Excellent Musicians, Varied Music is Professional and Effective

By Morton Gold

A new release (Nov. 2019) has come out of a CD titled: Rejoice! Honoring the Jewish Spirit. (Essential Voices USA). It was published by Acis (APL97092). The CD contains nine compositions, all selected and conducted by Judith Clurman.

The excellent accompanist is James Cunningham, and the fine cellists are David Miller in track 3 and Raman Ramakrishnan in track 5. The music is varied, and their arrangements are all professional and effective. I will make brief comments about each selection and then some final comments about the CD to sum up. A handsome booklet with texts and commentary is included.

I must add a mea culpa. What follows are merely my opinions. (Yours may be different.)

Track 1: The Eight Days of Lights composed by Judith Clurman and David Chase. The text is from the liturgy and was adapted by Ms. Clurman. The music reflects an artistic rendering of the text. The piano part supports the choir and adds to the enhancement of the composition.

Track 2: Dayeinu (trad.) arranged by Trude Rittmann. This is a vibrant concert rendition of the familiar Seder melody.

Track 3: Ki Hineih Kachomer composed by Ms. Clurman and arranged by Ryan Nowlin. This work features a lovely melody enhanced by a tasteful arrangement. (I confess that this selection along with the next and the last one are my favorites on this CD.)

Track 4: Shlof Mayn Fegele music by Mikhail Lermontov, lyrics by Abraham Goldfaden and is arranged by Ryan Nowlin. This beautiful tune of Russian descent speaks for itself.

Track 5: Yeish Kochavim composed by Jonathan Tunick and Track 6: Everlasting Light, composed by David Shire can both be described as examples of modern treatments composed for a well trained chorus (which describes the vocal ensemble on this disc.) My sole reservation with this otherwise well trained group concerns the lapses in intonation in the soprano section.

Tracks 7 and 8 are called Songs of Peace by Jeremiah Klarman both arranged by David Chase. No. 7 is called Hineih Ma Tov and is nothing like the traditional tune. This is particularly well performed. No. 8 is a rousing setting of Oseh Shalom. (What’s not to like?)

Ms. Clurman is to be congratulated for the cohesive ensemble of her choral group as well as the effective range of dynamics (levels of volume.) The selections were chosen with care and are varied in style and scope. This is an artistic CD of the kind of music that needs to be encouraged. The problem is that there are not an abundance of trained choral groups of this caliber to perform this kind of music.

The recording is produced and engineered by Silas Brown, who is nominated for three 2020 Grammy Awards. All scores are available from Hal Leonard (www.halleonard.com) and at all your favorite sites online for purchase/Spotify

Dr. Gold is a composer/conductor, retired educator and an arts reviewer.

Editor’s Note: Judith Clurman was music supervisor and vocal coach for the movie, The Song of Names (https://www.sonyclassics.com/thesongofnames/). She conducted the choral/vocal music on the set. She is pictured below with Howard Shore who provided original film score for the film.

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