The founders of the Milwaukee Jewish Community Chorale are coming together again for the first time in decades.
The Chorale, a Jewish musical group, is set to perform a concert with those original founders on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Glendale from 7:30-10 p.m. The performance is free and no RSVP is required.
The theme of the concert is “25 years of song.”
The Chorale was co-founded in 1994 by its first artistic director Cantor-Rabbi Ronald D. Eichaker and original conductor Matthew Lazar. They will take the stage together again for this one night. Lazar, now of New York, has not conducted the Chorale in 25 years; both men are coming into town for the event.
Eichaker, of St. Louis, said he is “fulfilling a promise to the Milwaukee Jewish community” by coming back and performing with the Chorale. During a 1999 farewell tribute at Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, where Eichaker was a cantor, hundreds of people wished him well before he left with his family to join United Hebrew Congregation in St. Louis. His final words to everyone were, “I will always be your cantor, wherever I am, whatever I do, I will always be your cantor,” he recalled.
How to go
What: 25 Sh’not Shira – 25 Years of Song, silver anniversary concert for the Milwaukee Jewish Community Chorale
When: 7:30 p.m., May 22, 2019
What: Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid, 6880 N. Green Bay Ave., Glendale.
Honored guests: Founding directors Cantor Ronald Eichaker and Maestro Matthew (Mati) Lazar, also with Milwaukee area cantors and former singing members.
Lazar said Eichaker is “a very charismatic individual and very successful at bringing people together.”
Lazar is the founder and director of The Zamir Choral Foundation, a Jewish chorale movement in North America. The group focuses on “promoting Jewish identity and bringing people together in a pluralistic way,” Lazar said. When he is conducting Jewish music, he said “it’s great to be in the middle of all that music making… it’s the service of the music.”
About Lazar as a conductor, “he is a perfectionist, no question. So it can be a little intimidating… you can really improve and the sound is absolutely fantastic when he is showing you the way,” said Chorale member Harriet Matz.
Cantor-Rabbi Eichaker, Lazar and current Artistic Director Enid Bootzin Berkovits will take turns conducting the songs.
The music set for the evening encompasses 25 years of repertoire and will include Hebrew songs, English songs, Yiddish songs, newer music and synagogue music, according to Bootzin Berkovits.
“Jews have always expressed their joys and sorrows through music,” Lazar said.
Cantor-Rabbi Eichaker will be singing two songs. “I think it will be fabulous; haven’t seen him in many years … he has a wonderful voice” Matz said.
The Chorale is also bringing back members who haven’t performed in years.
Some members play clarinet, trumpet, drums or guitar. Sometimes there is a solo in a piece “when the music calls for it,” Matz said.
There will be a montage shown of photos and clips of past performances over 25 years.
“We have really grown as a Chorale. Every year we’ve gotten more challenging music,” Matz said.
The feeling of the concert is “definitely happy, definitely a little nostalgic,” Bootzin Berkovits said. She said the Chorale is an enthusiastic group and “such a wonderful group to work with; they work hard.”
Cantor-Rabbi Eichaker said coming back to the Chorale is “just like old times — it’s great. It’s a reunion!”