Friday, April 28, 2017

The upcoming Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival offers varied concert fare

Kiryat Yearim Church (photo: Danny Herman)
The 51st Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival will take place from May 30th to June 3rd 2017.  Singer and conductor Hanna Tzur has been the festival’s musical director since 1995. Concerts are held in the spacious Church of the Ark of the Covenant gracing the Kiryat Yearim hilltop and in the intimate Crypt of the 12th century Benedictine Crusader Church nestling in a peaceful, exotic garden. People from all over Israel attend the festival, taking time out from the bustle of everyday life to immerse themselves in good music, enjoy the views over the Judean Hills, to picnic with friends, get a taste of the outdoor performances and browse the craft stalls.

A ground-breaking event of the 51st Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival is "A Brazilian Requiem for a Portuguese Queen", in which the Ensemble PHOENIX will play on authentic instruments of the Classical period, offering an orchestral sound quality rarely heard in Israel. This year’s Shavuot festival will host the Delaware University Choir from the USA (conductor: Paul D. Head); they will perform two concerts covering a wide repertoire: in “Bach, Africa and Spirituals” (Concert No.1) the singers will be joined by virtuoso percussionist Chen Zimbalista, their second performance (Concert No.5) engaging in “Celebrations, Sorrows, Jazz and Spirituals”.  In “Jazz and Classic Meet in Abu Gosh” (Concert No.7) the Yaron Gottfried Trio will collaborate with the Moran Vocal Quartet in music of Vivaldi, Purcell, Britten and numbers from the King’s Singers’ stylish arrangements.

For Baroque music aficionados, the Tel Aviv Chamber Choir (Conductor: Michael Shani) will be joined by Ensemble Barrocade and soloists in “Vivaldi – Magnificat, Gloria and Concerto” (Concert No.9). “I Love Bach the Most” (Concert No.6), will feature the Shahar Choir (conductor: Gilla Brill) and soloists in works of J.S.Bach and conclude with some popular Israeli pieces inspired by the great German Baroque master; also performing Bach together with lighter fare,  the Moran Vocal Octet will extol the virtues of a-cappella singing in “Bach and the Beatles with Vocal Octet” (Concert No.13).

In “He Pastures among the Lilies” (Concert No.15), Israeli opera singer Hadar Atari will offer concert-goers a glimpse into her two different musical worlds in a program including both Mozart and Yemenite Jewish songs. In a concert with a distinct French flavour, Ronen Borshevsky will conduct the Ihud Choir and soloists in “Gounod – Missa Solemnis for Santa Cecilia” (Concert No.4). With the Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition taking place as I write this, the Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival’s concert “Winner of the 15th Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition” (Concert No.3) will feature pianist Idit Zvi (director of the piano competition), soprano Keren Hadar and pianist Irit Rub, as well as the Ramat Gan Chamber Choir, conducted by Hanna Tzur herself.

An Abu Gosh Festival tradition, hearing singers of the Meitar Opera Studio (Young Artists Program of the Israeli Opera), with their musical director, arranger and pianist David Sebba, is always a delight; performed by Israel’s new generation of opera singers, “Hallelujah -  Leonard in America” (Concert No.10) will include music of both Leonard Bernstein and Leonard Cohen.

A number of concerts will cater to lovers of traditional- and folk music. Taking us into the world of Fado music, its longing and fate, is Hagit Noam’s presentation of “Amalia Rodrigues, Queen of Fado – From Portugal with Love” (Concert No.14). The Kibbutz Artzi Choir (conductor: Yuval Benozer) and the Raanana Symphonette will be joined by alto Silvia Kigel in “Theodorakis – Zorba the Greek” (Concert No.2). Soprano Revital Raviv will be accompanied three instrumentalists in repertoire memorable as performed by Greek songstress Nana Mouskouri in “A Tribute to Nana Mouskouri’s Songs” (Concert No.12). Soprano Daniela Skorka and guitarist Eyal Leber will team up to create “South American in Songs” (Concert No.11) and “Folk Songs from Spain, Russia, England and France” (Concert No.16) will be performed by the Alla Breve Quartet, with Eliav Lavi on guitar.

 Sofia Pedro (photo:Smiljka Boskov) 
As mentioned above, a  unique and festive event of the 51st Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival will be “A Brazilian Requiem for a Portuguese Queen” by José Maurício Nunes Garcia (Concert No.8). The production will be a collaboration between Ensemble PHOENIX (director: Myrna Herzog) and the Upper Galilee Choir (director: Ron Zarchi), solo singers and overseas guests: Brazilians - violinist Luis Otávio Santos and bassoonist Ricardo Rapoport (who will play an original Classical bassoon and the cavaquinho - a Brazilian folk instrument) and Portuguese soprano Sofia Pedro. Creating the specific and astoundingly distinct Classical orchestral timbre will be Classical clarinets, Classical flute, natural horns, early timpani and period stringed instruments played with Classical bows. Brazilian-born Dr. Myrna Herzog, who will be the conductor of the event, writes: “The year of 2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767-1830), the most important Brazilian colonial composer. His music was never performed in Israel, where he is unknown. PHOENIX takes the opportunity to reveal this excellent composer to the Israeli public, premiering his remarkable Requiem from 1816. Our program also includes the music of Portuguese composer Marcos Portugal, of Damião Barbosa de Araújo from Bahia, active in Rio during this period, and a popular dance, the Lundu.” 

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