Monday, February 3, 2014

The Moran Choirs' annual gala concert at the Tel Aviv Museum

This year’s annual gala concert of the Moran Choirs and the House of Song went under the name of “Interlinking Voices - Songs and People 2014”. The festive event, held in honor of friends and organizations that support the Moran choirs and projects, took place at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on January 26th 2014. The Moran Choir was established in 1986 by Naomi Faran; she remains the non-profit organization’s musical director and chief conductor, with several choirs functioning today. Words of welcome were spoken by Naomi Faran, whose work and mission with the formative powers of singing have taken her to many parts of the world both conducting choirs and as an educationalist. She mentioned the joy and excitement of singing, the excellence it encourages as well as a sense of giving, acceptance and a love of humanity. This year Mr. Shmuel Ben Dror, chairman of the Moran Choirs executive committee, made the decision not to talk but to sing; he was joined in very tuneful singing by a little girl from one of the choirs. Chairman of the Emek Hefer Council Mr. Rani Idan spoke of his community work with Naomi Faran and of their project of the previous year, whereby all primary school children in the area had received singing lessons.

And to the evening’s musical program, which started out with a Spanish folksong “Ai Linda Amiga” sung to haunting sounds of piano and drums by members of the Moran Choir, whose members, aged 12 to 16 (all wearing black hats) gave a competent performance, their well-blended sounds creating the piece’s exotic mood. Moving to Baroque music, their lightness of texture and good English enunciation in “Come Ye Sons of Arts” and “Sound the Trumpet” from Henry Purcell’s “Ode for Queen Mary’s Birthday” made for pleasing listening. Founded in 1986, the Moran Choir performs in all major Israeli concert halls, with orchestras, the Israeli Opera, in national ceremonies and special events and has had several works written for it. In addition, it has represented Israel at overseas festivals, competitions and workshops. Members of the Moran Choir visit the pediatric cancer ward of the Schneider Children’s Hospital, where they sing with the young patients there.

Established by Naomi Faran as a professional choir in 1998, the Moran Singers Ensemble is the senior choir of the Moran family. Among its singers, many of them soloists, are graduates of the Moran Choir, singers from the Outstanding Musicians Unit of the Israel Defense Forces and music academy students. Performing the gamut of choral music, the Ensemble has toured overseas, appearing in festivals and winning prizes at choral competitions. Conducted by Ziv Kozokro, the chamber group performed three movements from Cristóbal de Morales’ “Magnificat primi toni” (1542). The Ensemble presented the work’s piety, its subtlety and intricate Renaissance polyphony with clean, well shaped singing and warmth of sound. Testifying to the wonders of modern technology, the Moran Singers Ensemble was joined by the choir of the Bremen Academy (the latter group seen on a screen) in a poignant, velvety and totally synchronized performance of the Hebrew song “Evening of Roses” (lyrics: Moshe Dor, music: Yosef Hadar).

The Youth Choir caters to children from ages 8 to 11. At weekly rehearsals, these children receive training in group- and solo singing, acting and movement. The choir has performed in children’s operas, also in an Israeli Opera performance of Puccini’s “Tosca”. In a setting of Yehuda Atlas’s poem “This Child Is Me”, the Youth Choir’s infectious energy, the children’s confidence, use of the stage, of movement, in small solos and much pleasing ensemble singing, one was inspired by the energy, enthusiasm and musicality displayed. Corinne Allal’s catchy song “We Are a Rare Breed”, focusing on the raw reality of life in Israel, brought the Youth Choir together with a few boys from the Tokayer Boarding School. The polished, foot-tapping and well rehearsed performance, with solos sung by boys from the Tokayer School, was hearty and enormously enjoyable. The Tokayer School at Kibbutz Bachan is an institution for at-risk children. The connection between them and the Youth Choir was initiated by Naomi Faran and Nachum Itzkovich, head of the Emek Hefer Council. Weekly rehearsals, under the guidance of Anat Alpan, bring together the 70 children and youngsters of the Tokayer School from age 7 to 15 in what could really be called a “singing school”. A small group of the Tokayer children travel to Beit Yitzhak to rehearse with the Moran Youth Choir.

Another Moran outreach program takes place within the Nitzan Onim Center, Kfar Saba, a facility offering a rehabilitative- and therapeutic framework for young people of 18 to 25 with learning disabilities and problems related to adaptation and social functioning. Composer and arranger Rani Golan works with the young singers there, who take their music studies very seriously. They also join the Moran Singers Ensemble for joint work and performances. We heard the two ensembles in a fine performance of Rani Golan’s upbeat arrangement of Eli Mohar’s “The Great Journey”, its snappy rhythms backed by piano and percussion. In another important project, Ronen Perry runs the choir at the Dana Club (Kibbutz Giv’at Haim Ihud) for special needs children, a project set up in 2001 by Naomi Faran. In addition to its weekly rehearsals, the group also meets with the Moran Choir for joint performances, as we heard in their mellifluous singing of Naomi Shemer’s “I Am a Guitar”. In a small film clip, we saw a little of the joint choral work at the Dana Club, with one of the members talking of the enrichment and sense of self singing gives her.

As of 2006, Naomi Faran has done much to include children of the Ethiopian community in her choirs. One of these projects has been “Sheba”, a choir founded 20 years ago by Shlomo Gronich. Since 2013, the Moran Choir has been meeting with this group from Kfar Yona, a choir conducted by Eva de Majo. Naomi Faran spoke of the unique singing voices and musical tradition of these Ethiopian girls. In what could only be called excellent singing and fine intonation, the two groups joined to perform Shlomo Gronich’s setting of the Bertolt Brecht poem “All Shall Be”.

The Moran Little Ones Choir gave a delightful, fresh performance of a song from “Alice in Wonderland”, the enearing quality of their voices winning the audience over. These are children who are learning the fundamentals of correct singing, how to read music, how to listen and how to express themselves through song. Their repertoire, including movement, is based on songs appropriate to their age and includes some original material.

One of the Moran Choirs’ most prominent graduates is soprano Hadas Faran-Asia. A soloist and opera singer, Hadas was a soloist of the Moran Singers Ensemble for many years and a member of the Israeli Bach Soloists. Today she performs and works as a voice coach with the Moran Choirs. Her performance of Léo Delibes’ “Les Filles de Cadix” (The Maids of Cadiz), a bolero with a flirtatious attitude, was a fine vehicle for her coloratura voice and vocal flexibility as she sailed her way through the work’s virtuosic melismatic turns, vocalizes and trills, chromatic runs. Hadas Faran-Asia’s stable, bright vocal color and superb technique pair well with her animated personality.

Pianist Oleg Yakirevich’s performance of two Chopin preludes lent a tasteful touch to the evening’s music. Quick-witted comedienne Eleanor Sela had the audience in peals of laughter, her patter all based on the subject of the Moran choirs and the event itself.

It was a festive evening of fine music and sheer enjoyment. The audience was offered a rich selection of the work of several of the Moran choirs – of beautiful singing and excellence - as well as the tireless work carried out by Naomi Faran and her devoted team of coaches and pianists. All was done in good taste - the simple but effective costumes, the use of movement and stage and the quiet order in which all was carried out. Behind all of these lies Naomi Faran’s belief in human interaction and respect, in the importance of listening to the other, in acceptance and giving and in the powers of singing.

No comments: