This past weekend in Berlin, eight choirs from four continents took part in the first ever Louis Lewandowski Festival, named for the famed music director of Berlin’s New Synagogue in the late 19th century.
The choristers hailed from Jerusalem to Johannesburg and Boston to Zürich, with detours to Strasbourg, Toronto and London. The headlining group was the Berlin Synagogal Chor, who performs Lewandowski’s Shabbat service on a weekly basis at the Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue in western Berlin.
Lewandowski (1821–1894) was arguably the most important and influential reformer of synagogue liturgy. He was the first to introduce the call-and-response between cantor and choir and many of his melodies are still familiar today.