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World Music Review Print

A Chanukah Party at Temple Beth Or

December 5, 2004 - Raleigh, NC:

"Chanukah, Oh Chanukah, come light the Menorah
Let's have a party, we'll all dance the hora"
~ Traditional Chanukah Song

The Triangle Jewish Chorale set the mood for a Chanukah party on the afternoon of December 5 at Temple Beth Or in Raleigh. The Chorale is made up of members of the Jewish communities of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary and is conducted by Jane Peppler and accompanied by Gary Berman. The choristers, drawn together by their love of singing, have ranged from college students to professors, business people and retirees. This is not a polished group, but what it lacks in refinement is made up for in individual talents and the infectious enthusiasm of all.

The program included many traditional Jewish songs, most of them related to the celebration of Chanukah. Some were sung in Hebrew, some in Yiddish, a few in the unique Spanish/Hebrew blend of the Sephardim, and a few in English. The concert was informal, with several selections on a printed sheet inviting audience participation. While the only Yiddish this gentile knows is "Oy vey," it was a delight to try to sing along with "Khanukah, oy Khanukah, a yomtev, a sheyner, Alustiker, a freylekher, ...." With the patience and persistence of Peppler, I was actually able to get most of the sylables in after the third or fourth time the chorus came around.

Of note on the program were several songs of Naomi Shemer, who passed away this past summer. She was truly Israel¹s greatest songwriter, depicting the love of the land, its history, and the unifying belief that the people of Israel are one. Her song "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" ("Jerusalem of Gold") became second only to the National anthem, "Hatikvah." She lived for many years at a Kibbutz in the Kinneret, writing songs about the daily lives of Israelis. Especially beautiful were two songs near the end of the first half of the concert – "Kineret," a song about the lake region and a girl of the same name, and "Shir Aviv," a song about the coming of spring and the beauty of the land.

Bernie Most sang with panache a delightful rendition from the Yiddish theater – "Itsik Shpitsik." The addition of Jean Ritchie's "Now is the Cool of the Day" and Stephen Foster's "Hard Times", complemented the wistful modal lilt of the traditional Jewish tunes. There were instrumental contributions from violin, squeeze box, clarinet, recorder, harmonica, and a chorus of kazoos. Berman is an excellent accompanist, and he announced that he was not responsible for the sticking damper on the piano that allowed one note to vibrate longer than it should have. This is a very talented group and they made it a thoroughly delightful afternoon.

In the inviting sanctuary at Temple Beth Or, sitting before the gorgeous woodwork of the Ark of the Covenant, containing the scrolls, one could feel at home in the world we all have been given to share. The clear glass windows at the front are a reminder that the Temple is a part of the world, not apart from it, that the community of God is in the world as God's representatives. Chanukah is a holiday that celebrates an event in which the Almighty demonstrated that He is here with his people and able to accomplish miraculous things for us and through us. Happy Chanukah. Happy holidays to all.