Singing in many languages

I sing in a choir; I’ve sung in choirs since I was 11years old, almost continuously, with only a break for medical school and residency training.

The choir I sing in now, Zemer Chai, just performed our spring concert, and it was amazing! Titled “I Am Determined To Walk In Freedom”, our concert included a Passover cantata written by Gerald Cohen, a modern setting of the liturgy of the Seder. The second half of the concert was led by our guest artist, Isaye Barnwell, a member of the a capella group Sweet Honey In the Rock. She led us in a variety of arrangements of spirituals, enriched by her expanding on the history and context of the source oF spiritual music.

In the months preceding the concert, as we were learning these spirituals, in contrast to learning the Passover cantata music in Hebrew – words that have become familiar through repetition every year at the Seder table – and learning Yiddish songs recalling the struggle of the immigrant, we were approaching the spirituals, in English, but learning to pronounce the words as authentically as possible as would an African-American choir.

And, then, in a totally different context, I am learning songs in Italian with my voice teacher, and have taken the plunge and actually invited my friends and family in the area to come hear me sing Handel’s “Alma Mia, Si Sol Tu Sei” in a voice recital with my fellow voice students.  Italian is such a lovely language to sing in – the purity of the vowels is so friendly to the voice.

Hebrew, Yiddish, English (in a variety of forms), and Italian…reveling in the different sounds that cultures use to communicate.  Fascinating…

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