The Arty Semite

Monday Music: LA Jewish Symphony at 18

By Ed Rampell

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy of LAJS

The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony is celebrating its 18th anniversary this year with a series of live performances, beginning with a March 31 concert at Valley Beth Shalom, in the San Fernando Valley. The “Istoria Judia — La Convivencia Musical” concert concentrated on Morocco’s Sephardic tradition and commemorated the 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain. On June 23 LAJS is partnering for the fifth year with non-profit concert producer Kindred Spirits for a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall to benefit the anti-genocide organization Jewish World Watch. LAJS’s anniversary finale takes place at Hollywood’s John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on August 26.

Noreen Green is the co-founder, artistic director and conductor of LAJS. She calls LAJS “the wandering Jewish orchestra,” because it doesn’t have a permanent home, and performs at venues throughout LA. LAJS presents up to four concerts each year, as well as smaller chamber music events. The Arty Semite talked with Green about the LAJS at 18, defining Jewish music and commissioning new works.

Ed Rampell: What is the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony?

Noreen Green: It’s a symphony devoted to playing the music of the Jewish experience. The Symphony’s principal players and soloists are Jewish, as are about 30% of its musicians.

What do you consider to be “music of the Jewish experience”?

It is a symphony, so I select music based on repertoire that fits into the symphonic genre. We also perform with choir and soloists. I guess the question always is, “What is Jewish music?” They say, “Is it by a Jewish composer? Is it based on Torah trop (cantillation)? Is it klezmer?” It’s everything, because composers are influenced by their life, their growing up, if they went to Hebrew school and if they went to Passover Seder.

Take Aaron Copland — is he a Jewish composer? He didn’t really write Jewish music, he wrote American music. But he grew up Jewish and he actually did write one chamber piece for violin, cello and piano, called “Vitebsk,” based on Jewish themes. Then there’s somebody like Leonard Bernstein, who obviously wrote Jewish music — the “Jeremiah” symphony, “Kaddish.” There are the obvious composers, then there’s the less obvious, like Darius Milhaud. The first line of his biography says, “I am a Jew from Provence.”

What have been some LAJS shows that are emblematic of Jewish music?

Every concert I put on has a theme… such as “Cinema Judaica,” which was film music-themed; “Gesher L’Chayim,” which translates as “Bridge to Life,” which was music that survived the Holocaust. One of the programs I’m proudest of was “Women of Valor.” I feel very strongly that it’s important to inspire the creation of new works, and as a woman conductor I’ve focused on commissioning women to write music on Jewish themes. “Women of Valor” was an oratorio by Andrea Clearfield about 10 biblical women.

What is special about this anniversary?

Eighteen years — obviously, Chai is very meaningful. For a specialized orchestra to have survived in this world for 18 years is really amazing… especially given the economy. We’ve gotten grant money everywhere from the National Endowment for the Arts to LA County Arts Commission to LA’s Department of Cultural Affairs to private organizations. We felt it was quite a milestone so we wanted to celebrate our Chai year.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Noreen Green, Music, Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, Interviews, Ed Rampell

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.