olam disk 88.
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The Olam Tikvah Chorale
A Healing Service in Song
Under the leadership of Carol Boyd Leon, who serves as the ensemble's music director and the DVD's producer, the Olam Tikvah Chorale has recently released this live performance of a cycle of compositions subtitled "Inspirational and Healing Music Based on Jewish Liturgy."
The back cover of the DVD describes the choir as "a haimish group of congregational singers," and the home-made feel carries throughout. Healing is a fashionable theme in today's art, and the choir, who are in residence at the Olam Tikvah Conservative synagogue in Virginia, has assembled in what looks like someone's living room to present the material using digital video - a strange format choice. Single-camera, single-microphone footage of the living room concert is spliced with photos.
The material chosen reads like an all-star lineup of today's American composers of Jewish liturgy, including three Debbie Friedman pieces, one by Craig "Craig'N'Co" Taubman, two Carol Boyd Leon originals, and a Psalms medley by Cantor Charles Osborne of Temple Emanuel of Newton, Massachusetts. In addition, Olam Tikvah performs a spirited version of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's "Esa Einai" and a beautiful rendition of Doug Cotler's elegantly phrased "Hashiveinu."
Cantor Lisa Levine
Reaching for Peace
Now serving as a Reform Cantor in Baltimore, Lisa Levine has in the past also held pulpits in Missouri, Utah and Texas. Her outlook on spiritual Americana is unique to this experience, and this is evident in her new Jewish gospel-pop release, Reaching for Peace.
The opening "Behold How Good" is a tour de force of gospel pop, one which includes a rock-steady clapping interlude, bent bass note flourishes, a soaring melody, and children singing in a round. "Ruach" ventures into Nineties Sting-esque adult rock ballad territory, while "Shelter of Your Peace" uses the various vocal parts in a call-and-answer structure to evoke congregational singing. "Spirits Rising" takes the pop holy Americana concept a step further, and borrows from Native American rhythm chants for a primordial feel that offsets the rest of the slick disc.
Entirely composed by Levine, with some lyrics based on holy books, the CD was produced by Jeff Order, who also plays the keyboards. Levine sings and plays guitar, with backing vocals provided by the various choirs (youth, teen and adult) which Levine oversees at Temple Oheb Shalom. In order to add to the authenticity of the gospel flavor, the Oheb Shalom choral parts are supplemented by actual African-American singers, whose additional backing vocals feature prominently in the mix.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at email@example.com.