After 20 years, L.A. Jewish Symphony still reflects the Jewish experience


When Noreen Green founded the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony (LAJS) in 1994, she had to wrestle with a couple of questions.

First, what defines a Jewish orchestra and differentiates it from other orchestras? And will a woman conductor, that rarest of species, succeed in molding a group of disparate musicians — a combination of community members, high-level university students, L.A. Philharmonic members and studio players — into a disciplined, highly professional ensemble?

Listeners and critics will be able to judge for themselves on Sept. 7, when the LAJS will celebrate its 20th anniversary at the Jon Anson Ford Amphitheatre at 7:30 p.m.

For the event, Green will be reunited with an early collaborator of her venture, the multitalented composer, pianist, actor and showman Hershey Felder. Green credits Felder with helping to shape some of the early decisions and development of the LAJS, although Felder disavows such a key role.

The anniversary concert will feature “Aliyah,” Felder’s concerto for piano and orchestra that celebrates the founding of the State of Israel. It also will draw on music from his one-man shows as Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and — coming up — Irving Berlin.

The orchestra’s mission statement emphasizes its “dedication to the performance and preservation of music reflective of the Jewish experience,” presentation of the works of famous and not-so-famous Jewish composers and introduction of new compositions by Jewish artists.

However, not all compositions by Jewish composers are necessarily “Jewish,” while works by gentile composers may convey a Jewish flavor. On the latter point, Green observes, “We also play works by [Dmitri] Shostakovich and [Sergei] Prokofiev.”

Green is a multitasker and mother of two teenagers, whose work schedule includes collaborations with the Latino community — using Sephardic music as a bridge for the symphony’s education program — as well as with black gospel choirs and Holocaust survivors. Although she has staff to help, Green spends much of her time overseeing the fundraising and administration aspects of the symphony.

She doesn’t make a big deal about being one of the few women conductors on the scene. She has conducted the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra a number of times. Some deeply religious music lovers in Israel’s capital would never attend a performance if it included a woman singer but have no problem with a woman conductor.

On the podium, Green generally wields the baton wearing a jacket and black pants, but when she appeared in Johannesburg in 2003, for the religious community, she was asked to wear a long skirt.

“I didn’t dig in my heels and refuse,” she said. “I’m a collaborative person by nature.”

A self-described “Valley girl, born and bred,” Green, 55 grew up in Sherman Oaks, attended Grant High school and moved on to the University of the Pacific in Stockton, receiving a bachelor’s degree in music education. Next was California State University, Northridge, where she taught in the music department for 10 years, during which time she also earned her master’s degree in music. She then earned a doctorate in choral music at USC (she is generally referred to as Dr. Green).

She served for 20 years as music director at Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino, where she continues as music scholar in residence. “It was through Rabbi Harold Schulweis at VBS that I learned to reach out to other communities and countries,” Green said.

“I love to teach,” especially in the multicultural environment of Los Angeles, she said. 

Her most recent project, which debuted in May, is the 55-voices-strong American Jewish University Choir, which she founded through the Whizin Center for Continuing Education. She also founded, with Phil Blazer at JLTV, the American Jewish Symphony, a touring ensemble. The premiere performance is scheduled for April 26, 2015, at New York’s Queensborough Performing Arts Center, with actor-comedian-singer Mike Burstyn as soloist.

 

The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony’s 20th anniversary concert is at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 7. Tickets range from $30 to $50 (student and children discounts available). For ticket information and reservations, visit FordTheatres.org, or call (323) 461-3673. The Ford Amphitheatre is located at 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. 

Vienna Philharmonic acknowledges honoring Nazi war criminal


The famed Vienna Philharmonic has acknowledged that many of its musicians were Nazi party members during Hitler's rule and that its director may have delivered a prestigious orchestra award to a Nazi war criminal two decades after the end of World War Two.

The orchestra, which has come under fire for covering up its history, on Sunday night published details for the first time about its conduct during the Nazi era, including biographies of Jewish members who were driven out and sent to death camps.

Austria took until 1991, more than four decades after the war's end, to formally acknowledge and voice regret for its central role in Hitler's Third Reich and Holocaust.

The Alpine republic will solemnly mark the 75th anniversary on Tuesday of its annexation by Nazi Germany, an event most Austrians at the time welcomed.

One of the world's premier orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic is most popularly known for its annual New Year's Concert, a Strauss waltz extravaganza that is broadcast to an audience of more than 50 million in 80 countries.

Less well known is the fact that the concert originated as a propaganda instrument under Nazi rule in 1939. The orchestra rarely played the music of the Strauss family, known for the “Blue Danube” and numerous other waltzes, before this period.

On Sunday, the orchestra published a list of recipients of its rings of honour and medals, which were traditionally given to artists but during the Nazi period were given to high-ranking officials and military leaders.

Baldur von Schirach, a Nazi governor of Vienna who oversaw the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps and was sentenced to 20 years in jail by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal after the war, was awarded the ring in 1942.

In one of the new articles posted on the orchestra's website (www.wienerphilharmoniker.at), Vienna University historian Oliver Rathkolb wrote that a replacement ring was delivered to Schirach in 1966 or 1967 after he was freed from prison.

According to a reliable witness, the person who delivered the replacement was trumpeter Helmut Wobisch, then the director of the orchestra and a former member of the SS, or paramilitary wing, of the Nazi party, Rathkolb's article says.

The Vienna Philharmonic's current chairman, Clemens Hellsberg, told Reuters the orchestra would now have to take a democratic decision as to whether to revoke the awards it made to the Nazis during that period.

A total of 60 of the orchestra's 123 members were either members of the Nazi party or wanted to become members as of 1942, in the middle of World War Two, the orchestra said on Sunday. Two were members of the SS.

DIFFERENT TIMES

Hellsberg wrote a history of the Vienna Philharmonic in 1992, “Democracy of Kings”, in which many of the uncomfortable facts now being published did not appear. He has said he did not have access to all the relevant documents when he wrote it.

Asked on Sunday why it had taken so long to come to this point, he said the orchestra had been quietly working through its history for decades, and now realised it needed to give a proper account of itself online.

“I grew up in a different time, when the book was the most significant medium, but one has to live with the fact that the Internet is a different medium that we have to live with and where we have to represent ourselves,” he said.

Hellsberg was speaking at a preview of a documentary by Austrian state broadcaster ORF about the orchestra's Nazi-era history, commissioned to coincide with the website additions.

Details of 13 musicians who were driven out of the orchestra over their Jewish origin or relations after Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938 – five of whom died in concentration camps – were also published on the site for the first time.

Conductor Josef Krips was ousted and worked in a food factory for years, but was allowed back after the defeat of Nazi Germany – and Austria – in 1945, ending the war.

Bernadette Mayrhofer, another of the independent historians from the University of Vienna, said the ostracism of Jewish musicians had begun even before 1938 under Austrofascism, a period of Italian-oriented authoritarian rule in Austria.

“It was known whether somebody had Jewish roots or a Jewish wife,” she told Reuters.

Many orchestra members joined the German Nazi party, illegal at that time in Austria, before the Anschluss (annexation) of 1938. After the war, just four party members were fired during the “de-Nazification” period and another six were pensioned off.

Wobisch, the SS member, was among those sacked in 1945 but managed to rejoin the Philharmonic as lead trumpeter in 1947.

LITTLE STEP

Harald Walser, an Austrian Greens member of parliament who is one of the Philharmonic's most vocal and persistent critics, welcomed the orchestra's decision to become more transparent, although he said it did not go far enough.

“It's a little step in the right direction,” he told Reuters. “But we're still a long way from having adequate access to the archives.”

The three historians commissioned by the orchestra were given less than two months to write their articles following a decision by the orchestra's management after this January's New Year's concert, an annual focal point for criticism.

All three had previously done work in the field.

Fritz Truempi, one of the three, said it took him three years from 2003 to gain access to research his 2011 book “Politisierte Orchester” (“Politicised Orchestra”), a study of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics under National Socialism.

The Vienna Philharmonic says it is not obliged to give public access to its archives, since it is a private organisation, although it does grant access to selected historians and scholars.

The New Year's Concert helped promote Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels' desired image of Vienna. He wrote in his diaries that the Austrian capital should be seen as a city of “culture, music, optimism and conviviality”.

Truempi told Reuters: “The New Year's Concert was invented under the Nazis.”

The orchestra, whose image is closely tied to the 18th century Vienna of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, has long been one of Vienna's biggest tourist attractions an integral part of the Austrian capital's branding.

Truempi reckons that the orchestra has now finally come to a juncture where it realised that its long-held policy, designed to protect its brand, was actually harming its image.

“I see it also as an issue of image management. For a long time, they tried to maintain a strict control over their brand but, in the end, the political pressure became such that it was the best solution to open up,” he said.

Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Jewish Free Loan Association: Small-business help


Dan Savell and his wife, Abby, knew exactly what they needed to take their percussion rental business to the next level. 

After opening their store in 2005, the Santa Clarita couple received countless client requests for a specialized gong set typically used by orchestras. The problem: a $14,000 price tag to purchase the instrument.

That’s when the Savells turned to a nonprofit Jewish loan agency for help. The Los Angeles-based Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) furnished them with a zero-interest loan to cover the purchase, putting the couple’s dreams for expansion within reach.

“Instead of having to … turn down work, it allowed me to have instant access to [the gongs] in my inventory,” Savell said. “It was this missing piece.”

In the current economy, finding the resources to start or expand a small business can be particularly challenging. That’s where several Jewish organizations can help, providing meaningful assistance to entrepreneurs, from financial aid to human resources management to self-employment career planning.

Established in 1904, JFLA helps entrepreneurs of any faith in the Los Angeles area start new businesses or expand existing ones with the help of three-year, zero-interest microloans. Typical loan amounts are about $15,000, although applicants can obtain as much as $20,000, association loan analyst Shelly Meyers said. 

The money can be used to help cover myriad expenses associated with starting a new enterprise, such as advertising, equipment purchases, Web site creation and stocking up on inventory. Those helped by the program include physical therapists, lawyers, restaurant owners, yoga studios and day cares.

“It really varies,” Meyers said.

Loan applicants must submit a business plan and cash-flow projection and must have a business license. Borrowers need to have two co-signers, usually friends or family members with good credit and a steady income. The loan committee considers each applicant on a case-by-case basis, taking personal circumstances into account.

JFLA helps 50 to 60 new businesses a year through the loan program, Meyers estimated. She said demand for the loans has increased as banks tighten their lending policies in response to the country’s economic woes. Many startups simply cannot access traditional loans at all, she said.

“Whereas before they did have some opportunities from banks, I think it’s just become impossible for many of the small businesses,” she said. “Most of the people we see are not able to get a bank loan. It’s just a risk the banks aren’t taking these days.”

JFLA also offers emergency loans to individuals and families in crisis as well as student loans.

Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) offers a wide range of programs addressing the needs of families, job seekers, at-risk youth, refugees and people with disabilities. But when it comes to helping businesses, JVS provides human resources consulting, assistance with recruitment and training of employees, and career counseling that is open to budding entrepreneurs. 

The business services section, established a year ago, offers solutions to companies on four levels: talent acquisition, employee assessment, staff development and outplacement assistance to employees affected by job loss. Fees may be charged for these services, although this is on a case-by-case basis. The section also helps companies procure state funding for training at no cost to the employer.

JVS, founded during the Great Depression, can post jobs on its employment database, screen and set up interviews for potential employees and sometimes host job fairs when employers have numerous vacancies to fill, said Chris Bravata, JVS’ business services vice president. There is no charge for this service.

“One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is finding talent. When a business has a vacancy, usually that’s a drain on internal resources in finding time to recruit, screen and interview potential employees,” Bravata explained. “We save the employer time and energy.”

People thinking about starting a business can obtain free advice from a JVS career counselor. Traditional job seekers and those seeking a career change can access this service, too.

At The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, small-business owners can apply for a one-time grant of up to $6,000 to acquire licenses or equipment to help their venture succeed.

Although the funds are not targeted exclusively at small-business owners, several such people have qualified for the assistance in the past year, said Lori Klein, Federation’s senior vice president of Caring for Jews in Need. 

Applicants must be Jewish, live in the Los Angeles area and demonstrate financial need. They also are required to meet with a social worker at one of Federation’s partner organizations, which include JVS and Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles. Those applying for the funds are often people moving into self-employment for the first time, Klein said.

“I think part of what we’ve seen is that people that are being laid off from their jobs are not necessarily able to find work in the industry that they were originally trained for or educated in,” she said. “They’re trying to be creative and find other ways to have an income.”

Another grant program run by Federation offers up to $2,500 toward vocational training. Applicants may be seeking skills to pursue a new job or to start their own business.

Federation also provides emergency cash grants to people in need of immediate assistance with expenses such as rent or utility bills.

For more information, visit Jewish Free Loan AssociationJewish Vocational Service, and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

‘Woven Words’ Celebrates Lutoslawski: Salonen reflects on mentor’s symphonies


Music historians will remember Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994) as one of the greatest symphonists of the 20th century. The Los Angeles Philharmonic remembers him as a partner, an artistic collaborator and a regular part of the orchestra’s programming.  

More than that, though, Esa-Pekka Salonen, who served as the L.A. Philharmonic’s music director for 17 years and now is its conductor laureate, remembers Lutoslawski as a longtime friend and artistic mentor.

“He wasn’t technically a teacher because he didn’t have students, but he was a very powerful musical influence in my life,” said Salonen. “He’s been gone for 20 years almost, and I still miss him, and I think of him, if not daily, at least every week.

“There are moments when I would so like him to see something I’ve done, and I would love to get his opinion and criticism and perhaps even approving words from time to time,” Salonen said. “That would be great.”

Instead, it’s Salonen who is uttering the words of praise as part of a worldwide celebration of Lutoslawski, who conducted the L.A. Philharmonic several times, including the 1993 world premiere of his Symphony No. 4, which the Philharmonic commissioned. 

London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, where Salonen currently serves as principal conductor and artistic adviser, has launched a Lutoslawski centenary project titled “Woven Words: Music Begins Where Words End.” “Woven Words” travels the globe in 2013, and Salonen will get multiple stamps in his passport conducting concerts in London; Warsaw, Poland; Madrid, Spain; Vienna, Austria; Dresden, Germany; and Modena, Italy; between January and September of 2013.

Even before the New Year, Salonen returns to his former stomping grounds for a residency with the L.A. Philharmonic that will mark the first American concerts of the Lutoslawski centenary. At the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Salonen will conduct two programs: a Lutoslawski and Beethoven program (Nov. 30 through Dec. 2) and a Lutoslawski, Schumann and Tchaikovsky evening (Dec. 7 through Dec. 9) that also features the West Coast premiere of Salonen’s composition “Nyx.” 

Sandwiched between the two concerts on Dec. 4, Lionel Bringuier conducts the L.A. Phil New Music Group in the Green Umbrella program featuring Lutoslawski’s “Partita” and his “Chantefleurs et Chantefables,” based on the children’s poetry of Robert Desnos. Salonen’s “Homunculus” and Steven Stucky’s “Ad Parnassum” round out the evening. 

Stucky, the centenary’s series adviser, is another Lutoslawski mentee and scholar with Los Angeles ties. He was the composer-in-residence with the L.A. Philharmonic for nearly 20 years. Over the summer, Stucky and Salonen traveled to Warsaw to film a series of short biographical films about Lutoslawki’s life and works for the centenary. 

“Between Esa-Pekka and Steven Stucky, the music of Lutoslawski has really been a thread that has been woven through our seasons,” said Chad Smith, vice president of artistic planning for the L.A. Philharmonic. “Lots of composer centenaries and anniversaries happen each year, and we don’t always feel that’s necessarily the strongest programming impetus, to just celebrate the death or birth of someone. 

“But when we started looking at the season for 2012-13 and with Esa-Pekka’s residency, we thought it would be great to highlight this composer’s extraordinary work.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen

Lutoslawski’s life was equally remarkable. 

The composer, who was not Jewish, was forced to flee his homeland in 1915 following the German invasion of Poland during World War I. Lutoslawski’s father and uncle were executed for anti-political activities when the future composer was 5. Lutoslawski wrote his earliest compositions in 1934 and 1937 and had hoped to continue his musical studies in Paris. 

Instead, he ended up training with the Polish army and evacuating eastern Poland in 1939 during the Nazi occupation. He was imprisoned by the Wehrmacht, escaped to Warsaw and took care of his mother through the remainder of the Nazi occupation. At this point, Lutoslawski made his living performing in cafes, often appearing with his contemporary, composer and conductor Andrzej Panufnik. 

Shortly before the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, mother and son fled to the outskirts of Poland to the little town of Komorów, where Lutoslawski composed a series of canonical studies that could later be traced to his work on Symphony No. 1. 

After the war, Lutoslawski wrote jingle and folk music for Polish radio (his boss was Władysław Szpilman, the subject of Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film “The Pianist”). But a creative life in Cold War-era Poland came with its own challenges. The Stalinist regime banned his Symphony No. 1 as being “formalist.” Lutoslawski continued with his experimental works and cemented his international reputation with “Musique Funèbre,” in memory of Béla Bartók in 1958.

While still a student, Salonen recalls hearing Lutoslawski speak and conduct in Helsinki, Finland, but he was too intimidated to speak to him. In the 1980s, Salonen was asked to work with the composer on a Lutoslawski weekend program in London, and the two men shared conducting duties. They met again in Bern, Switzerland, and the friendship was cemented.   

One of Salonen’s best memories was in 1989 when his appointment with the L.A. Philharmonic was announced. Lutoslawski, working with the L.A. Philharmonic Institute student orchestra at the time, was present at the event, and he lent some much-needed moral support to the younger conductor.

“He saw that I was completely out of my depth and needed support, and he never left my side,” said Salonen. “I had never been the subject of this kind of attention in my life with media and TV news and radio and cocktails and everything. He was practically holding my hand. 

“Those are the kinds of memories you never forget — having that kind of support from people you admire when you really need it.” 

The maestro’s contribution to the centenary will not end with the concerts; he will be taking on some other unfinished business, too. Early in his career, in 1984, Salonen recorded Lutoslawski’s Symphonies 2, 3 and 4 with the L.A. Philharmonic. During his upcoming visit, Salonen and the L.A. Philharmonic will record Symphony No. 1, and Sony Music will release the entire compilation of symphonies, 1 through 4, as a box set for the centenary in January. 

So that’s the same conductor leading the same orchestra through music by the same composer 28 years apart. With any of the same musicians?

“A few, not many, who were at those sessions in 1984,” said Salonen. “I hope so. I hope they’re keeping well.”  

Symphony No. 4 was supposed to have been part of the centenary performances at Disney Hall, but it was pulled so that Salonen could conduct Symphony No. 1 and complete the Sony box set. There’s a kind of program-changing synchronicity behind that substitution, given how Lutoslawski’s Symphony No. 4 came into the world. 

In 1989, the composer had promised a new work, but would not commit to a financial commission or a written document, not knowing when he would have the idea that would inspire the piece. 

Fast-forward to 1993 when Salonen attended a dinner in Stockholm, Sweden, during which Lutoslawski received an award from the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. At that dinner, the composer told Salonen that, for his upcoming Los Angeles concert, he wanted to change the program. 

Instead of an older orchestral piece, Lutoslawski had a new symphony that he would be pleased to have the Philharmonic commission: Symphony No. 4. Commissions don’t normally come about this way, and Salonen was caught off guard.

“I almost fainted,” recalled Salonen. “I ran to find the nearest pay phone, and I called [then-Executive Director] Ernest Fleischmann and said, ‘Prepare the contract, please!’ Fleischmann told me to take it easy, he’d take care of everything, and then when I went back in, I think Lutoslawski so enjoyed seeing my bewilderment.

“A great memory,” concluded Salonen, who will make more when he takes the stage at Disney, baton in hand, to conduct the immortal music of an old friend. 

For tickets and other information, visit this story at jewishjournal.com.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: August 3-10, 2012


SAT | AUG 4

“THE MUSIC OF JEWISH COMPOSERS”
The ninth annual Beverly Hills International Music Festival features the world premiere of composer Assaf Rinde’s “Meditation on a Sephardic Theme,” performed by guitarist Edward Trybek. Mezzo-soprano Iris Malkin and pianist Jean-David Coen perform pieces by composers Gerald Cohen, Stephen Richards, Max Janowski, Richard Neumann and Daniel Akiva. Pianist Coen performs Joseph Achron’s “Hebrew Melody” with violinist Limor Toren-Immerman as well as Alexander von Zemlinsky’s “Trio in D Minor, Opus 3” with clarinetist Gary Gray and cellist Stephen Green. Festival runs through Aug. 12. Sat. 8 p.m. $25 (general), $15 (seniors, students and Temple Emanuel members). Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 779-7622. bhmusicfestival.org, panoramaticket.com.

THE BANGLES
Best known for hits like “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Eternal Flame,” the Bangles perform as part of the Pershing Square Downtown Stage Free Summer Concert Series. Celebrating their 30th anniversary, Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson recently released their newest album, “Sweetheart of the Sun.” Alt-pop band Right the Stars also performs. Sat. 8-11 p.m. Free. Pershing Square, 532 S. Olive St., Los Angeles. (213) 847-4970. laparks.org/pershingsquare.


SUN | AUG 5

“JEWISH HOMEGROWN HISTORY FILM DAY”
The Skirball screens four documentaries that address the richness, complexity and inherent contradictions of the Jewish experience in the modern age. “The Family Album” draws on home movies to capture American family life from the 1920s through the 1950s. In “The Hunky Blues —The American Dream,” Jewish Hungarian filmmaker Peter Forgács uses home movies and archival footage to explore the immigration of Hungarians to America. While tracing the roots of her family, filmmaker Jacqueline Levitin discovers the 1,000-year-old history of a Chinese-Jewish community in Kaifeng in “Mahjong and Chicken Feet.” And while documenting the life of Chasidic Jews living in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, urban anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff documents her conversion to Orthodox Judaism as she copes with her imminent death from cancer, in “Her Own Time — The Final Fieldwork of Barbara Myerhoff.” Sat. 11 a.m.-3:40 p.m. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

MAGGIE ANTON
Author of the acclaimed “Rashi’s Daughters” series appears at Beth Chayim Chadashim tonight to celebrate the release of her new novel, “Rav Hisda’s Daughter, Book I: Apprentice,” which follows talmudic sage Hisda’s beautiful and learned daughter Hisdadukh. Derailed by a series of tragedies, Hisdadukh must decide if her path lies in the way of sorcery, despite the peril. Klezmer music, food and scholarly words from Anton highlight this book launch. Books available for purchase. Sun. 6 p.m. Free. Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6090 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 931-7023. bcc-la.org.


WED | AUG 8

“JEWISH COMEDY NIGHT: COAST 2 COAST”
Comedians Wayne Federman (“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon”), Kira Soltanovich (“Girls Behaving Badly”), Mark Schiff (Jewlarious), Avi Liberman (Comedy for Koby) and Laugh Factory regular Ian Edwards perform in one of two stand-up comedy shows on both coasts on the same night. Wed. 8 p.m. $20 (advance), $25 (door). Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 656-1336. jspace.com/allevents.


THU | AUG 9

ORQUESTRA SARABIA
Blending traditional Jewish and Arabic songs with Afro-Cuban rhythms, Cuban composer and percussionist Roberto Juan Rodriguez’s 10-piece ensemble of Cuban, Jewish and Arabic musicians performs tonight at the Skirball. Part of the museum’s “Sunset Concerts” live music series. Arrive early to dine under the stars, tour the Skirball’s galleries and explore the museum’s architecture and hillside setting. Thu. 8 p.m. Free (concert), $10 (parking per car, cash only). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.


FRI | AUG 10

“NOBODY LIKES JEWS WHEN THEY’RE WINNING”
Playwright Maia Madison’s comedy follows interfaith couple Sarah and Patrick, who want to get married and live happily ever after, so long as Sarah’s Jewish family never finds out. Examining the ways in which Jews are portrayed in Hollywood and how pervasive these stereotypes are, the play explores the larger themes of family, intimacy and self-determination. Part of the Open Fist Theatre Company’s fourth annual First Look Festival, a celebration of contemporary theater. Fri. Through Sept. 8. 8 p.m. $20. Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 882-6912. openfist.org.

Palestine National Orchestra debuts


The Palestine National Orchestra performed for the first time in the Palestinian Authority and in Israel.

The orchestra made its debut in Ramallah, and then performed in eastern Jerusalem over the weekend and in Haifa on Sunday night.

“Today an orchestra, tomorrow a state,” Suhail Khoury, director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, wrote in the program, according to the French news agency AFP.

Said, a Palestinian American and an advocate for the Palestinian cause, was a professor at Columbia University. He died in 2003.

“Today we are witnessing the birth of the Palestine National Orchestra at a time when the Palestinian struggle for independence is passing through one of its most critical and difficult moments,” Khoury also wrote. “We musicians truly believe that a state is not only about buildings and roads, but most importantly it is about its people, their values, their arts and their cumulative cultural identity.”

Each concert began with the Palestinian national anthem, AFP reported.

Music Banned by Nazis Finds New Life With L.A. Chamber Orchestra


If you ask 35-year-old violinist Daniel Hope about his Jewish heritage, make sure you have time. It’s a complicated question.

“On my mother’s side was an incredibly Orthodox Jewish family that goes back to the first rabbi of Potsdam,” he said during a recent late-night cell phone call while in transit to Hamburg, Germany, for a concert the next day.

“They gradually became more assimilated into German society until they converted,” he said, citing a similarity to Mendelssohn’s family in the 19th century.

Hope, widely regarded as one of the finest violinists of his generation, performs the original 1844 version of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, along with Erwin Schulhoff’s Double Concerto for Violin and Piano, arranged by Hope from the original for flute and piano, this weekend with conductor Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

The program, which also offers a Kahane favorite, Kurt Weill’s Symphony No. 2, is linked by the fact that the music of all three composers was banned by the Nazis. Schulhoff died in Wülzburg concentration camp in 1942, and Weill, who was already a prominent Jewish composer (his father was a cantor), fled Germany in March 1933.

The London-raised Hope said he was “an enormous mixture.” He was born in South Africa, but his parents, who criticized that regime’s policy of apartheid, were living under surveillance. After his Irish-Catholic father’s books were banned, the family was forced to leave; Hope was 6 months old.

Hope speaks eloquently of having a “Jewish soul,” and given that he’s spent the past 15 years researching, performing, recording and writing about music banned by the Nazis, that soul must run very deep.

His most recent discs for Deutsche Grammophon include “Air: A Baroque Journey,” the Mendelssohn Concerto and “Terezín/Theresienstadt,”with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, and he said his connection to composers like Schulhoff started “completely by chance,” when he was driving home after a concert.

“A string trio came on the radio that sounded a bit like Bartók, Stravinsky and a bit of Janácek,” he recalled. “I pulled over and waited to hear who it was: Gideon Klein. “He was the young motor behind Theresienstadt, who encouraged composers not to give up hope, but to write. And that’s what got me going. The music is what grabbed me. The story behind it is extraordinary, but I didn’t need the story to appreciate the music. The music speaks for itself.”

Klein died in 1945 at the Fürstengrube concentration camp soon after finishing his trio. He was 26.

Hope, on tour recently with von Otter performing Schulhoff’s solo and chamber music, said he was “longing for a piece of his that had an orchestral accompaniment.” Since Schulhoff didn’t live to compose a violin concerto, Hope arranged his score for flute and piano.

Kahane shares with Hope a personal connection to this music (one of Kahane’s relatives died in Theresienstadt, another in Auschwitz), and he first heard Schulhoff’s work a few summers ago. “I was flabbergasted by the depth and profundity of his music,” Kahane said. “Schulhoff left an important and wonderfully diverse legacy.” He called the Double Concerto “evocative and very likable” with a “joyous” last movement. And he places Weill’s “stunningly orchestrated” Symphony No. 2 with the best music being written during the late 1920s and early ’30s.

Hope said he was looking forward to performing the original version of the Mendelssohn concerto with Kahane’s band. Mendelssohn, whose father, Abraham, was responsible for the family converting to Christianity, speaks to Hope on a very personal level. “I’ve always found that Mendelssohn goes back to his Jewish roots,” he said. “I hear that in his music, and that’s what I love about it. My Jewish side is extremely important to me. I feel very much in touch with it in every piece I play, and in the violin itself.”

Hope came to the violin in what he called a “weird and wild coincidence,” when his mother became secretary (and later a manager) to the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin had an immediate impact on his family, and by the age of 4, Hope was hooked on the violin.

“It was one of those small moments in life that changes everything,” he said, citing the “sheer originality of Menuhin’s musical expression.”

“Menuhin was able to look at a phrase and tell you a whole chapter about a piece,” Hope recalled. “I was on tour with him, and he was conducting the Mendelssohn Concerto, and there’s this beautiful song that happens between the violin and orchestra in the introduction to the last movement. And Menuhin likened it to a young man talking to his rabbi — the consoler. The young man asks the question [Hope sings it as Menuhin once did for him], and the rabbi answers [he sings again]. The way he sung and portrayed that … every time I play the piece, I think of him.

“The greatest victory as far as all these composers are concerned is that we’re playing them today,” Hope continued. “The fact that most of them were killed means their music was still stronger — it survived the terrible behavior of human beings. For me, that’s the greatest possible victory.”

Violinist Daniel Hope and pianist-conductor Jeffrey Kahane perform selected pieces by composers Schulhoff,  Mendelssohn and Weill on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and Sunday at 7 p.m. at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Westwood. (213) 622-7001, ext. 215.

Arts in L.A. Calendar June — August


JUNE

Thu., June 12
“The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company.” The ragtag band of tech-geeks who created such enormously successful hits as “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “Ratatouille” are dissected and discussed in David A. Price’s book about the high-minded company and its rags-to-riches success in filmmaking. At his appearance, Price will share behind-the-scenes stories about the animation studio dreamed up during a power lunch. 7:30 p.m. Free. Barnes and Noble, 1201 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. (310) 260-9110. http://www.bn.com.

Sat., June 14
Beastly Ball at the Los Angeles Zoo. Monkeys and hippos and tigers, oh my! The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) is, for the 38th year in a row, throwing its annual animal-filled shebang in support of the educational and conservation of endangered animal programs subsidized and run by the Los Angeles Zoo. No small get-together, GLAZA’s event is expected to be one of the hottest parties of the year, including special tours of the zoo, high-end catering, various forms of live musical entertainment and a silent auction with phenomenal items. Ever wonder what really happens in the jungle at night? Here is your chance to find out! 6 p.m. $1,000. Los Angeles Zoo, 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 644-4708. http://lazoo.org/calendar.

Sat., June 14
Toy Theatre Festival at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Devoted to giving all genres of stimulating art a place to shine, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is hosting a festival recognizing the talents of numerous international toy puppeteers. A delightful treat for both adults and children, Toy Theatre is a production that encompasses two-dimensional rod puppets in mini-theatres that date back to the early 19th century. Adaptations of such classics as “Alice in Wonderland” are only a few of the many enthralling performances that will be taking place over the course of this two-day event. 10 a.m-6 p.m. Through June 15. Free. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-8500. http://www.musiccenter.org.

Mon., June 16
Silverdocs: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival. With documentaries becoming some of the most talked-about films on the silver screen today, the Silverdocs festival is one of the hottest film fests in town. This year’s opening-night film, “All Together Now,” follows the powerful panoply of creative talent that makes up the Cirque du Soleil production of “Love” at the Mirage in Las Vegas. The closing-night film, “Theater of War,” also takes a look at the behind-the-scenes creation of a different theatrical production — The Public Theater’s 2006 performance of Bertolt Brecht’s anti-war play “Mother Courage and Her Children” starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. Sandwiched between these two films are many other screen-worthy documentaries. Through June 23. $10 (general admission). For a full listing of films, visit http://www.silverdocs.com.

Tue., June 17
“The Body Has a Mind of Its Own.” Mother-and-son science writing duo, Sandra and Matt Blakeslee, will explore how the brain connects with your body parts, movements, space, actions and emotions of others during the ALOUD Science Series on Seeing and Being. Find out how the brain directly links to your body’s health and susceptibility to disease. Engage in conversation with science writer and author Margaret Wertheim on how your mind knows where your body ends and the outside world begins. Tue. 7 p.m. Free. Mark Taper Auditorium at Los Angeles Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles. (310) 657-5511. http://www.lfla.org/aloud.

Wed., June 25
“Zocalo at the Skirball: The Oracle in the Gut.” New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer will discuss surprising and fascinating research that makes E. coli more than just a deadly bacteria in fast food. The Skirball hosts the popular Los Angeles cultural forum, Zocalo, in this discussion of how the Escherichia coli microbe has had a significant role in the history of biology and continues to advance the search for life-saving medicine, clean fuel and a greater understanding of our own genetic makeup. The lecture, subtitled “E. Coli and the Meaning of Life,” is part of a quarterly Zocalo at the Skirball series of engaging expert-led talks on some of today’s most pressing subjects. 7:30 p.m. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P. strongly recommended. (213) 403-0416. http://www.zocalola.org.

Fri., June 27
“American Tales.” Mark Twain and Herman Melville, two of the most notable writers in American history, will be brought to life in a musical performance, “American Tales,” directed by Thor Steingraber. Los Angeles’ Classical Theater Ensemble, the Antaeus Company, is kicking off this year’s eight-week ClassicFest with “The Loves of Alonzo Fitz Clarence and Rosannah Ethelton,” an adaptation of Twain’s comic look at the telephone — one of the world’s most valuable inventions. Meeting by chance through crossed telephone lines, Alonzo from Maine and Rosannah from California develop an instant love connection. Playing off broken and mended connections, “American Tales” brings in Melville’s tragic story, “Bartleby the Scrivener.” Catch the play’s world premiere along with workshops and readings of classic plays featured throughout the festival. 8 p.m. Fri. and Sat. Through August 17. $25. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 762-2773. http://www.deafwest.org.

Sat., June 28
“Cover Version.” This innovative exhibition is the result of a challenge New York-based artist Timothy Hull posed to 20 other artists from around the country: design the cover of your favorite book. Turning the aphorism “Don’t judge a book by its cover” on its ear, this clever analysis demonstrates quite the opposite — that a book’s cover is actually indicative of its emotional and intellectual resonance and becomes something of a cultural icon. In the same vein as musicians reinterpreting canonical songs by “covering” them, these artists reify and re-imagine the cultural import of such classics as “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville and “The Book of Mormon,” among others. 6 -9 p.m. (opening reception), 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tue.-Sat.). Through Aug. 10. Free. Taylor De Cordoba, 2660 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 559-9156. http://www.taylordecordoba.com.

Sat., June 28
Heidi Duckler Collage Dance Theatre: “A Guide to an Exhibitionist.” Triple-billed as a gallery opening, live performance and party, Duckler’s latest site-specific work explores nudity, still-life and the colors framing the space in a performance that ponders the relationship between artist, audience and the physical space in which these three elements intimately collide. 7 p.m. (performances every 30 minutes until 9 p.m.) $25 (includes wine and cheese reception). Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 784-8669. http://www.collagedancetheatre.org.

The (almost) hardest-working man in classical music


With such legendary workaholic conductors as James Levine and Valery Gergiev going strong, Jeffrey Kahane can’t quite be termed the hardest-working man in classical music. But as he begins his 11th season as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) and his third as music director of the Colorado Symphony, Kahane is giving his colleagues a run for their money. So much so that this past spring he had to cancel several weeks of concerts for health reasons.

“I was severely overworked,” a rested and recovered Kahane, 51, says now. “I had some high blood pressure, and I kind of ignored it, which I shouldn’t have done. And in the middle of last season, it got worse, and my doctor told me to cut back my workload immediately. I canceled six weeks of concerts, which was very difficult for me. I had never done anything like that before. I’d always taken pride in not canceling dates.”

Kahane, who is also an accomplished concert pianist, attributes his exhaustion less to myriad commitments than to the taxing programs he had scheduled last season, especially several LACO dates dedicated to Mozart — the tail end of a project in which he was to play and conduct over two seasons nearly all of the composer’s piano concertos.

“Just doing the Mozart would have been plenty,” said the pianist-conductor, “so doing it all was overly ambitious.” The series was to have concluded this past spring, when Kahane was convalescing. It will now end in February, with a special performance of four concertos added to this season’s LACO schedule.

Not that LACO’s new season, which begins Sept. 29 and runs through May 18, is exactly relaxed for Kahane. In late February, the orchestra is scheduled to embark on its first European tour in more than 20 years, performing in such music capitals as Paris, Berlin and Vienna during two weeks of concerts that also take it to Italy and Spain.

The tour also unites the orchestra with two compelling, and very different, soloists: noted Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova, who will sing Mozart and Rossini arias, and composer Uri Caine, who will perform “Mosaics,” a piano concerto he wrote for LACO that had its debut at the Jazz Bakery this past May.

Caine’s music incorporates both jazz and classical elements, and he will serve as LACO’s composer-in-residence through the end of this season. The season before last, he wrote a double-piano concerto inspired by Mozart for LACO, Kahane and himself.

And the premieres keep coming at LACO. There will be another before this season concludes, a piano concerto written by the rising young composer Kevin Puts. What makes the work novel, according to Kahane, is that it marks the first time he’ll be directing a new work from the keyboard — an approach he takes regularly when performing piano concertos by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

“Originally, Kevin was writing the concerto for himself,” Kahane recalled. “But he came to one of LACO’s Mozart concerts and said, ‘Jeff, I’ve changed my mind. I want to write a concerto for you.'”

Kahane first met Puts while teaching at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., as the budding composer was earning a doctorate there. He has previously conducted Puts’ Marimba Concerto as well as his Third Symphony, a piece inspired by the pop singer Bjork’s album “Verpertine.” Beyond the piano concerto, Kahane has commissioned a clarinet concerto from Puts, this time for the Colorado Symphony.

LACO’s season also includes a bit of cross-cultural music making, with the West Coast premiere of a Reza Vali’s “Toward That Endless Plain” on Nov. 3 and 4. The piece is a concerto for nay, a Middle Eastern flute, and conventional Western orchestra. Khosrow Soltani, a native of Tehran who trained as a bassoonist in Vienna, will perform the solo part.

Though this season features more familiar names — pianist André Watts, guitarist Christopher Parkening — LACO concerts often bring future stars to the attention of audiences. Thus the orchestra’s subscribers heard violinist Hilary Hahn, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianists Jonathan Biss and Lang Lang before their fame.

“I have the great good fortune to have an ear to the ground and a great many wonderful colleagues,” Kahane said of his network of music-world sources, mostly fellow musicians with whom the conductor has formed strong bonds. “Even my management sends me CDs of young artists. And though it doesn’t happen often, it does happen that I hear something extraordinary from a young artist. I have a track record I’m proud of in that regard, in finding artists who are just about to make it big. But there’s also a certain amount of good luck.”

Luck alone, though, seems to have had little to do with Kahane’s success. His conducting career followed his making a name for himself as a soloist and chamber musician, activities he continues to this day. He is enormously well liked by the musicians he works with, unusual in a field where respect is far more common than affection.

His personal life also seems firmly grounded. He and his wife, Martha, a clinical psychologist, keep houses in Denver and Santa Rosa and have raised two children, Gabriel, 26, and Annie, 19.

Annie attends Northwestern University, where she’s a sophomore majoring in performance studies, a multidisciplinary subject that combines elements of dance and theater into something Kahane calls “truly cutting edge.”

Gabe inherited the music gene and is a gifted pianist and composer living in Brooklyn, where his most recent project is a musical about the life of Mohammad. “When I first heard about it,” Kahane said, “I thought, you’ve got to be kidding! But it’s actually an incredibly beautiful and powerful piece.”

Naturally, Kahane kvells over his promising kids, but that doesn’t preclude him from leavening paternal pride with humor.

Four Ways to Hear the Days of Awe


The Days of Awe evoke many feelings, but my first thoughts invariably turn to the special music of these days. From the solemn, almost brooding melody of Kol Nidre to the lilting “High Holiday” tune that unifies the music of both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there is much in which to delight.

Perhaps because this is the only synagogue music that many Jews hear all year, there are fewer alternative versions of the High Holiday liturgy than of, say, “Lecha Dodi” or “Adon Olam.” Still, these albums should help put you in a proper frame of mind.

Leonard Bernstein — “Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish)” and “Chichester Psalms” (Milken Archive/Naxos).

For all his conservatory training, for all the years as musical director of great orchestras, Bernstein was fundamentally a man of the theater; his symphonic and choral works owe more to the stage than to the recital hall. These two Jewish-themed compositions from the 1960s offer a reminder of his powerful sense of drama.

As performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic directed by Gerard Schwarz, the emphasis falls rather unflatteringly on the composition’s occasionally forced drama, amplified by Willard White’s stentorian delivery of Bernstein’s text (which the composer himself admitted was “corny”).

But nobody expresses yearning better than Bernstein: Think about the love songs from “West Side Story” or “Some Other Time” and “Lonely Town” from “On the Town.” The soprano solo, beautifully sung by Yvonne Kenny, in the middle of the symphony is one of the most moving examples of this emotion in all his work.

By contrast, “Chichester Psalms” is remarkably gentle, almost sweet.

Bernstein apparently disdained the piece for precisely that reason, yet it is one of the most effective expressions of both his Jewishness and his deeply spiritual side. This version, featuring Michael White, is quite handsome.

Available at www.amazon.com

Moshe Schulhof — “Moshe Schulhof Sings the Classics: The World’s Greatest Cantorials” (Emes Recordings)

There is a long-standing argument between composers and cantors over what is better to render honor to the Almighty: works that congregants can sing or more difficult, great music written for performance by great voices. To what extent is worship fundamentally participatory? Or can you also find spiritual satisfaction in merely listening?

A powerful argument on behalf of listening comes from recordings of the great cantors of “golden age” chazzans, the Rosenblatts and Sirotas and Hershmanns who dominated Jewish liturgical music in the first third of the 20th century. Schulhof, a powerhouse tenor, very consciously invokes that tradition, offering new renditions of recitatives by Moshe Koussevitsky, Yossele Rosenblatt, Gershon Sirota and others, backed by the Yuval International Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of Mordecai Sobol. Schulhof has the same kind of big, operatic voice as his predecessors (although his top is a bit nasal) and if his recordings of these pieces are a bit studied, they are nevertheless impressive for their sheer pyrotechnics.

Available through Hatikvah Music, 436 Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles or www.hatikvahmusic.com.

Greg Siegle — “Vessels” (MindzEye Music)

Siegle, a young acoustic guitarist in the John Fahey-Leo Kottke vein, has turned his quick, expressive hands to Jewish music. The tunes he essays are mostly familiar ones from Shlomo Carlebach, but he gives them a refreshingly light reading. The result is a very pleasant diversion that should make its way onto a lot of turntables as a prelude to sundown and the holy days.

Available from gsiegle@pitt.edu.

Craig Taubman — “Inscribed: Songs for Holy Days” (Craig and Co.)

There is something about the intensity of the High Holidays experience that brings out the best in Jewish composers. Craig Taubman’s previous folk- and pop-tinged CDs have seldom displayed spiritual emotional heat, but “Inscribed” is a cut above his previous work. The production is less busy and Taubman allows his sweet, light tenor to carry more emotional weight. The simplicity of his tunes works to their benefit here, because the weightiness of the themes don’t require anything trickier. The result is Taubman’s best album to date, as befits the solemnity of the Days of Awe.

Available at www.craignco.com

 

Spectator – A Night of Atypical Tunes


“I like representing the underdog,” said Noreen Green, founder of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony.

Which is why her Aug. 21 concert feting 350 years of American Jewish life will not spotlight famous composers such as George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland.

“People can hear those mainstays at the Los Angeles Philharmonic,” the 46-year-old conductor said from her CD-crammed Encino study. “Our symphony aims to perform new or seldom heard pieces, so I’m taking the same approach to explore the journeys that brought Jews here from every corner of the earth.”

It’s what one might expect of the maverick Green, whose well-received ensemble is the only Jewish orchestra of its kind outside Israel. Her upcoming concert, too, is unique because national “350” events are focusing more on lectures and art exhibits (think “From Haven to Home,” which arrives at the Skirball Cultural Center Nov. 10).

After listening to 50 hours of music, the conductor selected “350” repertoire that tells the story in chronological order. The program opens with Meira Warshauer’s “Like Streams in the Desert,” Green’s nod to the 23 Sephardic settlers whose families fled the Spanish Inquisition to Brazil and eventually to New Amsterdam in 1654. The modern classical piece weaves asymmetrical Eastern rhythms into Western-style canons and fugues (overlapping lines of the same melody) to suggest the experience of exile and return.

In the alternatingly lyrical and joyous “Self Portrait With [Mordecai] Gebirtig,” American composer Joel Hoffman transforms songs by the celebrated Krakow folk musician into a klezmer cello concerto. While Gebirtig died in the Holocaust, his work reflects the Yiddish music brought here by 2.5 million Eastern European immigrants between 1881 and 1921.

“I recognized the characters in his songs, as if they might have been my own great aunts and uncles,” Hoffman recalled.

When cellist Barry Gold — also a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic — slides his hand across the strings, the whine recalls a cantor bending his voice in shul.

Cantor/composer Meir Finkelstein will bend his own renowned voice when he performs his original compositions of prayers such as “Ma Tovu,” reflecting the trend of new music in the American synagogue.

“Such melodies reflects the variety of Jewish life made possible in the United States,” the conductor said. “It’s like a smorgasbord.”

For information about the concert at the Ford Ampitheatre, call (213) 805-4270 or vist www.lajewishsymphony.com.

 

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Think haunted houses are scary? Bill Maher, Andy Richter and Sarah Silverman put the real fear of God in you tonight. “Hell Houses” have been around since the Rev. Jerry Falwell reportedly created one in the late ’70s, offering a scary eight-room journey into hell as a Christian alternative to haunted houses. The Abundant Life Christian Center has since put together a Hell House Outreach kit to teach young people the consequences of sin. Tonight marks the opening of “Hollywood Hell House.” The aforementioned comedians play Satan, Jesus and Abortion Girl, respectively, in this walk-through theater vérité recreation of a genuine “Hell House,” based on the specifications of the Outreach kit. The stars of the inferno vary nightly, with an impressive roster of 80 performers that also includes Richard Belzer, Dave Thomas and Julia Sweeney. But tender-hearted ones beware, it is hell they’re showing you here. Expect some gross imagery.Sat. evenings through Oct. 30 and one performance on Sun., Oct. 31. Tours run from 8-10 p.m. $13. Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (323) 692-5868.

Sunday

Forget comedy. Somebody really ought to investigate the strong tradition of crossdressing in Judaism. Witness Yentl, and Yiddle before her (and those are just the Y’s). Tonight, head to Cinespace for a screening of 1936’s “Yidl Mitn Fidl” for step one in your Jewish crossdressing education. The adorable Molly Picon plays the Yiddle (with a fiddle), a female klezmer musician whose father has her dress as a boy so as not to attract the wrong kind of attention. Sponsored by AVADA, a project of Kiddishkayt Los Angeles aimed at the under-35 crowd, the event is expected to appeal to a multigenerational audience, with live music by Josh Kun following.6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. screenings. Live music at 8 p.m. $10. 6356 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 817-3456.

Monday

With the premiere of the third season of “Last Comic Standing,” count on returning Season 1 fianlist Cory Kahaney for new rants on men, motherhood and bringing home the bacon when your bacon-making job actually entails making bacon. The San Diego native goes up against Season 2 contestants — including Todd Glass and runner-up Gary Gulman — as she takes another shot at No. 1 starting this week.9:30-11 p.m. NBC.

Tuesday

Springtime in Warsaw sets the backdrop for the intertwining romances of NotEnough, a Polish short written, directed and produced by Daniel Strehlau, whoalso stars. The 30-minute piece screens tonight through Thursday at Laemmle’sMonica Theatre. 1332 Second St., Santa Monica. (310) 394-9741. www.laemmle.com

Wednesday

Barbara Mendes has got a lot going on — in her paintings, that is. The lifelong artist has fittingly described her busy large-canvas creations as “Epic Paintings.” Since 1992, her art has been devoted to Jewish themes, primarily from the Torah. Her “Paintings of Jewish Glory” exhibition is on display at USC Hillel through Oct. 8.9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Mon.-Fri.). 3300 S. Hoover St., Los Angeles. (213) 747-9135.

Thursday

Ouds and kanoons and violins intermingle today, as the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity presents “Judeo-Arab, Andalusian Melodies.” Dr. Avi Elam Amzalag, director of Anda-El, Andalusia-Israel East West Orchestra, conducts musicians from this group, Chicago Classical Oriental Ensemble and Sultana Ensemble, with vocals by Cantor Lior El Malich of Israel and Munshid Abdelfattah Bennis of Morocco.7:30 p.m. $15-$25. Eretz-Siamak Cultural Center, 6170 Wilbur Ave., Tarzana. Tickets: (866) 468-3399, Info: (323) 658-5824.

Friday

More music today. This time, think straight up Westernjazz/blues, with a hint of the experimental. The Daniel Glass Trio performs afree concert al fresco at the One Colorado Courtyard. You’ll recognize Glass’name as the drummer for Royal Crown Revue. Helping him out are Eldad Tarmu onvibraphone and Timothy Emmons on bass. 9 p.m. Free. Pasadena, between ColoradoBoulevard, Fair Oaks Avenue, Union Steet and DeLacey Avenue. www.onecolorado.net

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7 Days In Arts


Saturday

So you got a screenplay in your back pocket? Welcome to Hollywood. Now all you have to do is get it made. Enter the Writers Guild Foundation. Today, It offers an all-day masters seminar in “Writing the Original Screenplay.” You’ll hear leading screenwriters and execs discuss topics including “Invention and Reinvention,” “A Saleable Premise” and “Getting It Made.” Then down a few cocktails at the party that follows.9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. $110-$150. Writers Guild, 7000 W. Third St., Los Angeles. (323) 782-4692.

Sunday

We can’t promise it’ll be Val Kilmer, but cast membersfrom “The Ten Commandments” musical give a preview performance of a couple ofsongs this evening. Part of a special event sponsored by The Jewish Journal, thenight also features a panel discussion on the Ten Commandments by Rabbis IsaacJeret, Daniel Bouskila and others, moderated by Rabbi Richard Spiegel, as wellas an art exhibition of angel paintings by Mel Blatt and catered reception byDelice. For those who can’t make it tonight, the Museum of Tolerance hosts thesame event on Sun., Aug. 8. 7 p.m. Temple Etz Chaim, 1080 Janss Road, ThousandOaks. R.S.V.P. for either date to rsvp@jewishjournal.com

 or call (213) 368-1661.

Monday

In 1992, Mona Sue Weissmark brought together 22 Jews andGermans, the sons and daughters of camp survivors and of Nazis, for a four-daymeeting. In her new book, “Justice Matters: Legacies of the Holocaust and WorldWar II,” she explores her findings from that meeting and examines the extent towhich injustices experienced by parents come to influence their children. OxfordUniversity Press, $26. www.amazon.com

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Tuesday

Playing live, 24/6 is Five Towns Radio, a Jewish musicstation based out of Cedarhurst, N.Y. (part of the Five Towns). Lucky for us,though, they’re online, which means you can still gloat about the weather toyour relatives back East, while enjoying their radio station. www.fivetownsradio.com

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Wednesday

Decked out in contemporary clownwear and natural spiky red hair, Elliot Zimet is the host of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Three-Ring Adventure” — and he’s also an MOT. Let him entertain you. The circus comes to Anaheim today.7:30 p.m. Through Aug. 8 (show times vary). $13-$75. Arrowhead Pond, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim. (714) 704-2500.

Thursday

Together, Arab, Jewish and Muslim singers and musicians from Nazareth and Galilee form the Arab-Israeli Orchestra of Nazareth. The group promotes the appreciation of Arab music throughout the world, and today makes its U.S. debut at the Skirball Cultural Center. Resident singer Lubna Salameh takes centerstage, reinterpreting Arab standards, including songs by the late Egyptian diva, Oum Kulthum, as well as film stars Layla Mourad and Ismahan.8 p.m. Free. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

Friday

Go beyond “Where the Sidewalk Ends” today, as GuerriLA Theatre presents “Signs of the Times: An Evening of Shel’s Shorts,” an 80-minute seriocomedy of nine short plays written by Shel Silverstein. You’ll be introduced to characters including one woman who tries to convince a beach resort manager that a “No Dogs Allowed” sign doesn’t apply to her (the dog is her husband), and a waitress who won’t explain the curious sign she holds, which reads, “No Skronking.”8 p.m. Runs Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 28. $20. The Kutting Room, 1221 Second St., Santa Monica. (323) 650-2493.

And There Was Music


At Sinai Akiba Academy recently, Bryna Vener vigorously conducted close to 100 first- through-eighth-graders in a passionate rendition of "Hava Nagila" as students danced in their seats. If the atmosphere was celebratory, it was because the assembly was a dress rehearsal for the orchestra’s 25th anniversary concert and alumni reunion June 10, when graduates will return to fete Vener and her remarkable group.

"What Bryna is doing is so important because she’s built perhaps the oldest and largest orchestra of that age level of Jewish children, anywhere," said Russell Steinberg, director of the Stephen Wise Music Academy.

"When she began, Proposition 13 had created a big void in music education in the public schools, which is only now starting to come back," said Sinai music teacher Adam Lerman. "So it was unique for these children to have an orchestra to go to."

The charismatic Vener, a conservatory-educated violinist, founded the orchestra when she herself became a casualty of Proposition 13 after teaching public school music for more than a decade.

When she enrolled her daughter, Dvora, at Sinai in 1979, she approached Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin with an idea: "I said, ‘If you let me do this on a volunteer basis, I promise you a Chanukah concert in two months," she recalled. "After the concert, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and the rabbi said, ‘Good. Now you can play for Purim?’"

Since then, the group has grown from 18 to almost 100 students — including a more accomplished group of chamber players — all of whom study privately as a condition of joining the program. At several yearly concerts, they play Jewish and Israeli music and "easy classics," such as Rossini’s "William Tell Overture"; they’ve also performed for the Israeli president, at Disneyland and for the opening of downtown’s Central Library.

At the recent assembly, 20-year-old alumnus Jeremy Stern, who just finished his Israeli army service, said he thought of the orchestra when he performed " with his yeshiva band.

While other students have gone on to become professional musicians, "that’s not why we teach music," Vener said. "We do it so students will become more sensitive, so they will learn to recognize beauty and develop a team spirit."

The 59-year-old Vener herself radiates that spirit: "This orchestra has been her passion for 25 years," said teaching assistant Sheri Caine-Marks, whose children are orchestra alumni. "She just exudes that energy."

For information about the 7 p.m. concert at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 4401 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, call (323) 525-0146.

The Musical Sound of ‘Lights’


Not all Chanukah music is kiddie music — even when it’s played by kids. On Sunday, Dec. 1, the Skirball Cultural Center will host the West Coast premiere of Russell Steinberg’s suite, "Lights On!" Steinberg will conduct the Stephen Wise Youth Orchestra, a group of 70 youngsters ages 9 to 18 from throughout greater Los Angeles, who attend more than 40 public and private schools.

The second half of the program will be Steinberg’s "Symphony No. 2," titled, "What Is a Jew?" featuring narration by actor Ed Asner, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin of Stephen S. Wise Temple and Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom.

"Lights On!" gives a symphonic twist to eight traditional Chanukah tunes. After beginning in darkness, the musicians add one melody after another, with the light increased for each tune, until they finish in a blaze of light and a complex intertwining of sound — a musical chanukiah on the eighth night of the holiday.

"I didn’t like most Chanukah music," Steinberg told The Journal, speaking from a residency at the MacDowell Colony, an artists’ retreat in New Hampshire. That disaffinity, he said, "gave me a blank canvas," and the piece wound up being "a lot of fun to write."

Steinberg, 43, who holds a doctorate in music composition from Harvard University, was hired at Milken Community High School four years ago to teach music. He created a conservatory at the school that gradually expanded to younger children. The youth orchestra is an outgrowth of the conservatory.

"We’re reaching out to the whole community, not just Jewish kids," Steinberg said.

A self-described "Valley boy," Steinberg said he came late to an interest in Jewish music, which was sparked by his involvement with Milken and through association with Noreen Green, director of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. Attending Shabbatons at Brandeis-Bardin Institute, he said, also brought him into Jewish life.

"I realized [music] was a wonderful way for me to explore Judaism," Steinberg said. "It’s a journey I never would have imagined taking."

The Stephen Wise Youth Orchestra will perform Sunday, Dec. 1, at 4 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. $8 (Skirball members), $10 (nonmembers). For tickets call (310) 440-3500 ext. 3344.

A Song in His Heart


Singer-pianist-archivist Michael Feinstein’s new album, his first with a symphony orchestra, is all standards and all Jewish.

"Using all Jewish composers didn’t take effort," Feinstein said, describing his latest CD, "Michael Feinstein With the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra" (Concord Records, $17.98), released in May. In the liner notes, Feinstein explains, "It’s an extraordinary fact that most of the major American popular song composers of the 20th century were, for some inexplicable reason, Jewish."

Backing Feinstein on the album, which features about 50 years’ worth of songs from theater, films and cabaret, is the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), which turned itself into the biggest of big bands to work with Feinstein. The singer recorded the songs in spring 2001 in Tel Aviv, during his very first trip to Israel.

Feinstein sees his collaboration with the IPO as a musical thread in the struggle for peace in the Mideast, pointing out that the orchestra has been involved in programs bringing together Arab and Jewish musicians. He is donating proceeds from the new CD to the Arab-Jewish youth organization Seeds of Peace.

"I feel that music is a healing modality that can help bring peace," Feinstein told The Journal, adding that one of the cuts on the album, "Somewhere," is an homage to its composer, Leonard Bernstein, who had a long association with the IPO and "represented ideals of peace."

Feinstein and the IPO had been scheduled to play the Hollywood Bowl Aug. 26, but their eight-city American tour was canceled by its promoters. The orchestra denied that it faced security and insurance problems when it announced in late July that the tour was "postponed," but subsequent stories in the Los Angeles Times and Variety cite concerns over security affecting ticket sales and ability to obtain insurance as reasons for the tour’s cancellation.

Feinstein, 45, learned to play piano by ear as a small child in Columbus, Ohio, and as a teenager was playing weddings and parties. As a kid, he favored the show tunes his parents listened to rather than the rock and teen pop choices of his peers.

Classic American songs from theater and film, Feinstein told a reporter in April, "resonate in a way other music does not. It is music that transcends time."

A New York Times review of a June performance at Carnegie Hall described Feinstein as both an acolyte and a peer of his musical heroes, which include the Gershwins, Harold Arlen and Irving Berlin, "conversing with his idols in a musical time warp."

After graduating from high school, he began playing piano bars around Columbus instead of continuing in school. At one point, he told The Journal, he went to his mother and said, "Aren’t you even going to ask me about college?"

"My parents were very supportive of my music," Feinstein said. "My love for music came from them; they are truly responsible for my career."

He moved to Los Angeles in 1976 at age 20, and the following year, met lyricist Ira Gershwin, then about 80 years old, through June Levant, widow of pianist, comic actor, and Gershwin intimate Oscar Levant. Feinstein had obtained June Levant’s phone number and called her after coming across some obscure recordings of her husband’s work in a used record store.

Well-versed in the music of Gershwin’s era, Feinstein was put to work cataloging phonograph records, but eventually became Gershwin’s musical assistant, organizing his papers and bringing the latter-day world of show music into his home before Gershwin’s death in 1983.

Gershwin introduced Feinstein to Liza Minnelli; he’d been best man at the wedding of Minnelli’s parents, Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland. Minnelli, in turn, made possible Feinstein’s first big club date at the Algonquin Hotel in New York in 1986, which began a stream of high-profile club and concert performances, recordings and film and television appearances that shows no sign of drying up.

Feinstein said he’s "very devoted to the Jewish community," though not religious. His parents sent him to Hebrew school at a Conservative synagogue in Columbus; Feinstein said he didn’t much like the classes, which met in a dingy basement. He complained to his folks until his mother visited the classroom and said, "My God, it is that bad."

When Feinstein chose not to have a bar mitzvah, "it was more of a scandal in the neighborhood than it was to my parents," he said.

His Ohio roots and his eponymous New York nightclub, Feinstein’s at the Regency, notwithstanding, Feinstein is very much an Angeleno, with a home in Los Feliz. As a young man new to Los Angeles, he played piano at the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda twice a week, and he still goes back occasionally.

"I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else," Feinstein said. "I feel very connected to Los Angeles, and I feel very connected to the Jewish community here."

Ending on a Musical Note


When Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI) holds its summer concert on Aug. 18, it will be a bittersweet occasion for cellist David Low. The BBI artistic director has overseen the summer concerts for 12 years, and is now leaving to spend more time with his wife and children, and to pursue his music career in the film industry.

The last summer concert, to be held outdoors at BBI’s hillside House of the Book, will feature The New Hollywood String Quartet performing Bernard Hermann’s memorable scores for Alfred Hitchcock classics such as "North by Northwest" and "Psycho." The chamber orchestra, 13 players including Low on the cello, will be led by Lucas Richman, long associated with Brandeis-Bardin and now assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Low, 39, came to BBI straight out of Juilliard and has been BBI’s artistic director since 1989. Simultaneously, his work as a music contractor and a musician for film and television has slowly come to dominate his career. He has worked as a musician on 400 film scores, including "Schindler’s List," the "Jurassic Park" films, "Titanic" and "Minority Report," and will soon work on the new "Star Trek" motion picture.

Low was born in Israel, but by the age of 3 had moved to Van Nuys. The son of veteran Jewish Journal contributing writer Yehuda Lev, Low says he was inspired by his father to become active in Jewish life. "When I was young it was amazing to hear him do public speaking," Low says.

During his reign as artistic director at BBI, Low has overseen summer concerts every year, which in the past have included Israeli groups such as Esta, and singers David Broza and Shlomo and Neshama Carlebach.

At BBI, Low says he has enjoyed being able to perform and help educate open-minded audiences. "The weirdest thing is to have a 17-year-old come up and say, ‘Oh, I remember you. You played in my bunk when I was 8.’"

He is not really leaving BBI. "You can only do so many jobs," he says, then adding, "I couldn’t have done what I’m doing now without the experience of working there. My relationship will always be with BBI. It will just change."

Zubin Mehta and His World Class Orchestra


The Israel Philharmonic has always been an orchestra of immigrants.

Founded in 1936 as the Palestine Symphony, by the Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, the orchestra was specifically created to help Jewish musicians escape the Nazis. Many of the founding members, among the most accomplished German-Jewish musicians of their day, had already been forbidden to perform in Germany; most had been dismissed from their posts by the Reichsmusikkammer in 1933. Some 15 years later, renown conductor Leonard Bernstein led the refugees in concert on the sand dunes of Beersheba for 5,000 soldiers during the War of Independence.

Since then, the history of the orchestra has been closely tied to the history of the Jewish state: Holocaust survivors joined the orchestra in the late 1940s; and conductor Zubin Mehta, now the IPO’s music director for life, hastily left a Metropolitan Opera tour to catch the last plane to Tel Aviv during the Six Day War in 1967.

When the 25-year-old Mehta first arrived as a guest conductor in 1961, he encountered only a straggling orchestra of central European emigres, he once told the Journal. Over the years, he hired more than 95 performers to create his own world-class symphony, one that was predominantly Sabra until the arrival of a more recent, and dramatic, emigration to Israel.

“Since the 1960s, the Russian aliyah has been our major aliyah, with waves in the late ’60s, ’70s and late ’80s,” said Avi Shoshani, the orchestra’s secretary general. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union are renown for their musicianship: “We used to joke that any Russian who stepped off the airplane without a musical instrument was a pianist,” Shoshani says.

The result is that up to half of the orchestra’s 108 performers are now emigres from the former U.S.S.R.; Russians especially dominate the string sections, Shoshani says. The rest of the symphony consists primarily of Sabras, with a few Poles and about 10 American-born musicians (clarinetist Richard Lesser used to play in the Los Angeles Philharmonic).

Perhaps the most prominent Russian in the orchestra is Yuri Gandelsman, the principal violist, who once belonged to a legendary Moscow group. The principal cellist, Marcel Bergman, is Russian and so are both the concertmasters: Lazar Shuster, who arrived to the orchestra in the late 1960s; and Ilia Konovalov, who arrived several years ago and is in his early 20’s. Konovalov does not come to the IPO from another world-class orchestra; rather, the wunderkind was recommended to Mehta by his famous Vienna-based violin teacher.

“Ilia is very unusual,” Shoshani says. “He is a brilliant musician, really the quality of an international soloist, but he has decided to become a concertmaster instead.”

Shoshani says there is no rivalry between the Philharmonic’s diverse musicians, because “music is an international language.” And despite the fact that the orchestra has absorbed wave upon wave of immigrants, it continues to retain its image as a group made up of “individual personalities,” Shoshani says. “It’s a special kind of music-making. Everyone has his own opinion, and the conductor has to convince the musicians of his opinion and vice-versa.”

The musicians “like to talk,” Mehta has said, with a smile. “If they don’t like a certain tempo, they’ll tell you.”

Mehta, once the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will be back in town to conduct the IPO in concert on March 9, 7:30 p.m. at UCLA’s Royce Hall, with violinist Isaac Stern as the guest soloist. Tickets, $20 to $75, are available at (310) 825-2101. For information about the gala supper with Mehta after the performance, $1,000 to $2,500 per person, call (310) 454-7191.

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