MONTREAL — For Congregation Shaar Hashomayim music director Stephen Glass, this week’s special concert May 30, 7:30 p.m. at the shul featuring the renowned Zemel Choir of London will be more than an exercise in nostalgia.
Glass, even as a lad in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s, can vividly recall watching intently as his parents, Myrna and Reuben, sang with what many consider the finest mixed-voice Jewish choir in the world.
His parents performed with Zemel when it was still led by the late Dudley Cohen, who founded the choir in 1955.
Glass also sang with Zemel 25 years ago. In his early 20s, he accompanied the choir on a trip to Israel for its famous Zimriya music festival, and he sang with them in a concert back in London at the Barbican Centre.
A couple of years later, in 1990, Glass moved to Montreal to join the Shaar.
Glass said his experience with Zemel helped inform his Jewish musical sensibility.
“These are moments that still resonate within me, and they profoundly influenced the way I approach music and the Jewish choral repertoire,” Glass told The CJN in a telephone interview. “There is no question about it.”
The Shaar will be Zemel’s final stop –and the only Canadian one – in its 10-day tour of the U.S. northeast under the baton of director Benjamin Wolf.
Zemel has appeared at the Shaar only once previously, in an early-1980s concert inaugurating the Hazzan Nathan Mendelson Music Foundation, where it performed alongside Montreal’s Ron Am Choir under the late Alexander Brott and Toronto’s Beth Tikvah Choir under the late Srul Irving Glick.
Zemel has won great acclaim for its professional standards despite being all-amateur. The choir has performed all over the world, as well as on television and radio, and has recorded a number of CDs.
For Glass, the upcoming concert culminates a quarter-century association with Zemel that has only served to enhance the public’s appreciation of Jewish music, whether Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yiddish or Israeli in origin.
The Shaar event will feature a “varied and entertaining assortment” from the Jewish choral repertoire, including a special tribute to Israel on its 65th birthday, and performances by Robert Brody, Richard Newman and the Shaar’s cantor, Gideon Zelermyer.
Glass has also been asked to conduct two of his own compositions at the concert.
For more details about the concert, call 514-937-9474, ext. 139.