I spoke too soon. COVID-19 is still with us, now mostly in the form of the latest variant, BA-5.
The Ministry of Health dashboard, last updated at 11.06 this morning, gives the Transmission Rate (R) as 1.37 although on the morning news programme, it was reported as 1.55. That was at 9 am, however – and, in any case, the figures are not (cannot be) completely up to date to the minute but refer to the last 24 hours. At all events, it is clear that COVID is once again spreading. The Ministry of Health has “recommended” that we resume the use of face-masks in closed spaces. However, in line with the current policy of learning to live with COVID, no restrictions have (as yet) been imposed. Some of the “experts” think we are witnessing the start of a Sixth Wave. On the other hand, a few weeks ago, the Transmission Rate rose to 1.42, right after Purim – but fell again and remained well below 1 for several weeks, without any special measures being taken to contain the spread of the virus.
At choir rehearsals, some people are once again (or maybe, still) wearing face-masks and this was the case also, at our concert the day before yesterday (in the audience, that is).
Yes, it’s back to business for Israel’s cultural institutions – the Jerusalem Oratorio Choir amongst them. All of the five component choirs have produced, or will be producing, concerts this month – and that is in addition to the big choir’s Gala concert which is set to take place on the 5th of July, in the Henry Crown Auditorium, with a full orchestra, just like in the days BC (Before COVID).
The day before yesterday, it was the turn of my own choir, the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir.
The first part of the programme consisted of music from the Renaissance to the 20th century, based on Jewish and Christian liturgical texts (although even the Jewish texts, from the Psalms, were in Latin) – three motets by Bruckner (who must have hated sopranos, judging by the incredibly difficult vocal feats he demanded of them), two of Duruflé’s Four Motets on Gregorian Themes, and – my personal favourite – O Magnum Mysterium by Tomás Luis de Victoria, which resounded magnificently in the acoustic of Christ Church, an Anglican church just inside the Old City of Jerusalem, opposite the Citadel.
Unusually for us, apart from the a cappella portion of the programme, we also were accompanied by a string quintet in the central item of the evening, the Stabat Mater by Josef Rheinberger. The quintet actually consisted of the Across Quartet, and the contrabass player Kai Jack. The Quartet also added diversity to the evening’s programme by treating us all to the First Movement of Dvorak’s Quartet no. 12 in F Major opus 96 (the “American” Quartet) – one of my favourite pieces of chamber music.
The second half of the programme was rather lighter in mood, and more varied in language, encompassing works by the contemporary Canadian composer, Stephen Chatman, the 19th century English composer and conductor Henry David Leslie, the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos and ending with Cole Porter.
After three years of truncated, on-and-off musical activity, it feels so good to be back!