Summertime and the listening is easy

The Israeli Music Festival celebrates its 14th year with five days of concerts throughout the country.

Ella Milch-Sheriff 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ella Milch-Sheriff 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Next Saturday, the annual Israeli Music Festival will set off on its regular round of the country with a concert at the Jerusalem Theater. It will then progress on successive days to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Haifa Auditorium, the Dimona Community Center and the Performing Arts Center in Beersheba before returning to the Jerusalem Theater.
This is possibly the most ethnically authentic of the many musical events that take place in this country throughout the year. All the works performed over the five days were written by Israeli composers, and they draw on a wide range of musical and ethnic sources.
Ella Milch-Sheriff’s entitled work Mediterranean Summer Sketches, which will be performed at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art at 4:30 p.m.on October 2, is just that. “I started to write the work in the summer, with all the heat and the light we have here at that time of the year,” she explains. “I would call the piece something that is not heavy. You know, with all the heat we get, I couldn’t have written a heavy composition in the summer.
There is something in the climate that impacts on the composer in me and my work.”
Milch-Sheriff has gained great international acclaim praise over the years for her works, which have been performed all over the globe. Her stirring 2003 work for mezzo-soprano, narrator and orchestra, Can Heaven Be Void? for example, was based on her father’s unique 1,600-page record of his horrific experiences during World War II. “I have been called ‘the Holocaust composer,’” she says. “That is very much a part of me.”
Milch-Sheriff is a natural choice for the Israeli Music Festival event. Her parents came from Poland, but she has imbibed much of the Middle Eastern spirit and sounds and incorporated some of that into her oeuvre. “I am definitely influenced by the multi-ethnicity of this part of the world. It would be very strange were that not the case,” she declares. “I live here, and I absorb all the sounds around me. If I walk down a street and I hear boom boom boom of cars with people inside listening to their disco music or if I go to a restaurant and I hear Eastern style singing, which I don’t connect with too much, all that makes me aware of the sounds around me. On the other hand, if I hear Arabic music, I connect with that strongly. I was born in Haifa, and shared life with Jews and Arabs is something that is completely natural for me.”
The composer says the wide swath of cultural energies, colors and sounds in Israel is a boon. “I feel very lucky, even compared to a composer who lives in Europe. Of course, Europe has an amazing tradition and history that are indispensable, but we have the Western classical music. And we also have a very varied reservoir [of music] from which we can draw and can exploit for our own artistic purposes.”
This is the last time that Michael Wolpe will be in the artistic director’s chair after six years at the helm, and he has compiled an impressive and well-rounded program. The works in the festival will be performed by orchestras, choirs, chamber ensembles and instrumental and vocal soloists.
The festival is taking a step off its beaten geographical path, as one of the concerts is taking place in Dimona for the first time.
The opening concert at the Jerusalem Theater will be a grand affair, with two orchestras – the IBA Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.
This is the first time in seven years that the IPO has participated in the festival.
Iconic composer Paul Ben-Haim’s works will figure strongly throughout the five-day program, with additional compositions by composers of all ages and mindsets, including 57-year-old Moshe Rasiuk; 58-year-old Jerusalemborn Yinam Liff; Soviet-born octogenarian Mark Kopitman; and 30something pianist-composer Noam Sivan.
Besides the classically oriented works, there will also be new arrangements of Israeli songs, while the high energy The Revolution Orchestra will perform works written by young composers as soundtracks for animated movies.
Admission to all the festival events is free. For more information about the Israeli Music Festival: