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Back to the Future

Cantors in concert at JMI Central,
reviewed by MALCOLM MILLER


The reprise of the overture as encore, a foot tapping tune to 'Sheheheyanu', formed a sparkling climax to an exhilarating Cantorial Concert at Great Portland Street Synagogue, Hallam Street, London UK, on Monday 18 June 2007. The concert, entitled 'Back to the Future', and presented by JMI Central, featured eight star cantors, from Israel, Canada and Britain, supported by the London Jewish Male Choir, singing a varied selection of traditional 'chazzanut' and Yiddish song. In addition to the individual singing styles of each cantor, four expert accompanists enhanced the occasion with their individuality: LJMC's pianist Jeremy Limb, LJMC's Associate composer to the JMVC Joseph Finlay, the noted arranger and choral director Stephen Glass and Jewish Music scholar Alex Knapp.

Together with Victor Tunkel's erudite programme notes about the cantorial art, the event formed a stimulating educational opening to the Second International Cantors Convention, a Jewish Music Institute initiative which has attracted a gathering of promising cantors to develop knowledge and skills guided by experience masters of the art.

Aptly, Steven Leas, Director of JMI Central and Cantor of Great Portland Street Synagogue, opened the programme of elaborate settings of the synagogue liturgy with the famous Sefirat Ha'Omer by Samuel Alman, the greatest British synagogue composer of the early 20th century. The drama and solemnity of the setting were well conveyed with Cantor Leas' powerful voice set against some beautiful contrasts and blending in the choir, who have developed drastically under the leadership of their conductor Michael Etherton. It was followed by Eliot Alderman (Assistant Cantor at Great Portland St) in Lo Amut by Gotbetter, a fascinating, chromatic sinewy setting which challenged the choir considerably in intonation. A genial contrast ensued in the form of the Canadian cantor Arie Subar, who was visiting from Montreal together with Stephen Glass, who accompanied him delicately in the witty Yiddish song Der Mantel, that celebrates the creativity of the poet singer.

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Copyright © 20 June 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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