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A Living Legacy: American Jewish Liturgical Composers of the 20th Century

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Friday, December 1, 2006

An exhibition celebrating the creativity and contributions of
Samuel Adler, Charles Davidson, Jack Gottlieb, Michael Isaacson, Gershon Kingsley, Stephen Richards, Bonia Shur, Simon Sargon, Ben Steinberg, and Yehudi Wyner 

November 12 - January 26, 2007
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum
One West 4th Street, New York, NY

This multi-media exhibition profiles ten prolific composers who have contributed significantly to the world of Jewish music: Samuel Adler, Charles Davidson, Jack Gottlieb, Michael Isaacson, Gershon Kingsley, Stephen Richards, Bonia Shur, Simon Sargon, Ben Steinberg, and Yehudi Wyner. 

They are "living links" to the creative age of mid-twentieth century synagogue music; and today they, in turn, lay the foundation for a renaissance of choral music in early twenty-first century synagogue life. As a group they have written hundreds of compositions and they remain active today. Serving in various capacities as cantors, teachers, lecturers, recording artists, accompanists, coaches, and conductors, these ten composers have profoundly contributed to the music of our time both in their liturgical and secular work 

Born in Europe, India, and the United States, they have studied with some of the most illustrious composers of the 20th century. In the area of Jewish liturgical music they were mentored by an earlier generation of mostly European-born composers. Hugo Chaim Adler (a German cantor and composer), the father of Samuel Adler, and Lazar Weiner (a Russian born composer and music director), father of Yehudi Wyner, directly show this link. Other mentors brought significant influence to the ten composers. An influential mentor was Max Helfman, who encouraged many of them. 

This exhibition displays the multi-dimensional capacities of the "living links" and their mentors. The photographs, manuscripts, recordings, publications, and program booklets document and celebrate craft and talent, dedicated commitment and, ultimately, joy in the gift of composition. They stand as "living links" both to our musical past and future. The materials on view have come from the composers' personal archives, the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Walter Davidson Music Resource Center of the Klau Library at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. 

The exhibition features a listening environment, in which the visitor can sample the creativity of the composers in selected works:

  • Grace After Meals by Max Helfman
    The "Magic" of Max Helfman; sung by Max Helfman [LP]
  • A Prophecy of Peace (Micah 4:1-4) by Samuel Adler
    The Choral Music of Samuel Adler; Gloriae Dei Cantores; Elizabeth C. Patterson, conductor [CD, 2004]
  • Shir Hashirim by Yehudi Wyner from O to Be a Dragon
    Private Recording of Yehudi Wyner; Wellesley College Choir; Susan Davenny Wyner, conductor; Yehudi Wyner, piano
  • Set Me As A Seal by Jack Gottlieb
    Jack Gottlieb: Love Songs for Sabbath; Choir of Texas Tech University; Kenneth Davis, conductor. Naxos American Classics: Milken Archive American Jewish Music Various [CD, 2004]
  • Se'u She'orim by Gershon Kingsley
    Jewish Composers in America; The Zamir Chorale of Boston [CD, 2002]
  • R'tzey by Stephen Richards
    Sacred Chants of the Contemporary Synagogue; Rebecca Garfein and Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue Choir [CD, 1998]
  • Hatzi Kaddish by Charles Davidson from ...And David Danced Before The Lord
    Charles Davidson: A Singing of Angels; The Buggalo Vocal Ensemble; Brad Lubman, conductor. Naxos American Classics: Milken Archive American Jewish Music Various [CD, 2005]
  • K'eits Shatul (Bar/Bat Mitzvah) by Michael Isaacson
    Made in America 1970-1995: The Jewish Music of Michael Isaacson; Faith Steinsnyder [CD, 1995]
  • Shalom Rav by Ben Steinberg
    Shomeir Yisrael [CD, 1993]
  • KlezMuzik by Simon Sargon
    Simon Sargon: Shema (Hear) [CD, 1996]
  • Kol Haneshamah Tehalel Yah by Bonia Shur
    The Music: Bonia Shur [CD]

This exhibition has been organized in conjunction with the conference "Reclaiming American Judaism's Lost Legacy: The Art of Synagogue Music," which was sponsored by the American Society for Jewish Music, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Temple Emanu-El of New York City; Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, NY, and Park Avenue Synagogue. 

Museum Hours: Mondays-Thursdays, 9 am-8 pm; Fridays, 9 am-3 pm; Selected Sundays, 10 am-2 pm, Dec. 10; Jan. 14 & 28 

Information/Tours: (212) 824-2205 

Admission: Free, Photo ID Required 

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.