"Love, Loss and Latkes" An Eclectic Smorgasbord of (mostly) Jewish Music in Collaboration with Veretski Pass

Mar 12, 2014

Magen Solomon, SF Choral Artists Artistic DirectorDear Friends of the Choral Artists,

I know, I know! Latkes belong to winter and Hannukah – it really should be Love, Loss and Hamentashen* but we couldn’t resist the alliteration.

Love, Loss and Latkes is our third adventure into the wilds of (mostly) Jewish music with our good friends from Veretski Pass. Three years ago we focused on themes of wisdom with Prophets, Kings and Klezmer, and last year on Jewish Omens, Dreams and Curses. This year I wanted to connect more deeply with much Jewish music, writings and culture by looking at love and loss, but to leaven it (before Passover starts!) with both physical and spiritual food.

As usual, we have assembled our musical meal eclectically, and spiced it liberally with contributions from our ever-creative Veretski Pass collaborators. We are running the musical gamut from two to eight parts, Yiddish and Ladino folk music, Broadway, Renaissance motets, and world premieres by five composers.

The texts are equally eclectic: sacred texts from the Bible and Rig Veda, and secular writings from the early-12th century poet/philosopher Yehuda Halevi through 17th-century English poetry to a 21st-century text message.

Why this particular smorgasbord? Some wonderful pieces that I’ve wanted to do for a long time (like Weelkes, Bernstein, Dinerstein), another excuse to share a program with Veretski Pass, the universality of the themes and the opportunity for cross-cultural connection they offer, and finally, a chance to include some great Jewish music that didn’t fit thematically into last year’s program!

This eclecticism brings challenges but also deep rewards; audiences and singers have often been startled by how changing a musical context changes a work’s sound and impact. To burden you with one last food analogy: peanuts play completely different roles in a spicy Thai curry, an African beef stew, or mashed with jelly on bread. Similarly, any of these lush, dissonant, frenetic, or gooey pieces would sound less lush, less dissonant, less frenetic, less gooey if surrounded by similar pieces.

Which brings me to a final thought– it appears that the world is not in great shape right now chiefly because many people think that they, their religion, ideas, traditions, and needs are more important than others’. My crazy wish is to cut the strangling vines of creeping cynicism by demonstrating how radically different pieces of music can live “harmoniously” together, and by speaking to the universal themes of love and loss we can all draw just the tiniest bit closer.

– Magen Solomon

*small, delicious, triangular poppy- or prune-filled cookies traditional to the spring Purim celebration.