The Zemel Choir | Zemel Goes Stateside

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Spiritual: Hebrew Spiritual: Judaica Moods: Type: Vocal
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Zemel Goes Stateside

by The Zemel Choir

The CD comprises music that was sung during our tour of the USA in 2013, and includes music by American, Israeli and British composers, including a number of pieces by living composers.
Genre: Spiritual: Hebrew
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Psalm 150
3:12 $0.99
2. Yir'u Eineinu
3:52 $0.99
3. Zot Yerushalayim
2:58 $0.99
4. Hitrag'ut
3:08 $0.99
5. Machar
1:48 $0.99
6. Mi Chamochah
1:45 $0.99
7. Hineni (Music for Sephiras "Ho'omer")
5:43 $0.99
8. Baruch
1:56 $0.99
9. Ribbonno Shel Olam
6:47 $0.99
10. Mah Tovu
1:18 $0.99
11. Yigdal
1:28 $0.99
12. Song of the Sea
4:18 $0.99
13. Procession to Prayer
3:57 $0.99
14. Maoz Tsur
4:47 $0.99
15. Mah Ashiv
4:45 $0.99
16. Hallelujah
2:46 $0.99
17. Usadon Olam
2:59 $0.99
18. When I'm 64
2:46 $0.99
19. Mack the Knife
2:00 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
This CD is dedicated to the memory of Alan Koch, loyal chorister and member of the 2013 tour choir. Alan died before this CD was finished. His voice can be heard on the majority of the tracks on this CD. The CD comprises music that was sung during our tour of the USA in 2013, and includes music by American, Israeli and British composers, including a number of pieces by living composers.

1) Psalm 150
Music: David Shukiar
Soloist: Robert Brody
The first piece is composed by an American and incorporates elements of American popular music. This, the last in the Book of Psalms, is a familiar text, set many times by composers through the ages. The score is marked “Gospel, with feeling”, and was composed for joint performance by a reform temple and a church choir for Martin Luther King Day in America. The Hebrew lyric is in the solo line, the choir refraining “Hal'luyah” in syncopation underneath.

2) Yir’u Eineinu
Words: Weekday Evening Service, Music: Stephen Glass
The choir performed this setting at the Shaar Hashomayim synagogue in Montreal, where Stephen Glass is Director of Music. In this setting, he has chosen to abandon the normal musical approach to the evening service (which is based on the Ahava Rabba mode, and is characteristically sombre). This, by comparison, is exuberant, evoking the musical landscape of North America.

3) Zot Yerushalayim
Words: Eitan Peretz, Music Nachum Heiman
Our next pieces evoke the land of Israel. This is one of numerous songs to, of or about Jerusalem. But unlike those which concentrate on what Jerusalem means to the Jew, the lyricist here wants you to imagine the multicultural city, with the sounds of its mosques, church bells and its Jewish children at prayer, all mingling together.

4) Hitrag'ut
Words: Yaron Karni, Music Traditional Persian Jewish folk, arranged Paul Ben Haim (1897-1984)
Soloist: Natalie Gies
Far away, imagine a quiet little house with a wooden veranda and an almond tree next to it, where a grandmother sits singing a cradle song to her grandson. If it were even one hundred leagues from here .... still we could fly away there together one evening and together count the stars.
A charming lullaby song, from Jewish folk roots, arranged for chorus by the father figure of modern Israeli art music.

5) Machar
Words and music: Naomi Shemer, arranged Robert Max
Tomorrow, maybe we shall set sail from Eilat to the Ivory Coast; tomorrow, the soldiers shall shed their uniforms; tomorrow the old battleships shall load cargoes of citrus fruit. This is no dream; it is as clear as the midday sun. All of this shall come tomorrow, if not today; and if not tomorrow then the next day…
Naomi Shemer dominated Israeli folk and popular song for most of the first fifty years of the State. This song hails from the aftermath of the 1956 Sinai military campaign, when Israel defied the odds to overwhelm the forces of Egypt, and the survival of this existential threat to the State was a cue for significant spontaneous national optimism - as the lyric demonstrates.

6) Mi Chamochah
Words: Sabbath and festival evening liturgy, Music Steve Cohen
Soloist: Richard Newman
Who can compare to You among the deities, Lord? Who can compare to You, magnificent in holiness, awesomely praiseworthy, worker of wonders? Your children beheld Your Majesty, as You parted the Sea before Moses and Miriam.“This, then, is my God”, they proclaimed, as they said “The Lord shall reign for ever!”
This composition is part of a series being produced by New Yorker Steve Cohen for Cantor Lori Corssin and the Chorus of Temple Emanu-El, probably New York City's foremost reform congregation (and certainly among its most musical). The text comes from the evening service, falling between the evening Sh'ma and Amidah, and this version follows the tradition in the American reform Mishkan T'fillah prayer book. The music has a syncopated, jazzy feel that is common to a lot of Steve Cohen's music; the harmonic style, though, is strongly modal.

7) Hineni (Music for Sefiras Ho’omer)
8) Blessing (Baruch)
9) Ribbono Shel Olom
Words: Weekday evening service during the Omer counting period
Music: Samuel Alman (1877-1947)
Soloist: Robert Brody
Soprano: Angela Lawrence
We continue our CD with music by two of the foremost composers of British Jewish choral music, which we were pleased to take with us to America. Samuel Alman dominated Anglo-Jewish synagogue and art music in the first forty years or so of the 20th century. He was born in the Ukraine and, after emigrating to England, became choirmaster at Poets Road Synagogue, Dalston, and then briefly at the Great Synagogue in Dukes Place. From 1916 he was Choirmaster at the Hampstead Synagogue. He also founded and conducted the Halevy Choral Society, the UK's first Jewish art music choir. He published two volumes of his own synagogue compositions (1925 and 1938). It is for selections from these volumes that he is best remembered today. However, his credits include King Ahaz (1912, the first grand opera with a Yiddish libretto), the Ebraica Strong Quartet, a volume of organ preludes, and a significant amount of choral art music and solo settings.
Alman appears to be the first composer to conceive of a dedicated Cantorial/choral composition for the Omer Counting Service. This composition contains three sections. The opening section uses a standard Rabbinic formula, in which the worshipper declares that he stands ready to perform the commandment as set out in the Torah. It follows a fairly standard format (structurally and harmonically) for early 20th century Cantorial/choral music, though Alman is not afraid to offer rather more chromaticism than many of his contemporaries. This opening composition is followed by the blessing for the period. The third composition in the Omer set is a dramatic reminder of our duty to obey the commandments laid down in Torah.

10) Mah Tovu
11) Yigdal
Texts: Numbers 24:5 and poem attributed to Daniel b Judah (14th century Rome, Music Abraham Saqui
London born Abraham Saqui (c. 1823 - 94) came from a Sephardic family, probably from Portugal originally, but achieved musical fame in the Jewish community as the first choirmaster of Liverpool's Princes Road Synagogue. These pieces are among a series which he published in 1878. The words of Mah Tovu were used first by the heathen prophet Bil'am. Charged with cursing the Israelites, he found only words of praise coming to his lips. These words open the traditional marriage service, and are usually printed at the very start of most prayer-books, ostensibly to afford the worshipper words of praise upon entering the sanctuary before the service itself has begun. In the 19th century, the Friday evening service would often begin with these words (and in some synagogues it still does).
Yigdal is based on Maimonides' thirteen principles of faith, and is one of the best-known in the Synagogue liturgies of both Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. In Anglo-Jewry, the custom is that Yigdal (not Adon Olam, which is commoner in Europe and the USA) is sung to close Friday and festival evening services.

12) Song of the Sea
Words: Sabbath and festival morning liturgy,
Music: Cecilia McDowall
Soloist: Richard Newman
The Zemel Choir’s tour to America featured performancesof music by a number of living composers, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Song of the Sea was commissioned by The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood, London, for the occasion of its Centenary and was first performed as part of the Sabbath morning service by the Choir of the Synagogue and organist Timothy Farrell, conducted by Cathy Heller-Jones, on 5 February, 2011. Song of the Sea opens with a gentle solo to give expression to the words, 'Truly You are first and You are last; we have no redeemer but You.' The ladies of the choir then sing 'Who is like You, Eternal One, among the gods people worship?' followed by the entire choir. The setting employs the melody traditionally used by the Spanish & Portuguese Jews for the chanting on Sabbaths and Festivals of the full text of the Song of the Sea, also familiar as their melody for the Bendigamos tune preceding Grace After Meals. It was used in the hope of drawing in as many as possible within a worship context.

13) Procession to Prayer
Words: Preliminary to the Amidah (Hebrew and English)
Music: Benjamin Wolf
Oh Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall sing Thy Praise
This piece was written for the Choir in August 2010, and slightly revised in 2013. The text is used in both Jewish and Christian prayer. The piece is influenced by plainchant and also by Medieval and Renaissance polyphony (particularly in its use of open intervals and a double choir), as well as incorporating elements of Jewish prayer modes. Ideally, the larger of the two singing groups is in procession (if in concert, through the hall onto the stage), and the smaller group occupies a static position (offstage, or in the balcony, answering responsively).

14) Maoz Tzur (a new tune with an old voice)
Words: Anon. “Mordechai” (late medieval Germany?),
Music Daniel Tunkel
Soloist: Deborah Cooper
Maoz Tzur, the standard hymn sung when lighting the Hanukkiya, needs little introduction (although many do not have the custom of singing all five verses, as in this setting). The words bear the acrostic “Mordechai”, although we have no detail of who he was. The text offers verses dealing with Purim, Passover and the end of the Babylonian Exile, as well as Hanukah itself. The traditional tune is one of the best-known Jewish melodies worldwide. The composer's idea was to produce an altogether new melody and harmonisation which reminds us of what Hanukah really meant to our forefathers, who lived in dark ghettos and for whom this festival was one small ray of light to illuminate the cold winters of exile. The music is modal, chiefly Dorian, and at the end, when all might seem to be lost in the gloom, the music drives towards a climax on the subdominant.
The Zemel Choir gave the premiere performance of this piece at a Hanukah concert at Belsize Square Synagogue, London, in December 2012.

15) Mah Ashiv Ladonai - quid retribuam Domino
Words: Psalm 116 vv 12-18 (alternating Hebrew and Latin)
Music: Erik Contzius
Solos: Helen Stone, Rusty Davis, Simon Tabbush, Philip Roth
This psalm will be familiar from the festival Hallel service. This setting was composed as a commission from the American Conference of Cantors to be used at the Second Conference on Jewish-Catholic Relations in November 2010. The music combines texts in both Latin and Hebrew, and employs elements of plainchant derived from the Christian tradition. The Zemel Choir performed this piece at the synagogue in New Rochelle, where we performed alongside Cantor Contzius.

16) Hallelujah
Words and music: Leonard Cohen arr. Roger Emerson
Canadian, Leonard Cohen (b. 1934) is a world-famous singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist. This song was originally released in 1984. Cohen in fact created numerous different sets of lyrics for the song (and not a few musical arrangements exist also). This version most closely follows the one used in the film Shrek. It is replete with biblical imagery (particularly referring to King David and the Psalms), as well as employing the word 'Hallelujah' (praise to God) in a somewhat enigmatic way (and some amusing if slightly contrived rhymes for the word in English).

17) USAdon Olam
Text: Attributed to Solomon Ibn Gabirol (11th century Spain)
Music: Diverse melodies, arranged by Benjamin Wolf
This piece is a setting of the words of Adon Olam using a number of well-known American melodies. It was originally written for bOYbershop (a close harmony male voice quartet led by our Musical Director, Benjamin Wolf) and reworked in 2013 for a mixed-voice choir specifically for the Choir's US tour. Feel free to play 'spot the tune' while listening.

18) When I’m 64
Words and Music: Lennon and McCartney
When I'm 64 is a popular love song by The Beatles and was released in 1967 on their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is sung by a young man to his love and describes the process of getting old together. It was apparently intended as a tribute to Paul McCartney's father, and is one of the most traditional of the songs on the otherwise experimental Sgt Pepper album. Its portrayal of daily life recalls the songs that were popular in British music hall in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

19) Mack the Knife
Words: Bertolt Brecht, Music Kurt Weill arr. Russ Robinson
This is one of the better-known songs from the Brecht/Weill production The Threepenny Opera, which was composed originally in German, before both of its creators fled the rise of Nazism and came to the USA. The Opera is based loosely on the early 19th Century English Beggars' Opera. Thus “Die Moritat von Mackiemesser” came into the English language as “Mack the Knife”, and by the 1950s the likes of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald had made it a standard of the vocal jazz repertoire.
Please note that in some pieces, for musical and linguistic reasons the Zemel Choir uses the word “Adomai” instead of the more traditional “Adoshem” where the Lord's name is being sung.

Programme Notes by Daniel Tunkel and Benjamin Wolf

The Zemel Choir, established by Dudley Cohen in 1955, is proud of its international reputation as one of the world's finest mixed-voice Jewish choirs. Our wide-ranging repertoire embraces all the traditional Jewish cultures, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yiddish and Israeli. We regularly perform in major venues throughout the U.K. and overseas, and, besides singing well-known favourites, are particularly proud to present new music, often specially commissioned, from contemporary composers. Recent highlights include a performance at Westminster Abbey's Service of Solemn Remembrance and Hope on the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht (2013), our first International Jewish Choral Festival (2012) and two
performances for the Mayor of London. Our Celebrate with Song event, which aims to raise the profile of Jewish choral music through workshops and performances, took place at St John's, Smith Square, between 2007 and 2009, and at JFS in 2010 and 2011. Its most recent instalment in 2013 took place at the London Jewish Cultural Centre and West London Synagogue. In recent years we have also performed at London venues including the South Bank Centre and V&A museum, while in 2005 the Choir celebrated its Golden Anniversary with a concert at St John's, Smith Square. TV and Radio appearances have included the 1986 live television and radio broadcast of Kaddish for Terezin from Canterbury Cathedral, the Expressions of Reconciliation and Hope service in York Minster in 1990, a Holocaust Day commemoration edition of Radio 4's Sunday Worship in January 2001, and, in January 2005, an edition of BBC1's Songs of Praise, The Holocaust Remembered. We have travelled extensively to the U.S.A., Canada, Israel, and Eastern and Western Europe, and in 1993 participated in the Polish Holocaust Memorial ceremonies in Warsaw and Treblinka to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. At the 1996 Zimriyah Choral Festival in Jerusalem we were invited to sing at the opening ceremony concert, which was broadcast live on Israel Radio, and In October 2001 we toured The Czech Republic and Hungary. In April 2007 we toured Belgium, France and Luxembourg, and in March 2009 we made another successful and enjoyable tour of Israel. In November 2008 we held a major concert in London alongside the Polyphonies Hebraiques de Strasbourg, and followed this in 2011 with a visit to Paris and Strasbourg. In December 2011 we performed alongside seven other Jewish choirs at the inaugural Louis Lewandowski Festival in Berlin, while our latest tour was a two-week visit to America and Canada in 2013. In May 2014 the choir visited the European Jewish Choir Festival in Rome. The Choir has maintained its reputation as a result of professional musical direction, and a strong commitment to rehearsals by its members. We come together not only to sing, but to be part of a warm and friendly social group. We are always happy to welcome new members. To find out more about us, visit our website at

Benjamin Wolf – Musical Director
Benjamin Wolf works as a conductor, pianist, composer, singer and academic. He is Musical Director of the Zemel Choir, the Wallace Ensemble and the Royal Free Music Society, Choirmaster of Belsize Square Synagogue and a regular conductor of the Quorum Chamber Choir. Performances with the Zemel Choir have included Holocaust memorial services for the Mayor of London, concerts at the South Bank and St John's Smith Square, a broadcast for the BBC's Songs of Praise and tours to Europe, Israel and the USA. Activities with the Wallace Ensemble have included performances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, while the professional choir of Belsize Square Synagogue has been featured on documentaries for BBC radio and television. Recent performances include a Kristallnacht commemoration service at Westminster Abbey and a visit to the 2013 International Louis Lewandowski Festival in Berlin with the Belsize Square Choirs. As composer, he has written music for the concert hall and the stage, including works using the texts and modes of Ancient Greek (performed in London and Oxford), a piano concerto (performed in 2003) and a cello concerto
commissioned for the 70th anniversary of Belsize Square synagogue. He has written a number of pieces for the Zemel Choir. He wrote his latest original work, Cocaine Overture, for the Chichester Festival in June 2013, and new orchestrations of Lewandowski’s concert music at Belsize Square in October 2013. As pianist, he works as both accompanist and solo recitalist, while his singing is primarily focussed on performances with his own Jewish barbershop quartet, bOYbershop, for which he has written a number of arrangements and original compositions, including comic songs The Only Jewish Cowgirl and Fifty Shades of Hay. Following the award of a PhD in 2010, he has worked as a visiting lecturer at Royal Holloway and Bristol University. In 2011 he was appointed as Lecturer in Music at Regent's University, London, where he teaches both academic courses and runs the newly formed choirs of the Regent's School of Drama, Film and Media. He has given conference papers in the UK and America, and was on the organising team for a conference at the IMR in January 2013 (focussing on music in twentieth-century Britain). He has also worked as a researcher on a Royal Holloway project investigating the use of music to accompany silent films, while an article based on his PhD research appeared in The Musical Times in December 2013.

Robert Brody - Tenor
Robert Brody, ARCM, LRAM began his vocal studies at the Birmingham College of Music whilst he was a student. On returning to London he continued at the Trinity College of Music and then with Benvenuto Finelli who introduced
him to the Bel Canto vocal technique. He has given recitals in London's leading venues, has recorded for RCA, EMI and the BBC, as well as his own recordings, which have achieved wide acclaim. He has often been heard on international radio and television. Whilst enjoying performing secular music and oratorio, Robert Brody has also, on many occasions, been called on to act as Cantor in Synagogue Services throughout England, on the Continent, in Israel, Canada and the U.S.A. He visited Theresienstadt in the Czech Republic to record Cantorial Music of the Ghetto for BBC TV and has conducted memorial services in Warsaw, at Auschwitz and Treblinka. Robert appeared with the Zemel Choir on BBC1's Songs of Praise - The Holocaust Remembered in January 2005. Besides his own solo recordings, he has also recorded with the BBC Singers for a Radio 3 series Sacred and Profane, and music by Louis Lewandowski with The Zemel Choir, with whom he has often appeared as their principal soloist. With the Choir, he has sung in the presence of H.M. The Queen at the Royal Albert Hall. He has participated in choral festivals in many countries including the Eisteddfod and the Zimriyah in Israel.

Richard Newman - Tenor
Richard lives in New York, and is a cantorial student at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion. He is the cantorial intern at Congregation Emanu-El of the city of New York. Previously, he worked as a professional musician in London, and was a long-term member of the Zemel Choir.
In 2011, Richard graduated with an MMus (Distinction) from Trinity College of Music, where he was a scholarship student. He has sung Albert in Britten’s Albert Herring with the Trinity College Opera Company; and Aenas (Dido and Aenas), Acis (Acis and Galatea) and Vitaliano (Giustino) in a range of venues countrywide. During his time at Trinity College he was also a regular soloist with Trinity College Chamber Choir

Michael Cayton - Piano/Organ
After training at Kneller Hall, Michael served with the Grenadier Guards as a trumpeter before studying piano at the Royal College of Music, where he gained his BMus and ARCM and won the Hilda Anderson Deane prize for conducting and improvisation. While completing postgraduate répétiteur studies he was appointed the first organ Scholar at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Since his debut as an organist at the Royal Festival Hall in 1988, Michael has been in demand as a recitalist and accompanist and has appeared all over the country and in Europe, with notable London appearances at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster Abbey, Blackheath Concert Halls and the Wigmore Hall. Since 2003 he has simultaneously held the posts of Director of Music at St John's Wood Church, organist at Belsize Square Synagogue and conductor of the Chiltern Choir. He has conducted the Watford Philharmonic Chorus, Goldsmiths Choral Union, City Chamber Choir, Aeolian Singers and English
Chamber Choir and has broadcast on Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 5 Live, the World Service and on BBC1's Songs of Praise. His church music is published by Redemptorist, the responsorial psalms now a staple of parish churches up and down the country. With broad musical tastes, a hunger to learn new styles and a particular talent for improvisation, he may often be found performing jazz, German cabaret and Judeo-Spanish Ladino music as well as fusion and funk.

Recorded 2013/2014 at Belsize Square Synagogue and Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School

Produced and engineered by (Tom Watson & Will Watson)
Assistant Producer - Maureen Creese (The Zemel Choir, Assistant Music Director)

Photos by Rhonda Cohen



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