Music, Preview, Uncategorized, Vocal music

The Almond Trees in Bloom: Colorado Hebrew Chorale and Kol Nashim celebrate Tu B’Shvat

Preview article by Betsy Schwarm

Fresh, new music – timeless hopes and dreams – a community gathered together to raise its voice in song:  surely, those are some of the best things in life.  Those directly involved may get the biggest benefit, but listeners, too, can be carried away by the fulfilling experience.

Colorado Hebrew Chorale

The event in question is Raisins and Almonds: A Tu B’Shvat Celebration.  Each winter, the Colorado Hebrew Chorale (CHC) and its affiliated women’s choir, Kol Nashim, offer a concert followed by sing-along and dessert reception.  This year, it will be Sunday, February 5, in southeast Denver, at the Hebrew Educational Alliance.  Of the date, Kol Nashim conductor Leah Peer observes that it coincides “with the Jewish Holiday of Tu B’Shvat (15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat), which is the New Year for trees in the Jewish tradition (Jewish Arbor Day, if you like).” 

Leah Peer and Nili Abrahamsson

Both spirited music and introspective selections will be featured.  Of the latter category, consider a new work by Nili Abrahamsson, a Denver-area composer, though also pianist for Kol Nashim.  Abrahamsson and Kol Nashim conductor Leah Peer were both deeply moved by the Hebrew poem Veshuv, the work of German/Israeli poet Lea Goldberg (1911 – 1970).  Goldberg’s verses muse poignantly upon rejected love, which, to some hearts, might seem crushing.  However, Abrahamsson attests that she set it “in a major key to try to make it more wistful and contemplative rather than bleak and in an attempt to bring out the universality of loss as our human condition.”  Infused more with sighs than sobs, Veshuv is beautifully suited to the women’s voices of Kol Nashim. 

Salamone Rossi

The Colorado Hebrew Chorale’s portion of the program will include two pieces by Mantua native Salomone Rossi (1570 – 1630).  The name may not ring a bell, though the musical style likely will.  Rossi and fellow Italian Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) both drew upon late Italian Renaissance practices of closely interwoven melodies and harmonies, so that vocal lines blend together while simultaneously standing out distinct from one another.  Colorado Hebrew Chorale will perform two of Rossi’s works:  a secular madrigal sung in Italian and a Jewish liturgical piece sung in Hebrew.  Both will be recognizably akin in style.  One could wonder if Monteverdi, who himself also spent time in Mantua, ever had the opportunity to hear, and perhaps admire, the music of Rossi.

Dr. Seth Ward

In addition to the compositions spotlighted here, both the Colorado Hebrew Chorale and Kol Nashim will also perform other works.  Additionally, they’ll join forces, not just with each other, but also with the Denver Children’s Choir premiere high school ensemble, Altitude, for one selection on the program:  Hamisha Asar (Hebrew for ‘15’) by Flory Jagoda.  Here the language will be neither strictly Hebrew, nor Italian or even English.  Rather, the text is in Ladino, a Judeo-Spanish dialect with origins in the 14th and 15th centuries.  Dr. Seth Ward, a specialist in Islamic-Judaic studies, notes that the Sephardim (Jews from Spain, or of Spanish heritage) developed their own dialect from regional Spanish before being expelled from the Iberian Peninsula after 1492.   Ward adds that Ladino is even closer to Spanish than Yiddish is to German.  Thus, some listeners may find themselves recognizing certain word roots, though they might swear they had never before heard a word of Ladino.  The increasingly dance-like energy of the piece may also bring home the thought that this is music for celebration.

Carol Kozak Ward
Dafna Michaelson-Jenet, Colorado House Representative

To be held at the Hebrew Educational Alliance, 3600 South Ivanhoe, in southeast Denver, Raisins and Almonds: A Tu B’Shvat Celebration is scheduled for Sunday, February 5.  The evening begins with a VIP reception before the 6:30pm concert.  A dessert reception will follow the program, and will include an Israeli style sing-along (shirah b’tzibur).  Carol Kozak Ward, conductor of the Colorado Hebrew Chorale, reminds us that “Tu B’Shvat is widely celebrated in Israel, as it marks the winding down of winter, and includes planting, a focus on trees (especially the blooming of the almond trees), and of course – food.”  In Colorado, it may be too early to plant trees, but not to reflect upon the approaching close of winter, and certainly food enjoyed in the company of others. 

Special guest Dafna Michaelson-Jenet, Colorado State Representative, District 30, will be honored at the event.

Tickets for the Colorado Hebrew Chorale’s Raisins and Almonds: A Tu B’Shvat Celebration are available by clicking here.

One will also find a link to a map of the location, as well as contact information for the ensembles.

Winter is winding down; spring shall follow.  In almost any culture, those are reasons for celebration, made all the more vibrant by the addition of song.

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