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  • Pamela Froman

Bernstein at 100/Israel at 70

In 1948, Israel was a war zone. But that didn't stop musical maven Leonard Bernstein from visiting the fledgling country. His historic concert took place at Beersheba, when some 5,000 troops were surprised by the arrival, in an armored bus, of thirty-five intrepid members of the newly named Israel Philharmonic (formerly the Palestine Symphony Orchestra) and their valiant conductor. It's no wonder that Israel has a deep love for Bernstein. The whole country was ready to declare their independence – and Leonard Bernstein was right there in the middle of it. He became a cultural icon despite the fact it was the first time that he had stepped foot on international soil!

Now, the entire world is celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s centenary in 2018, and the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony is offering a double birthday party: a concert entitled Bernstein at 100/Israel at 70 taking place April 29, 2018.

The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony is an orchestra led by conductor Dr. Noreen Green. Noreen founded the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony in 1994. Known worldwide for her knowledge and skill in presenting music with Jewish themes, she has served as guest conductor in the United States, Israel, Australia, South Africa and Canada. Dr. Green also conducts the AJU Choir, which she founded in 2014; and the American Jewish Symphony, a touring ensemble that debuted in 2015 to a sold-out audience at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center in New York. The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony is dedicated to the performance of music of the Jewish experience. Every concert has a theme and in every concert Noreen shares why the music fits.

This concert will celebrate Bernstein's vast repertoire and will be bridged by a world premiere of a newly commissioned work by Maria Newman. Maria is an award-winning composer, violinist, violist and pianist. As an Annenberg Foundation Composition Fellow, a long-standing multiple Mary Pickford Foundation Composition Fellow, and violin soloist/featured composer Maria is a visible symbol in modern classical music.

“I am incredibly excited to present music that deals with Leonard Bernstein and what he brought to the entire world,” says Maria. “He was an indomitable spirit, absolutely indomitable. I'm hoping that this spirit can continue with bridging lands, musicians and artists and all walks of life.”

“Music is life. It's a means of connecting with one's Jewishness,” says Noreen. “I think it's wonderful to hear live music, that experience creates community. The LA Jewish Symphony’s audience is a family, we have patrons and ticket buyers who come to every concert. We are not just about the music – we also educate.”

The first half of the concert will be music by Bernstein on Jewish themes. Maria's piece is the bridge to the second half featuring Marc Lavry's Emek Symphonic Poem chosen by Bernstein in 1950 as the representative Israeli composition for his first American tour with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Maria’s piece will include narration along with the music, which will be spoken by two extraordinary actors – Laraine Newman and Fred Melamed. Artists also include renowned Los Angeles Opera mezzo-soprano Diana Tash and the AJU Choir. “We are juxtaposing spoken word with music – great poetry and music affects each listener differently,” says Maria.

“There are no wars on any stage,” says Noreen. “People from all different cultures come onstage, play together, perform together and make music together, and walk off the stage and hug each other,” says Noreen. “Music is the universal language – its a way to communicate beyond words.”

Noreen is always looking for themes and ways to connect Jewish music with what is happening in the world. The whole world is celebrating Bernstein's centenary, and the whole Jewish world is celebrating Israel, so it was a natural fit to connect these two historic moments. This concert will take Bernstein's words and create music that will spring forth as something unique and special to everybody.

Bernstein at 100/Israel at 70 will take place at the Gindi Auditorium of the American Jewish University on April 29, 2018, 7 pm. For tickets and information log onto www.lajs.com.

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