Triangle Jewish Chorale lit a candle of inspiration for a packed audience at the Levin Jewish Community Center, and then put a smile on everyone’s face. The candle (their singing) sputtered a bit in the first couple of numbers with intonation and ensemble difficulties, but they pulled it together with some fine singing through most of the remainder of the program,

The first set of three selections included “A Short Alleluia” by Irving Fine, arranged by John Hopkins, the challenging “Almighty Father” from Leonard Bernstein’s MASS, and “Sing Ye Praises to Our King” by the young Aaron Copland. The later included very nice solo work by Shana Silverstein Barbieri, Annette Kronmiller, Michael Volow, and Michael Laken.

Triangle Jewish Chorale is a group of amateur singers from all walks of life who are drawn together by the joy of singing Jewish music in the broad variety of its many forms and sharing it with Triangle Audiences. It has been ten years since I first heard them at Temple Beth Or in Raleigh. Over those years the number of singers has increased, the repertoire they have chosen has expanded and become more challenging, and the quality of the singing has steadily improved, especially under the direction of Lorena Guillén, the very talented singer and conductor who is currently spending time in her native Argentina. The guest conductor for this performance was Susan Klebanow, Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is well known to Triangle audiences, primarily for her work with the Carolina Choir and Chamber Singers. The piano accompanist for today’s concert was J. Samuel Hammond, who has served in this role for a number of years. He shows keen musicianship and sensitivity to the partnership of accompaniment.

The second set also consisted of three pieces by Jewish composers, all sung in Hebrew. Salamone Rossi (1570-1630) was a very talented violinist and composer who served in the court of Mantua for forty years. His works include a number of instrumental pieces, madrigals, and a collection of Jewish liturgical music written in the early baroque tradition. This collection represents an unprecedented development in synagogue music. His “Barechu” was an uplifting motet in praise of Adonai. “L’Chah Dodi” by Mordechai Z’eira, arranged by Yehezkel Braun, is a setting of text by Rabbi Shlomo Alkavetz suggested from the Song of Solomon. With Charles Osborne‘s lovely setting of verses from Psalm 122 the choir hit full pace, singing with precision, expression and verve.

The next set focused more on the traditional and folk styles. The first; “Hora (Hava nirk’dana),” had toes tapping and smiles appearing. Hora refers to a traditional dance that was popular in the Baltic region. This work, composed by Julius Chajes, is robust and lively and was a joy to hear. “Erev Shel Shoshanim” is a very lovely setting taken from Song of Songs by Moshe Dor and set to music by Josef Hadar as arranged by Josef Klebanow, brother of the conductor. A charming piano accompaniment played by Hammond enhanced this well-sung lyrical gem. This set closed with the traditional Yiddish toe-tapper “Ale Brider” (We are all brothers). It was arranged by Joshua Jacobson, the beloved conductor of Boston’s Zamir Chorale. The verses were followed by a chorus of “Oy, oy, oy …” in which the audience joined in more and more enthusiastically. Verses were sung with gusto by Mike Liptsin, Judith Ruderman, and Bernard Most. It was great fun.

The last set included a stirring performance of Copland’s setting of “Zion’s Walls” from his Old American Songs in a choral arrangement by Glenn Koponen. This was followed by a modern setting of the traditional spiritual “Go Down, Moses” with Arlene Saper adding percussion to the accompaniment. This rendition combined the traditional tune with modern jazz harmonies. The notable accompaniment was masterfully played by Hammond, and the chorale did a nice job including handling some challenging ostinato passages. The program, quite appropriately, came to an end with the Gershwin brother’s spirited “Clap Yo’ Hands.”

For an encore, Klebanow reprised “Ale Brider.” Most everyone left with a smile, stopping by generously arrayed snack tables, greeting friends and neighbors, and congratulating the singers on a delightful concert.