The 10th Jerusalem Festival of the Arts opened last week (Tuesday, March 29) with a performance by the Jerusalem Oratorio Choir (that’s us) and the Israel Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of guest conductor Aharon Harlap, of Fauré’s Requiem and Gounod’s St. Cecilia Mass.
The history of this concert might be summed up in the words of that Cole Porter classic from “Kiss Me Kate”:
Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse,
Three weeks and it couldn’t be worse,
One week, will it ever be right?
Then out of the hat, it’s that big first night!
The overture is about to start,
You cross your fingers and hold your heart,
It’s curtain time and away we go!
Just another opening of another show.
But then, that’s par for the course with Oratorio. When disaster is looking us in the face, we rise to meet the challenge, make a superhuman effort and somehow, it comes out right – well, more or less, anyway.
The uniqueness of the Jerusalem Arts festival is that it rests on the shoulders of local artists (often amateurs, such as our choir). Music, dance and drama groups from schools and community centres and the like offer a wide range of performances at prices which are a fraction of those you would expect to pay at, say, the Israel Festival later this spring.
I make it a habit to take the day off work on days when we’re giving a concert, so that I can come relaxed and in good voice to the concert. Since we had to be on stage for the general rehearsal at 4 p.m. (the concert being at 8.30 p.m.), this was, in any case, a vital necessity if I was to get a couple of hours sleep before the concert. I also like to slip off stage during the rehearsal and sit in the auditorium for a few minutes to get a feel of how it sounds from the front of the house.
This time, since I had my camera with me, I was hoping let you have a glimpse of those precious moments when it all starts to come together. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of memory in the middle of the “Sanctus” – my favourite section of the Gounod Mass.
So instead, here is a performance of the same piece I found on YouTube, with the promising young tenor Michael Fabiano (whom I was fortunate enough to see at the Met on my trip to New York last year) as the soloist.
Enjoy – and have a good week.