I, a relative newbie to the Zamir family, was asked by our intrepid camp counselor, Devin Lawrence, to blog our Berlin trip. While I feel somewhat underqualified for the task given my short tenure as a Zamirnik, I do still have the ability to form words into a sentence, so I offered to give it my best shot. If I do this right, all of you kith and kin back at home will be able to get a flavor of our adventures (or at least the ones that we are willing to talk about) while we are on this magical journey.
So although most of you probably already know this, here’s the background: Zamir was invited to represent the U.S. in the first international Louis Lewandowski Festival (http://www.louis-lewandowski-festival.de/) celebrating the music of this great Jewish German composer (1821-1894). We will be joined by seven other choirs from all over the world—Toronto, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Strasbourg, Zurich, London and Berlin -- to perform a series of concerts taking place at a variety of important venues in Berlin, culminating in a joint “Grand Final Concert” at the Rykestrasse Synagogue on December 18.
In addition to the Grand Final Concert, Zamir will present two concerts of our own. The first will be at Krankenhauskirche im Wuhlgarten (Google Translator tells me this means “Hospital Church in Wuhlgarten”) on the evening of December 15, and the second will be in the glass courtyard (http://www.jmberlin.de/main/EN/04-About-The-Museum/01-Architecture/03-glasscourtyard.php) of the Jewish Museum of Berlin (http://www.jmberlin.de/main/EN/homepage-EN.php) on the evening of December 17. In between, we will have the opportunity to attend workshops and Shabbat services, take a tour of Jewish Berlin, squeeze in some sightseeing and maybe even stop into a biergarten or two on our down time.
Since this blog is meant to be a semi-official communiqué for the folks back home, I will try to keep my personal commentary to a minimum, but I can’t help but take a moment to express how incredible it is for me to be given this opportunity to travel with such an esteemed and amazing group of musicians and people. In just a year and half in the group, the people in Zamir have become a family, and the music has been transcendent. Josh recently shared with us an excerpt from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's devar Torah on Nitzavim -Vayelekh 5769, and as we prepare to embark on this amazing journey, it seems appropriate to end this post with those words:
Judaism is a religion of words, and yet whenever the language of Judaism aspires to the spiritual it breaks into song, as if the words themselves sought escape from the gravitational pull of finite meanings. There is something about music that intimates a reality beyond our grasp. Words are the language of the mind. Music is the language of the soul. Music is the map of the Jewish spirit, and each spiritual experience has its own distinctive melodic tonality. The Torah is God's libretto, and we, the Jewish people, are His choir, the performers of His choral symphony. And though, when Jews speak they often argue, when they sing, they sing in harmony, as the Israelites did at the Red Sea, because music is the language of the soul. The Torah is God's song, and we collectively are its singers.
Auf Wiedersehen für heute.