North American Jewish Choral Festival creates harmonious communities

Choral music fest inspires social connections with new workshops for novice and experienced singers of all ages

Participants in the North American Jewish Choral Festival. Credit: Courtesy.
Participants in the North American Jewish Choral Festival. Credit: Courtesy.

Each summer, the North American Jewish Choral Festival (NAJCF) brings together hundreds of singers from across the country to enjoy five magical days of a life-changing musical experience, share their love of Jewish choral music and feel a sense of pride and belonging. The 35th annual event will be held from July 14 to 18, in Westchester County, N.Y.

NAJCF participants of all ages enjoy a variety of uplifting Jewish musical experiences, led by renowned conductors creating a melodic tapestry of contemporary, folk, classical and traditional music. The program includes daily community sings and evening concerts featuring guest choirs and outstanding performers.

Throughout the festival, attendees can choose from workshops on a wide range of informative and entertaining subjects designed for singers of all levels, cantors, conductors and lovers of Jewish music. The seminars are led by an esteemed group of Jewish music experts and educators. Topics include:

  • A Distant Mirror: Jewish salons in 18th- and 19th-century Europe
  • How to nurture a sense of kavannah in your choir’s singing
  • The Complete Selichot: The nearly all-music service including
    a cappella, folk tunes and Chassidic melodies
  • Praying for the peace of Israel
  • LaShuv HaBaitah/Come Back Home: The songs of Ishay Ribo
  • Jews of the African Diaspora: The untold history of Jews of African descent
  • New songbooks and choral works from Transcontinental Music Publications
  • Songs of rescue and deliverance
  • Sealed With a Kiss: The meanings of Hatimot, the seals which identify and conclude each prayer
  • Building a Palace in Time with Harmonies: Friday-night choral repertoire empowering the congregational voice
  • Bound by the Promised Land: How the stories of exodus from Egypt served as a musical template for civil rights
  • Israeli songs of war and peace
  • It’s All About That Treble: Music and thoughts for Soprano-Alto ensembles
  • Reharmonizing classic Tefillah tunes
  • Giving Voice: Singing as spiritual practice
  • L’chaim!”: Spirited songs of sanctification surrounding potent potables
  • Morning Has Broken: The structure and traditional chanting of Birchot haShahar and Pesukei d’Zimrah
  • Beloved: Songs of sacred love
  • Simon Sargon, Ben Steinberg and Charles Davidson: A retrospective
  • Supporting congregational singing with the volunteer choir
  • Stand and Be Heard: The Amidah
  • Shalom Gorgeous: Barbra Streisand’s Jewish identity

Master teacher and internationally acclaimed choral conductor Eleanor Epstein will give a special presentation “To Sing is to Belong: The Power of the Communal Voice” in tribute to noted composer Alice Parker, with whom she studied extensively. She will discuss how the evocative music of the Jewish people is a powerful force for building understanding and connection.

Josh Shron, cantor, Israeli music expert and radio personality, will explore the healing power of music in an excerpt from his program “A Musical Hug From Israel.” His presentation is designed to help English speakers connect to the range of emotions felt in Israel and around the world, through a look at the meaningful songs released after Oct. 7.

New for 2024, NAJCF is also offering a “Boot Camp” for beginning choral singers and those needing to brush up their skills. This special track will help participants learn to follow a score, understand rhythm, blend with others and more.

The North American Jewish Choral Festival is a program of the Zamir Choral Foundation. To register for this year’s festival or learn more, go to North American Jewish Choral Festival, Zamir zamirchoralfoundation.org.

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The Zamir Choral Foundation, created by Matthew Lazar, promotes choral music as a vehicle to inspire Jewish life, literacy and community. The foundation’s programs include the North American Jewish Choral Festival; HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir; the acclaimed Zamir Chorale; Zamir Noded for young adult singers; Zamir Conducting Fellows to train the next generation of Jewish choral conductors; and the HaZamir Preparatory Program for middle-school singers. Matthew Lazar, founder and director of the Zamir Choral Foundation, is the leading force of the Jewish choral movement in the U.S. He has worked with Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Elie Wiesel, Theodore Bikel, Dr. Ruth Westheimer and others. The Zamir Choral Foundation is guided by an expansive vision of vibrant Jewish identity across the generational, denominational and political continuums through the study and performance of Jewish music at the highest level of excellence. For more information, visit www.zamirchoralfoundation.org
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