2011 AJ Music Fest, “Gematria,” March 13, Includes World Premiere Composition

Editor’s note: The Adolf and Sara van der Walde and Israel Rosenbloum Music Festival at Adath Jeshurun will take place on Sunday, March 13, at 7 p.m.

[by Cantor David Lipp]


Occasionally, when I’m out in the world speaking with someone knowledgeable in classical music and old enough to have been around a few decades before me, he or she will say, “Louisville; isn’t that where the orchestra commissioned all that new music?”

Last year, the story behind that question came to life in the documentary, “Music Makes a City.” It detailed the over 150 phonograph records of music premiered by the Louisville Orchestra in the late 40’s and early 50’s. In 1948, the Louisville Orchestra began commissioning music, inspiring Dmitri Shostakovich and a Russian delegation to visit the fabled “home of new music.”

As I watched the film, I learned that it was the JCC Orchestra (which was then called the YMHA) in the late 30’s that was the source of many of the initial instrumentalists to comprise the nascent Louisville orchestra. I was struck by the incredible involvement of the mayor at the time, Charles Farnsley, whose enthusiasm and spearheading of the new compositions project made it possible. Then too, I realized that the cyclical financial woes of the orchestra were not new. The issues of financial solvency were evident from early on and continuous thereafter.

As I was planning the 40th anniversary of AJ’s Music Festival, I was interested in accomplishing a few things. One was using the talents of a favorite musical resource in town, Voces Novae, with whom I’ve sung for two prior festivals and numerous other engagements both in and outside the Jewish community.  Second, I wanted to initiate or spark some kind of follow-up to the early accomplishments of the Louisville Orchestra.

Knowing how expensive commissioning for an orchestra can be, I thought it might be worthwhile having a new piece written for a smaller ensemble with the hope that others might follow perhaps culminating in an eventual CD of new compositions for ensembles composed of Louisville Orchestra musicians for the 21st century.

Referred by Jeff Jamner, pianist extraordinaire and director of school programs for the Kentucky Center of the Arts, Jeremy Beck has stepped forward to write a piece for woodwind quintet that will have its world premiere at AJ on March 13th.

For inspiration, I asked him to read the poem by the Israeli poet Zelda, “Every Person has a Name,” and he came back with a piece called “Stars and Celebrations” a quote from the poem itself.

Having listened to the quintet in rehearsal, I am very excited about hearing it in performance. Matthew Karr on bassoon (Kathy will be in Israel on a Partnership trip), Andrea Levine on clarinet, Leah Arsenault on flute, Marion Gibson on oboe and Steve Causey on French horn make up the talented ensemble. The piece is a breath of fresh air – come breathe with us!

Although most of the concert will feature purely vocal music with the outstanding choral ensemble Voces Novae under the direction of Frank Heller III, my good friend and colleague Cantor Sharon Hordes, and the junior and adult community synagogue choirs, I am really looking forward to hearing this moment of purely instrumental inspiration.

For tickets, visit http://2011ajmusic festival.eventbrite.com/ or call 458-5359. They are $12.50 for adults, $10 for students and seniors; or $15 at the door.

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