Music, Secret Gardens and Magic Lanterns

As my faithful readers know, Music is my Great Passion. Music – and Cats.

Let me start again.
As my faithful readers know, Music and Cats are my twin passions. And Literature.

I beg your pardon. I’ll just start over from the beginning.
As my faithful readers know, my three great passions are Music, Cats and Literature. Oh – and Gardens.

All right. Let’s try again.
As my faithful readers know, my four great passions are: Music, Cats, Literature, and Gardens.
And exploring hidden and hitherto unknown beauty spots of Jerusalem.

Oh, hell! Okay. One more time…
Among my great passions are Music, Cats, Literature, Gardens and exploring hidden and hitherto unknown beauty spots of Jerusalem.

Having properly introduced the subject, I can now tell you that over the last couple of weeks, I have been able to indulge many of these passions.

Last Thursday, for example, my choir, the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir, under the baton of Kate Belshé,  gave a concert in the Community Garden of the Jerusalem Natural History Museum in the German Colony, one of my favourite Jerusalem neighbourhoods. The concert was part of a fundraising effort to help finance the restoration of the garden’s historical ornamental pool. Since the Community Garden, though familiar to Jerusalemites living in the neighbourhood, is not exactly on the regular tourist track, (although the museum itself is a popular destination for local school trips), this concert was an opportunity to indulge most of my aforementioned passions 🙂

First of all, as I said, there is the garden itself – an almost secret garden, whose existence is not widely known:

20150604_191825 20150604_191857

Then there was the music. Raul, from the bass section, filmed the whole concert in video, so I can share some of it with you. Please bear in mind that, beside the noise made by the many children in the audience, the acoustics of an outdoor concert – unless you have the advantage of an acoustic shell, such as in London’s Kenwood Gardens – are unlikely to be the best.
Come now, and join me, in the garden.

Here is “Tsipor Shniya” (ציפור שניה – “Second Bird”), with lyrics by the Bialik Prize and Israel Prize-winning poet Nathan Zach, set to music by Misha Segal:

I saw a bird of great beauty.
The bird saw me.
A bird of such great beauty
I shall see no more
Till the day I die.
A quiver of sunlight passed me then.
I spoke words of greeting.
The words I spoke yesterday evening
I shall not speak again today.   

And now we switch to Latin, for a setting of Psalm 150 by the  Brazilian composer Ernani Aguiar:

I mentioned in one of my previous posts that, since Kate took over as our conductor, we have been singing quite a lot of American choral music. Here we are, performing Randall Thompson’s “Glory to God in the Highest”:

What better way to end than with a traditional Israeli Hora from the 1930s –  “Sovevuni” (סובבוני – “Spin me round”) by Ya’akov Orland (lyrics) and Mordechai Zeira (music), arranged for choir by Yehuda Engel?

Spin me round….Dance for me, one single song ….This is the song, this and no other,   There is no other song, ever….It will not change….By night, quietly, the dance  flares up again. All our lives are a burning torch….in our glowing night….     

Well, there you have it. One concert, which catered to all five of my passions: music, fine literature, gardens,  and hidden beauty spots. You will just have to believe me – as I have no photo to prove it – when I tell you that there were several cats roaming around the garden, some of them sitting listening to our concert 😉

One the way home from the concert, I passed by the Shalom Hartman Institute which is, itself, surrounded by a beautiful garden:

20150604_193622 20150604_193637


Although I saw no cats there, we did meet up with a quartet of very handsome dogs:


Yet another garden of whose existence I have known for years, but had never before visited, until a couple of weeks ago, is Ganei Rechavia, on the corner of Shmuel Hanagid and Narkiss Streets, a hidden oasis in the heart of town, just two minutes walk from the busy King George – Ben Yehuda intersection. This is actually a private garden, I believe, for the use of the residents of the surrounding apartment buildings, but although it has a gate, it is not locked.
20150521_125123 Gan Rechavia 20150521_125114 Gan Rechavia

Here I found, not only cats and kittens aplenty, but also, unsurprisingly,  beautiful, delicate butterflies:

20150517_172855 Cat in Gan Rechavia

20150521_124308 Gan Rechavia

20150521_124353(0) Gan Rechavia

20150607_123043 Butterfly in Gan Rechavia

20150521_124353 Gan Rechavia

Finally, this post would not be complete without a mention of this year’s Festival of Light in Jerusalem, held, as usual, in and around the Old City.


Here, besides the various constructions, such as the colourful jellyfish which greet the visitor on entering the Jaffa Gate


or the circle of angels on the plaza at Zahal Square,  whose invitation to join them and become part of the display, it would prove hard to resist,

one might find, among the many contributions by artists from Israel, France, Holland, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Singapore, Austria and (surprisingly) Turkey, a display constructed of hundreds of lampshades, painted by children from all quarters of the Old City. Closely observed, one can see that these are ordinary lampshades of the kind that was very common in the middle years of the twentieth century:


When one steps back, however, and looks at the whole, the effect is of dozens of Chinese lanterns, filling what has so often been a battleground, with the light of hope.

P1020559    P1020558

Nor was there any lack of music.

P1020550 20150608_210207

Music was everywhere, even on the steps leading to the Kotel (the Western Wall):


The Kotel is a garden. Between its stones grow moss and hyssop – but also flowers:

Western wallflowers

And when, on the way back, the desire to escape the crowds led me away from the marked route, down darker streets and past hidden courtyards,

Dark streets   Alleyway

Hidden Armenian courtyard
still, one could turn a corner and stumble across a musician.

And what could be more fitting, here, in the City of David, than to find a harpist

Play on your harp

and, moreover, one who declares (see the handwritten notice beside her):


Shabbat Shalom to you all.

About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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7 Responses to Music, Secret Gardens and Magic Lanterns

  1. Rick Bailey says:

    What a great sound! Awesome choir! Your choir director obviously understands how to get the most music from her choristers, and the selection of repertoire was really tasty.

    But the venue – something missing here. Of all the outdoor concerts I’ve performed, I can remember very few that weren’t accompanied by the roar of passing motorcycles. In fact, I’ve introduced pieces as “Concerto for Band and Harley Davidson” because the throaty sound of Harleys was unquestionably the featured element of the music, albeit unplanned. And what, no dogs on stage, wandering, sniffing, barking, chasing? You didn’t even have children dancing in front of the stage stealing the show! Jerusalem must be a very different city indeed.

    Lastly, your introduction reminded me of a favorite Monty Python skit: “No one expects a Spanish Inquisition. Our chief weapon is surprise. . . surprise and fear (that’s two) . . .
    Our chief weapons are surprise and fear . . . and ruthless efficiency (our three. . . )
    Our THREE weapons are surprise, fear, and ruthless efficiency . . . and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope. . . (our four. . . )
    AMONGST our weaponry. . . ”
    Complete Monty Python silliness viewable here:

    Thanks for a fun post!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Rick. I have to admit to carefully choosing the video-clips which were least disturbed by “noises off”. We may not have had Harley Davidsons, but we did have a helicopter pass overhead a couple of times. And the dog on stage was during the pre-concert speeches (as I mentioned, this was a fundraising event). By the time we started singing, his owner must have got him under control. But I’m surprised you didn’t notice the children wandering about in front of, in back of and all around the stage.

      I’m so pleased that you recognised the Monty Python allusion. The Spanish Inquisition skit is one of my favourites, but I was afraid only Brits would get it. However, now I come to think of it, I do remember reading that this was one of the British programmes that became a cult show in the US. (Do you remember the Dead Parrot skit? That’s another favourite of mine.)

  2. mysending says:

    What a wonderful collection of treats! I’m so very partial to Tzipor Sheni in general, but watching (and hearing) the kids being kids was part of the treat. The gardens are truly alive!

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