 2014.

Kolot HaLev looks forward to presenting our audiences with more examples of the richness and diversity of Jewish Music. As always, we welcome interested new members, without audition, to join us in this endeavor. We wish all a Shana Tovah! May we continue to go from Strength to Strength!
6Quarternotes • Issue #1 • April, 2013
A warm welcome to the first installment of Quarter Notes. We hope that this will serve as an on-going newsletter about upcoming events and concerts for Kolot HaLev while also providing the reader an opportunity to become more familiar with the choir’s objectives and mission in promoting Jewish music for the Greater Washington community.

Kolot HaLev means “Voices of the Heart.” It is the choir’s mission to use our voices and our hearts to convey the “soul” of Jewish music as we present the history and beauty of Jewish music from around the world. Each singer strives to accomplish this through our weekly rehearsals at Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase and by attending an annual Day of Learning. Auditions are not required, only a love of singing and a commitment to our rehearsal schedule.

All this would not be possible without the talent and commitment of our teacher and artistic director Hazzan Dr. Ramón Tasat. Born in Buenos Aires and trained in five different countries, Hazzan Tasat writes many of our choral arrangements to introduce a wide variety of musical styles, some performed for the first time. This has allowed Kolot HaLev to present music from many countries, including France, England, Turkey, Morocco, Bulgaria, London, Austria, Israel and elsewhere. Our repertoire includes music from the liturgy as well as that of classical composers such as Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Rossi, and Verdi. Musical selections have been presented in Hebrew, English, Spanish, Ladino and Yiddish.

Kolot HaLev has participated in Shalshelet’s Third International Festival of Jewish Liturgical Music, and performed at Ohr Kodesh Congregation, the North American Jewish Choral Festival, the Museum of Jewish Heritage (NYC), Arlington National Cemetery, and the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

Latest News 2013 Annual Concert May 19, 2013

Our Annual Concert, usually held in the late spring, provides our greatest opportunity to present specific musical themes. Kolot HaLev also participates in smaller community events and provides inspiration for worship services on a monthly basis at Shirat HaNefesh congregation (Chevy Chase, MD) where it is the Choir in Residence.

The following is a list of the past annual concerts:

2009 Hatikva: Flame of Hope
2010 Summer Songs of Love and Prayer: Melodies from Near and Far
2011 If I Forget You O Yerushalayim: The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem
2012 Tango comes to the Land of Milk and Honey
This year’s 2013 Annual Concert will be on Sunday, May 19, 2013, 4 PM at Ohr Kodesh Congregation. It will feature popular Israeli selections since 1980. The theme “On the Wings of Song: New Music from Israel” conveys the prose and lyrical beauty associated with a country, this year celebrating its 65th anniversary of independence.
We hope you will come to hear our Voices of the Heart.