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A Sense of Evolution

evening of music and drama
celebrating 350 years of Jews in Britain


One felt the sense of evolution of three and a half centuries in an inspiring evening of music and drama on 16 December 2006 to mark the culmination of a year commemorating the resettlement of Jews in Britain, at a capacity filled and candlelit Bevis Marks synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in Britain, built in 1702. The event, presented by the Sephardi Centre and produced by Kris Musikant, was compered impeccably by Norman Lebrecht, deputy editor of The Evening Standard and leading author on music, who recalled the exciting ambience of the ceremony at Bevis Marks in September, attended by the Prime Minister and Chief Rabbi, which formed the highlight of the 2006 Commemoration of 350 years of the resettlement of Jews in Britain. If that evening had reflected the blossoming of Anglo-Jewry from its modest beginnings in the time of Cromwell, Lebrecht surmised, this too would be a special evening, with three creative strands intertwined, cantorial, dramatic and choral, to close the commemorative year.

Bevis Marks Synagogue. Photo © Phil Walker
Bevis Marks Synagogue. Photo © Phil Walker

One of the main highlights was the beguiling selection of unfamiliar Sephardi liturgical music sung by the guest artist Daniel Halfon, a baritone and former chorister and guest cantor at Bevis Marks and currently based in Jerusalem. Halfon, who trained with the cantor of the Sephardi community of New York, Hazan Abraham Lopes Cardozo, was accompanied by the outstanding choir conductor and composer Raymond Goldstein, with whom he has recorded a selection of some fifty Sepahrdi settings in a two CD set soon to be released, a co-production of the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam and the Beth Hatefutsoth, The Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Tel Aviv. Goldstein's colourful arrangements (many are regular fare for Jewish choirs the world over), here featured violin and cello, performed with panache by the violinist Miriam Kramer and cellist Gemma Rosefield, with Goldstein at the piano.

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Copyright © 4 January 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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