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May 21, 2009 - Image 60

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-05-21

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(Arts & Entert inment

Lifelong Legacy

Noted musicologist will explore Leonard Bernstein's most
Jewish classical compositions in program at Temple Kol Ami.

Suzanne Chessler
Special to the Jewish News


he 90th anniversary of the birth
of composer-conductor Leonard
Bernstein was celebrated with
much fanfare throughout 2008, but the pro-
grams continue here in Metro Detroit with
a lecture and presentation of Bernstein's
recorded music.
David Schiller, profes-
sor of music history and
musicology at the University
of Georgia, will cover "The
Jewish Legacy of Leonard
Bernstein" 4:30 p.m. Sunday,
May 31, at Temple Kol Ami
in West Bloomfield.
David Schiller
The free presentation, co-
sponsored with Kol Ami by
the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies
at Wayne State University, is scheduled as
the Annual John M. Haddow Memorial
Program in Jewish Culture.
"The focus will be on the classical compo-
sitions that have explicit Jewish material as
an integral part of the music:' says Schiller,
the author of the book Bloch, Schoenberg
and Bernstein: Assimilating Jewish Music.
"There has been a lot of information on
Bernstein's affirmations of his own Jewish
roots throughout his career so it feels
very right to have a program like this that
remembers him"
The three Bernstein pieces covered most
extensively in the presentation include
"Hashkiveinu" ("Sabbath Prayer for Peace"),

The Chichester Psalms and The Kaddish
Symphony (also known as Symphony No. 3).
The first piece is an example of synagogue
music, which only recently has been record-
ed, although Bernstein wrote it as a young
man. The second brings out a joyous side
of the Bernstein Jewish legacy, having to do
with how good it is for brethren to dwell
together in unity.
"The single piece that I've been most
interested in is Kaddish," Schiller explains.
"The piece uses the traditional Kaddish
prayer but presents the prayer in a radical
"There's a female speaker who
announces she's going to say Kaddish for
herself because she fears there will be no
one to say it after her.
"The text had been understood to reflect
the nuclear anxieties of the Cold War period,
but I felt that the anguished qualities of the
score and Bernstein's text also were influ-
enced by the experience of his family during
the Holocaust."
Three versions of the symphony, available
on CD, will be played.
The original recording features Bernstein
conducting the New York Philharmonic and
his wife, Felicia Montealegre, narrating. The
second offers a performance by the BBC
Symphony directed by Leonard Slatkin,
music director of the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra, and showcases a new narration
written and recited by Jamie Bernstein, the
composer's daughter. The third rendition,
played by the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra
under the direction of John Axelrod,

introduces a new text written
and recited by Samuel Pisar, a
Leonard Bernstein, circa 1955
Holocaust survivor.
Kaddish was composed in a
small studio on the grounds of the Bernstein America," Schiller says. "It's the 70th anni-
family's country house in Connecticut, where versary of his graduation from Harvard
Bernstein also wrote the ballet Dybbuk. The
and his entry into the Curtis School of
contents of the studio have been donated by
Music. It's just past the 50th anniversary
the Bernstein children to Indiana University,
of his appointment as director of the New
where the workspace soon will be re-created. York Philharmonic and the beginning of
Burton Bernstein, brother and biogra-
his televised Young People's Concerts."
pher of the composer-conductor, recalls a
That last anniversary is an easy one for
vaster connection to Judaism at this anni-
Schiller to remember because it marks the
versary time.
start of his being a Bernstein fan.
"There wasn't a note that Lenny ever
Other Bernstein fans can learn more
wrote that didn't involve Jews in some way
with a new book, Leonard Bernstein: The
— Jewish music, Jewish themes, Jewish
Political Life of an American Musician by
notes:' Burton Bernstein explains. "The
Barry Seldes, professor of political science
Jeremiah Symphony (Symphony No. 1), one at Rider University. which explores links to
of his earliest works, incorporates the bar
progressive political causes.
mitzvah theme that every kid who's ever
"As time permits, I will focus on addi-
been bar mitzvah has to learn.
tional pieces:' Schiller says. "The more
"Even when he wrote Mass, based on the
work people hear, the more they know
Catholic mass, in memory of John Kennedy how Judaism was an integral part of the
to open the Kennedy Center in Washington
person Bernstein was."
after being commissioned by Jackie
Kennedy, he wrote a whole Jewish section.
David Schiller will present "The
"Lenny was thoroughly Jewish, very reli-
Jewish Legacy of Leonard
gious without being Orthodox. He was in
Bernstein" 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May
Israel during the first war there [in 1948]
at Temple Kol Ami, 5085 Walnut
and conducted while they were being
Lake Road, in West Bloomfield. A
attacked in an outpost outdoors in the
reception will follow. Those inter-
Negev. He was very proud of that."
in the free event are asked to
Bernstein has other noteworthy mile-
May 27 with a call to (313)
stones at this time.
577-2679 or an e-mail to
"It's just past the 100th anniversary
aa2690®wayne.edu .
of the arrival of Bernstein's family in


Nate Bloom
Special to the Jewish News

Film Notes

Opening Friday, May 22, is Night at the
Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, a
sequel to the 2006 box office smash

Night at the Museum. Ben Stiller

reprises his role as a security guard
who has to deal with problems that
arise when the museum exhibits come
alive. The sequel's large cast includes

Jonah Hill, Hank Azaria, Paul Rudd
and Brad Garrett.
Shawn Levy, 41,

Also opening May
22 is the French
film Summer Hours,
an insightful look
into the lives of the

Shawn Levy


May 21 . 2009

French bourgeoisie,
written and directed
by Olivier Assayas,
54. His late father,
Jacques Remy, was
a famous French film
screenwriter who was
born in Italy to a Greek
Jewish family. An anti-
fascist activist, Remy left Mussolini's
Italy for France in the '30s. Early in
the German occupation, he dropped
his original last name (Assayas) to
conceal his Jewish origins. He escaped
from France ahead of Nazi deportation,
returning after the war.

Play Password

CBS has recruited Regis Philbin, 77,
to host Million Dollar Password, a big-
money revival of the classic game

show in which contestants can win
as much as a million bucks. Ordinary
folks play with celebrity partners. The
premiere, airing 8 p.m. Sunday, May
24, features celebrity guests William
Shatner, 78, and actress Aisha Tyler.
On June 14, the celeb guests are Jeff
Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), 46, and
talk-show host Chelsea Handler, 34.
Shatner (Star Trek's original Capt.
Kirk) doesn't have a part in the new
hit Star Trek film, as does his friend
Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), 78.
Nimoy recently spoke to the New
York Times about how being Jewish
affected his portrayal of Spock:
"Maybe unconsciously, some of that
seeped into the character. Certainly
it did with the Vulcan gesture – it's
derived from a blessing I learned
about in synagogue when I was about

8 or 9 years old. It has Hebraic ori-
gins." When asked whether Spock's
stoicism and reserve of character was
a Jewish thing, Nimoy replied, "No, I
don't think so. Because on the other
hand, you've got Bill Shatner, who's

also Jewish but is not exactly stoic."

Funny Old

Shatner and
Nimoy are not
the only senior
Jews to be
enjoying a sur-
prising degree
Nimoy & Shatner
of success at an
advanced age. The Web site
oldjewstellingjokes.com has turned into
a surprise hit. It features mostly Jewish
jokes, mostly told by Jewish seniors.

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