Zimria Festivale Expands Classical Jewish Songbook
Spring ConcertRenaissance Music Had Many Influences

Zimria Festivale Expands Classical Jewish Songbook

The mission of the group is to bring awareness to a wealth of rarely performed music

Patrice Worthy

Patrice Worthy is a contributor at the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Zimria Festivale Atlanta performs music by Jews and inspired by Jewish themes.
Zimria Festivale Atlanta performs music by Jews and inspired by Jewish themes.

Zimria Festivale Atlanta is a Jewish music group pushing the boundaries of the repertoire of traditional Jewish music groups.

A part of the William Baker Choral Foundation, Zimria Festivale specializes in music of Jewish origin that goes beyond traditional liturgy and folk music to bring various genres to the forefront. The group formed in 2014.

The director of Zimria Festivale is Amy Thropp, whose background is in Jewish choral conducting. Thropp, who conducts the Congregation Beth Shalom High Holiday Concert, said the mission of the group is to bring awareness that there is a wealth of rarely performed Jewish music.

Many of the pieces are from the Renaissance through the late 1800s. Thropp said many Jews, from France to Russia, wrote music for the church because they had no Jewish outlet.

“Alexander Kopylov was a Russian composer who wrote for the Russian Orthodox Church because he had to make a buck,” Thropp said.

Jews have a strong connection to classical music, and Thropp said there was a period when French operatic music was performed and written by Jews or children of Jewish families.

Zimria Festivale’s concerts also include music that was not written by Jews but has Jewish subject matter.

Zimria Festivale member Deborah Wenger said the variety of music the choir performs makes it great, and other choral groups she has been a part of don’t compare.

“We’re doing Israeli folk music, Shabbat songs, and we have a repertoire of liturgical music,” Wenger said. “The depth and the breadth are more challenging.”

The choir is performing a piece from Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” which Wenger said is the best of all possible worlds. “It’s not a standard melody. It’s very challenging.”

The music performed by Zimria Festivale has introduced Wenger to a new approach to Jewish music. It is also introducing Atlantans to a catalog of Jewish music that many didn’t know existed. Wenger said people who come to a Zimria concert will be pleasantly surprised.

They’ll have a chance to hear Zimria Festivale during its spring concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at Congregation Beth Shalom.

“We’re the only choir in this area that performs this type of music,” Wenger said. “We did a piece by Salamone Rossi, a Renaissance composer who wrote typical Renaissance music to Psalms. I was blown away when I heard it. I said, ‘This is the music I daven to.’ ”

The group is performing “Sim Shalom” to “Dona Nobis Pacem,” which means the same thing in Latin that sim shalom means in Hebrew: Give us peace.

Thropp and Wenger are looking forward to support from the Jewish community because of the Jewish tradition of supporting the arts.

William Baker, the founder of the William Baker Choral Foundation, said the foundation celebrates music of good quality from every faith, and he is delighted to see how the group has developed since its founding less than three years ago.

“I think we find it interesting because it is so broadly based,” Baker said. “We hope to engage more and more of Atlanta’s Jewish community.”

What: Shirim B’Aviv: Singing in Spring

Where: Congregation Beth Shalom, 5303 Winters Chapel Road, Dunwoody

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, May 7

Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $5 for children 12 and under; bit.ly/2oY1MDf or www.festivalsingers.org

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