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The Triangle Jewish Chorale presented its first concert of Jewish-inspired music at Temple Beth Or in Raleigh in Dec. 1994. Under the inspired leadership of Gayla Halbrecht, a small group of singers shared their enthusiasm and commitment to music written by Jewish composers, music harvested from the rich traditions of Jewish worship and family life, and music inspired by the faith that has upheld Jewish communities for centuries past.
Over the past 25 years, the Triangle Jewish Chorale has continued to offer this vital service to the Triangle region. Under the tutelage of Isabel Samfield, Jane Peppler, Tom Moore, Dave Stuntz, Susan Klebanow, and, since 2011, current music director Lorena Guillén, they have grown in numbers as well as in musical interpretive skill.
This concert featured the 45-voice chorale and a string quartet plus double bass and their outstanding piano accompanist, J. Samuel Hammond. The program included a dozen favorites gleaned from the past 25 years and opened with a richly arranged setting of verses from Psalm 122 by Charles Osborne. "Samachti B'Omrim Li," was conducted by Samfield, the first TJC conductor (now 94 years old).
Former TJC conductors participated in the silver anniversary: Stuntz conducted "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel" and Klebanow conducted Yosef Hadar's "Erev Shel Shoshanim," with lyrics by Moshe Dor, from the Song of Songs.
Next on the program was "Hal'luhu," a lively setting of Psalm 150 by Benjie Ellen Schiller. It is set for drum accompaniment, which was played by Bernie Geller, rhythmic choral singing and soprano solo, sung here by Connie Margolin.
"Az Ikh Vel Zogn Lekho Doydi," one of the delightful numbers out of the eastern European Hassidic tradition, with a chorus of "Cheri, cheri, bim, etc.," was sung with great vigor and enthusiasm both by the chorale and the two soloists, Eric Meyers, baritone, and Bernie Most, bass.
"Serenata Para la Tierra de Uno," an Argentinian love song for one's country by Maria Elena Walsh, arr. Liliana Cangiano was given an impassioned reading by Guillén. This was one of the winsome selections the TJC sang on their tour of Argentina.
Two more delightful Yiddish pieces were done with panache and style: "Lebn Zol Columbus" gave Susan Cohen and Judith Ruderman a chance to delight the audience. Then the traditional "Ale Brider" featured Mike Liptzin, Judith Ruderman, and Bernie Most. Believe me, these kids know the language and speak it well.
The Chorale sang a rousing and vigorous rendition of "Va Pensiero" also known as the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves," from Verdi's opera, Nabucco.
Leonard Bernstein was represented by "Make Our Garden Grow" from Candide, sung convincingly by Liz Crisenberry, soprano, and Ziggy Rivkin-Fish, tenor.
It has been a joy to watch the Triangle Jewish Chorale grow and develop over the years. They have worked hard and accomplished much. They have some work yet to do to reach their full potential, but I see no reason for them not to continue on the path of competence and growth under the guidance of Guillén and the inspiration of Halbrecht and with the generous support of the community. We will all be the richer musically for it.
This program will be repeated on Dec. 8 in Raleigh, at Beth Meyer Synagogue. See the sidebar for details.