Singers and choral aficionados from across North America and Israel are warming up their vocal cords and practicing scales in anticipation of a summer pilgrimage to the Catskills. This year marks the 18th annual North American Jewish Choral Festival, an event beginning July 8, held by the Zamir Choral Foundation. Some 500 participants will attend the five-day program, which is open to amateur and professional musicians, conductors, choirs and artists.
“This is the seminal event that created the [Jewish] choral movement,” said the foundation’s founder and director, Matthew Lazar. “Singing all day… makes people feel like they’re part of a community,” and the event allows for “individual expression in the context of a group experience.”
This year, legendary musician Theodore Bikel will be presented with the festival’s Hallel V’Zimrah Award, which is given to a leader in Jewish music (past recipients have been Velvel Pasternak, Gil Aldema and Yehezkel Braun).
“I’ve known Theo for a long time,” Lazar said. “He’s a great Jewish leader, a cultural leader and a moral leader. He was a shining light when others weren’t really promoting Jewish music.”