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The vocal quartet returned at the end to sing some lighter selections from the Yale Song Book, a standard, and a Flanders and Swann witticism. There was a touch of traditional chazanut in Eliot Alderman's stirring renditions of beautiful settings by A Bernstein and Shalom Secunda of prayers recited before and after the reading of the scriptures in the Sabbath service, for which the Zemel took on the role of a humming synagogue choir. Especially entertaining was Ben Seifert's imposing performance of Go Down Moses in a compelling Gordon Jacob arrangement that allowed the basses plenty of action, and in Copland's evocative version of The Boatmen's Dance, a 19th century minstrel song ingeniously re-arranged for choir and soloist by Irving Fine.

Benjamin Wolf conducts the Zemel Choir
Benjamin Wolf conducts the Zemel Choir

A seasonal Hanukah medley rounded off a highly colourful and varied programme, the Sephardi Ocho Kendelikas and a witty rock'n'roll version of the children's song, I have a little Dreidl, with the tenor Marc Finer in Elvis-style dark sunglasses. The warm reception from the capacity audience was amply rewarded by the exuberant encore, a Sephardi version of Yom Ze Le'Yisrael, a Sabbath table hymn, sung by the solo trio and chorus. The concert augured well for the Zemel's forthcoming South Bank appearance, in the Purcell Room on 26 November 2006 (details at, to commemorate the 350th Anniversary of Jews in Britain, where the programme will include more extracts from Alman's Yiddish opera King Ahaz and the Yiddish Pirates of Penzance. An event not to be missed!

Copyright © 18 November 2006 Malcolm Miller, London UK



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