Thursday, December 22, 2011

An evening for friends of the Moran Choirs at the Tel Aviv Museum

Naomi Faran

Friends of the Moran Choirs were treated to a delightful evening of music and words in the new Herta and Paul Amir Wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art December 12th 2011. There was an air of excitement and expectation as guests arrived at the reception to enjoy a glass of wine, meet old friends and talk to Naomi Faran, the founder, musical director and conductor of the Moran Choirs (Emek Hefer). The evening – “Beyond the Voices” – was a celebration of 25 years of tireless activity and devoted work with singers of the Moran Choirs, their ages ranging from 5 to 25 years of age.

With the audience seated in the auditorium, the Moran Singers Ensemble opened with a lively performance of Naomi Shemer’s “Serenade” (arrangement by pianist and composer Eyal Bat). Conducting was a Moran graduate, baritone Guy Pelc. The Moran Singers Ensemble comprises young singers and graduates of Moran choirs, IDF soldiers of the Outstanding Musicians Program and students of music academies. Pelc’s richly-colored singing of the “Libera Me” from Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, (singing the chorus was the Moran Choir 12- to 17-year-olds, conductors Naomi Faran, Carmit Amit Antopolsky, pianist Oleg Yakerevich) was moving. The Moran Singers Ensemble’s very fine singing of one movement of Israeli composer Daniel Akiva’s “Out of the Depths” (Psalm 130) included four soloists.

Naomi Faran then addressed the gathering, talking of her philosophy of choral singing – to instill a love of singing together, acceptance of the other, excellence and professionalism, to build confidence and discipline, to encourage listening and to nurture the ability to be expressive. She mentioned upcoming overseas concert tours. Moran singers also visit and sing with young cancer patients at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center. Naomi Faran concluded with her credo that singing can sometimes overcome life’s obstacles and produce undreamed-of results.

Chairman of the executive committee Shmuel Ben Dror reminded us that the evening we were attending represented many years of work and Naomi Faran’s vision of bringing people together.

For more than ten years, the Moran Choir has worked with the Tokayer Boarding School. Nira Peled, the school’s principal, spoke of the fact that there are people who can change, encourage and influence others and that singing together with the Moran Choir has presented a challenge to her students to adopt the appropriate behavior to participate in such activities; its rewards are many – higher self-esteem, acceptance into normative (in fact, an elite!) groups, as well as the joys of music-making. Peled hopes the Education Ministry will establish more projects of this kind.

Conducted by Sharon Ram, we then heard the Moran Youth Choir (ages 8-11), joined by boys from the Tokayer Boarding School for at-risk children (Kibbutz Bachan) in an arrangement by Rani Golan of Shmulik Kraus’s ever-popular and catchy “You Can Not Go Just Like That” (lyrics: Yoram Taharlev). A drum quartet of boys from the Tokayer School added to the snappy and lively performance of this favorite. Yoram Taharlev, himself, took to the stage to present a concise and witty review of the history of the modern Israeli song and its language, after which the two groups performed another of Taharlev’s songs; the soloist was a boy from the Tokayer School.
‘A song from the heart is simple
And it is so easy to remember.
It chooses words that will soothe pain
And will bring you light’.

Another Moran Choir graduate is soprano Yael Levita; a former member of the Israeli Opera Studio, she is currently based in Berlin. Her choice of “Adele’s Audition Aria” from Johann Strauss’s “Fledermaus” (The Bat) delighted the audience, not only because she chose to sing it in Hebrew: Levita’s vocal ease and flexibility, together with her bright timbre, were matched with fine stage presence - humor, use of facial expression, movement and a general sense of fun.

Opera singer, soprano Sivan Rotem has been a vocal coach with the Moran Singers Ensemble for some four years. Born in Buenos Aires, she started her musical training as a violinist. Today her singing performance schedule takes her all over the world. Joined by the Moran Singers Ensemble, she entertained the audience well with her performance of “Grenada” (music and lyrics: A.Lara, arrangement E.Bat). Rotem’s expansive voice, her dramatic flair and ease of movement conjured up the temperament and vitality of Spain and Spanish music and dance.

The Nitzan Onim Center was established in 1988 by the National Insurance Company to provide a framework for the population of adults with learning-, functional- and adaptive disabilities. Today, 90% of the young people there hold jobs and live independently. Rachel Rand, director of Nitzan Onim, spoke of Moran’s productive five years of work with the Nitzan people. With aims set at serious musical training and general excellence, their choir works with Rani Golan, with Sivan Rotem working on voice training. The young people are serious in their approach to their music education; their singing with the Moran Singers gives them a sense of equality and pride. We heard them together with the Moran Singers Ensemble in a delightful rendering of Eyal Bat’s arrangement of David Broza’s song “Homeland Visit” (lyrics: Y.Gefen), with Li’oz Gutman as soloist. One could not but be impressed with the fine blend of beautiful voices and polished performance…by any standards!

Arriving on stage, holding colorful umbrellas, the Moran Youth Choir presented a particularly charming performance of Rani Golan’s arrangement of “The Rain Song” (Lyrics:L.Goldberg, music Y.Welbe). Most of the evening’s song performances included movements, some a little stilted in style. The Moran Youth Choir’s movements, however, were natural and flowing. A number of creative ideas added touches that enhanced certain numbers: the 12- to 18-year-old singers of the Moran Choir donned glittery masks to perform Welsh composer Karl Jenkins’ (b.1944) unusual piece “Adiemus”, a work in which voices function as musical instruments, with the vocals not real words but syllabic fragments of the word “Adiemus” (Latin: We will draw near). A combination of singing, movement and drumming, the performance was spirited, original and, actually, quite inebriating!

And on the subject of the human voice as an instrument, MK Isaac Herzog, present at the event, spoke of the voice as a rare instrument, of singing as uplifting to us humans and of the Moran choirs as being musically-, socially- and communally exemplary - a “rare voice from Emek Hefer”.

Mo’adon Dana (Givat Haim) caters to children with special needs. Members of the Dana Club are excited about choral singing and about their warm connection with members of the Moran Choir. Together they performed Shmulik Kraus’s “It Happens”. Rani Golan has dedicated his arrangement of it to the friendship between the choirs. And friendship there certainly was, with the children singing so musically with their arms around each other and Nomi Faran moving around the stage, as if to address each child. What a beautiful moment that was!

It was no coincidence that the next song was “Giving” (music: Boaz Sharabi, lyrics: Chamutal Ben Ze’ev). Gil Aldema arranged the song, seeing it as symbolic of the giving, tolerance and sensitiveness which form the values behind the dynamic of the Moran choirs. In a poignant and tasteful reading of the song, we heard renowned soloist Hadas Faran-Asia's creamy, silvery singing and girls of the Moran Choir.
‘To give of the soul and the heart,
To give,
To give when you love.
And however one finds the difference
Between receiving and giving
You will learn to give, to give.’

Soprano Hadas Faran-Asia, another Moran graduate, performs widely and is a vocal coach with the Moran Choir. She and soprano Merav Barnea (a former Moran coach, now performing on the opera stage internationally) performed “Memories” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” (lyrics: T.S.Eliot).

The event ended with the young singers joining together in song, some little girls dressed in white holding long-stemmed roses. Many devoted people had worked hard to stage this memorable evening….too many to mention here. The audience had enjoyed the warmth and informality of the evening, the suitable repertoire for such an event and excellent choral singing, with all the young participants well rehearsed. Naomi Faran is quiet and understated in her manner; however, her energy and vision are changing young lives and society for the better.

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