Thursday, August 22

Los Angeles Jewish Symphony performance to benefit cancer research

"The Long Bright," referring to the light at the end of a tunnel, features poetry by David Wolman written about his wife, Anni Baker (pictured above). The piece will be performed by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony tonight.

"The Long Bright," referring to the light at the end of a tunnel, features poetry by David Wolman written about his wife, Anni Baker (pictured above). The piece will be performed by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony tonight. Corridor Communications

The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony attempts to bring forth compositional works by Jewish composers, as well as highlight pieces relating to the Jewish faith. However, tonight the symphony will perform a concert that also focuses on a human struggle that affects everyone regardless of religious affiliation: cancer.

Founded 16 years ago by conductor Noreen Green, who remains conductor of the symphony to this day, the symphony has since brought to light works by unknown composers and more prominent ones alike.

“There’s a Korean orchestra, there’s a Spanish orchestra and there were all these niche orchestras, but there really wasn’t a Jewish orchestra that played our music at a high level,” Green said. “It’s not the kind of music you (hear at) a Jewish wedding; it’s classical art music that shows off the Jewish experience with Jewish composers or even (composers) like Shostakovich, who was a Russian composer who wrote a piece called “˜On Jewish Folk Poetry’ that nobody knew about.”

The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony incorporates musicians from many different backgrounds. According to Green, only about 30 percent of the players are Jewish themselves.

“Music is non-denominational; it hits you at a gut level,” Green said.

First-year ethnomusicology student Sam Lieberstein grew up with his father playing bass at their temple, and since then, music has remained a consistent part of his life.

“There are a bunch of composers who are very popular who were not happy and didn’t really like Jewish people,” Lieberstein said. “I think it’s really good to focus on (Jewish music) because there’s a lot of good music out there.”

Tonight’s concert will feature a piece titled “The Long Bright,” which refers to the light at the end of the tunnel ““ in other words, hope. The poetry featured in the piece is by David Wolman and was written about his wife Anni Baker’s struggle with cancer. The poetry is backed by music written by Andrea Clearfield, who was commissioned by Wolman. All three share in the Jewish faith, while the proceeds from the concert will go to the Israel Cancer Research Fund.

“I really can’t express what a glorious job (Clearfield) has done and how defined … and moving it is,” said Hila Plitmann, a soprano singer who will be the featured soloist in the concert. “There are parts of the piece that are very hard to get through because they are so moving, both lyrically and musically. The combination of the two is just so iridescent and full of light and beauty that you want to start crying yourself while you’re practicing.”

Plitmann was also featured in the premiere of “The Long Bright” six years ago in Philadelphia. At the request of Green, she has come back to revive the work.

“When you’re doing something for the first time, it’s almost overwhelming. You’re a little too busy in your brain with the newness of it all. When you’re allowed to come back to something, because it’s familiar you’re almost allowed to go deeper into the material,” Plitmann said. “After a period of six years, I’m a different person. I’ve (had) a lot of experiences … that make me see things from somewhat of a different perspective, so I experience the poetry and the music in a different way.”

The piece brings out such strong emotions by taking the listener through the different stages of life with cancer. Anger at having the disease is expressed in a rap-like section, while a segment titled “The Wolf” uses a wolf waiting to swoop down on its prey as a metaphor for cancer.

“It is going to be emotional, and it’s going to affect your sensibilities about who you are and how people react to death,” Green said. “But it’s like going to see “˜Schindler’s List.’ You don’t go to “˜Schindler’s List’ to be happy. It takes you on this emotional journey, and that’s what this piece does.”

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