In 1971, Cantor Jerome
B. Kompar founded a children’s chorus
under the auspices of his congregation
in Dayton, Ohio. It was known as the
Beth Abraham Youth Chorale and was
devoted to the rendition of Jewish
and Judaically-related classical music
at a time when the winds of Jewish
musical fashion were coming to be
dominated by more popular sounds.
In the choir’s 12
years of existence, they commissioned
music from a number of contemporary
composers. The two works on this disc
were amongst the music commissioned.
Both works were originally written
for three upper voice parts but for
this recording, the works have been
arranged to include adult male voices.
Sholom Kalib was
born in Dallas but his uncle and grandfather
were cantors in the traditional Eastern
European mold. Kalib has specialised
in notating and publishing the largely
unwritten music of an earlier generation
of Cantors. A cantor himself, he also
writes and arranges for his own use
and for use in synagogues. His Day
of Rest is a concert setting of
text from three sections of the Sabbath
liturgy for Friday evening (kabbalat
shabbat and arvit), Saturday
morning (shaharit, the Tora
service and mussaf) and the
concluding service on Sunday evening.
There are 19 numbers in all and six
are included on this recording. The
music is in a tuneful, folk-influenced
idiom and when not trying too hard
is rather pleasing. Some numbers such
as Uv’nuho Yomar strain for
a bigger, more Romantic idiom and
do not always succeed in their intentions.
I am afraid that, attractive though
they are, I found that some of the
longer numbers, Uv’nuho Yomar
and Havdala, rather outstay
their welcome as the musical material
is not strongly developed.
Tel Aviv born Abraham
Kaplan is a distinguished choral trainer;
he collaborated for many years with
Leonard Bernstein and the New York
Philharmonic. In 1977 he became director
of choral studies at the University
of Washington. His compositions include
a complete Sabbath service. Psalms
of Abraham is a cantata consisting
of twelve settings of excerpts from
the Psalms. It was premiered in 1980.
Like the other work on the disc, Psalms
of Abraham is written in a melodic,
folk-influenced style. The individual
movements are attractive, but I felt
that with the total of twelve movements
was rather too many and that the piece
ran out of steam before the end, partly
because, like Kalib, Kaplan does not
overly develop his material. This
is probably because neither composer
felt confident in giving the chorus
anything too taxing to do.
The pieces receive
attractive performances from the Vienna
Boys Choir and the Chorus Viennensis
but the standard of choral singing
is not always up to the level that
we expect from this group.
I wish I could be
more enthusiastic about these works.
Their recording preserves an important
aspect of the performance of the Jewish
liturgy, but neither composer has
completely transcended the limitations
placed on them by having to write
for children’s chorus. That said,
I hope that this recording might encourage
choirs to widen their repertoire and
experiment with these pieces.