Monday, 30 October 2017

Balfour declaration

Yesterday was a day of concerts, which started at the New West End Synagogue. The day marked the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, written to Lord Rothschild by Arthur James Balfour, which confirmed support from the British Government for the creation of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. It was effectively the government’s green light for the creation of the state of Israel, and therefore of huge importance to Jewish people around the world. It was an upbeat event with talks from the chief rabbi and the Israel ambassador. The choir were singing five pieces, including a highly-charged rendition of Jerusalem the Gold and my setting of Ki Lekach Tov. I asked my mate Philip Sallon along, and he was fairly horrified that none of the discussion around the Balfour Declaration touched on the idea that Balfour only signed the letter because he was a rancid anti-semite who wanted to get rid of the Jewish Community in the UK! I’ve not heard this particular argument before and I’m not entirely sure it would have been appropriate for one of the dignitaries to stand up and railroad the celebrations with such cynical cries. The fact remains that the declaration was written, and, thirty years later, after the hell of the Jewish holocaust, Israel was born, and its leaders are not perfect, but it remains the only true democracy in the Middle East, and, compared to its neighbours, who seem to want to wipe it off the face of the earth, it’s a centre of learning, of freedom of speech, and of human rights. I believe passionately in the state of Israel.

The concert went well. I think perhaps there was a little too much chit chat. The audience seemed very relieved when the choir started singing, but because there were large gaps between our numbers, I felt we were never quite able to get ourselves in the zone. As mentioned, we aced Jerusalem The Gold and the audience were hugely receptive towards it. I felt incredibly moved, and very proud to be singing that particular piece of music in one of the country’s most ancient and beautiful synagogues on such an important anniversary. It’s one of THE great melodies. The Ki Lekach Tov was okay. It’s quite a hard piece, which stretches the tenors and forces them to sing quite high. It was difficult to get a sense of how it went, particularly as the writer, but Michael felt we’d sung it slightly better in rehearsal.

From Queensway, I drove into central London to hear Nathan, Llio, Abbie, and my mate Carrie doing a concert with their choir, Vocally Bespoke. You couldn’t actually imagine two choirs with more different sounds. Mosaic Voices (whom I sang with in the afternoon) are an all-male choir whose sound is highly classical. We exist to perform liturgical repertoire and get excited by a Neapolitan sixth chord! Vocally Bespoke, by contrast, is a mixed vocal group who mainly sing pop. And they do it brilliantly. It was such a fun, upbeat evening. Carrie, who founded the choir, introduced us to her singers one by one, and by the end of the evening I felt I had a good sense of each of them, although, of course, I wanted more solos from my friends. They did however sing Love Is Everyone from Our Gay Wedding, by means of introducing Nathan and Abbie and Llio, who joined Vocally Bespoke as a result of performing with Carrie and Andy in the wedding. The show happened at the Leicester Square theatre, which is where Taboo was staged, and therefore where I met Nathan.

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