The University of Delaware Chorale is in Israel for a series of first-ever performances and cultural exchanges in that country.
The award-winning ensemble consisting of 48 students plus an additional 30 voices will sing as the choir-in-residence with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra for three performances of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and Luis Bacalov’s Misa Tango in Ashdod, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The performances will take place on Wednesday (May 24th), Thursday (May 25th) and Sunday (May 28th).
Getting an invitation to perform with the Jerusalem Symphony is quite an honor, said Paul D. Head, D.M.A., Unidel Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies. “The Jerusalem Symphony is an internationally recognized orchestra and one of two major orchestras in the entire country,” he said.
The collaboration is the result of a long-standing relationship between UD percussion professor Harvey Price and Israeli percussionist Chen Zimbalista who also happens to be associate conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony.
“[Chen] wanted to stage Carmina Burana and thought it would be particularly interesting to feature an American choir,” said Head. “He knew of our reputation so we began the discussion about two years ago.”
Traditionally, graduating seniors of the Chorale lead the singing of the Alma Mater at commencement ceremonies. But because they will be in Israel during commencement, the ensemble will live stream the honors from Israel on a jumbo screen at Delaware Stadium on Saturday, May 27.
The tour will also tap music’s power to promote understanding. While in Jerusalem, the Chorale will collaborate with the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus, a community chorus that seeks to promote peace through music and discussion with students of Arab and Jewish backgrounds. The Chorale will continue on to a festival in the predominantly Arab town of Abu-Gosh where it will perform a Western repertoire in a Christian monastery. From there it will travel to the northern city of Haifa where it will collaborate with Peace Drums, an interfaith initiative that promotes peace among Jewish, Muslim and Christian youth through the shared activity of a steel drum band.
“A big priority for me in this project, especially at this particular point in history, is that our students have the opportunity to get a true sense of the situation in the Middle East,” said Head. “It just puts a human face on the entire situation.”
UD Senior and Chorale President David Catalano agrees. “The art is the reason we do it, but the act of making music, the cooperation, is what’s going to help understanding and that’s important,” said the 21-year-old music major from New Jersey whose specialty is choral conducting.
Those views coincide with UD’s reputation as a global university as well as the value it places on the arts. “The importance of the arts is critical,” said UD Provost Domenico Grasso who holds a doctorate in civil engineering. “The arts are the manifestation of our inner spirit. No matter what your religion, beliefs or political predisposition, our desire to express our inner emotions through music and the arts is something we all have in common.”
The Chorale will also journey to Malta where it will take part in a choral festival on the island of Gozo. The tour will wrap up in Germany where the Chorale will compete in the Meinhausen Choral Competition which takes place from June 9th through June 11th.