Strength in Numbers – Two Hebrew Chorales to Perform
A preview by By Marc Shulgold
For Leah Peer, breaking from the Colorado Hebrew Chorale in 2013 to form a subsidiary women’s chorus was hardly an act of defiance. Instead, it was, the director of Kol Nashim, says, an act that would strengthen the mixed chorus led by Carol Kozak Ward.
“We’re all just following the Hebrew concept of ‘Fixing the World’,” Peer notes of both ensembles. “For us, we’re fixing it one song at a time.”
To demonstrate solidarity with the parent group – which includes the 21 members of Kol Nashim – the two groups will each offer three songs and a final combined performance at the Hebrew Chorale’s celebratory gala on January 28 at the Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver.
Titled “Raisins & Almonds” (or if you prefer the Yiddish, Rozhinkes mit mandlen), the gala features a silent auction, along with displays by local vendors and plenty of food. Ward, finally back in town after being marooned in New York City’s winter storm, noted that the musical portion of the evening includes appearances by the Colorado Chamber Players, Cantor Asa Fradkin and composer Gerald Cohen – the latter in town to oversee the premiere of his Holocaust tale, Steal a Pencil for Me, sung this month by Opera Colorado.
“We’ll sing the Prayer for the closing of the Sabbath, plus two pieces by Gerald, alternating with the songs by Kol Nashim,” Ward explains. “This will be a wonderful way for us to celebrate our 25th year.”
Peer and her group will include the premiere of a song by local singer-songwriter Julie Geller, When I Blessed the Candles, with a Hebrew text by the Israeli poet Zelda (1914-84). “It’s a mixed feeling of joy and sorrow,” Peer says, adding that David Ross composed the piano accompaniment.
“A supporter (of Kol Nashim) wanted to fund a commission,” the director says of the premiere. “I looked for a text with a strong women’s voice, but Julie ended up finding the poem.” She added that Geller’s work is “not an anti-men thing.”
Indeed, Peer stresses, the idea of establishing a separate women’s chorale (Kol Nashim loosely translates as “Women’s Voice” or “All Women”) would be a case of the unbrella organization “gaining strength in numbers.” The two groups share the same board and rehearse, back to back, each Monday evening. “Adding Kol Nashim opened up new options for grant support and donations,” she says, noting that the group, which started with five members, was established with a commitment to help victims of domestic violence. “It’s a women-to-women program that led to a concert in March of last year, ‘Sing Out for Safe House.’ We performed with two other women’s choirs, The 14ers and Impromptu, raising $10,000.” That benefit event will be repeated, augmented by two more choirs, in March of this year.
Peer insists that her group has nothing against men, though she did admit with a laugh that Kol Nashim’s final offering at the gala will be I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.
The Colorado Hebrew Chorale and Kol Nashim will host a “Tu B’Shvat Celebration” at 5 p.m. Sunday, January 28 in the Hebrew Educational Alliance, 3600 S. Ivanhoe St., Denver. Information: (303) 355-0232 or coloradohebrewchorale.org.