Connecting to classical

The crescendo of sounds emanating from the Jerusalem Municipality’s city council hall bore little resemblance to the circular hall’s usual tones from its weekly city council meetings.

By BATSHEVA POMERANTZ
November 1, 2017 15:55
3 minute read.
The Jerusalem Street Orchestra performs at the Jerusalem Municipality’s city council hall.

The Jerusalem Street Orchestra performs at the Jerusalem Municipality’s city council hall. . (photo credit: YELENA KVETNY)

 
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The crescendo of sounds emanating from the Jerusalem Municipality’s city council hall bore little resemblance to the circular hall’s usual tones from its weekly city council meetings. At the center of the hall were musicians of the Jerusalem Street Orchestra performing The Carnival of the Animals, a humorous musical suite by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.

“When the city council hall became a concert chamber, the atmosphere of the concert changed, helping people to connect to a classical music concert,” says Ido Shpitalnik, the founder, music director and conductor of the Jerusalem Street Orchestra. “The orchestra strives to maintain a high level of music in a format that is friendly and relevant to the public, especially for younger people, who prefer to avoid entering the 19th century at a concert.”

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Since its founding in 2013, the Jerusalem Street Orchestra, a chamber orchestra comprised of young musicians trained in classical music, aims to expose new audiences to classical music and the orchestral genre. It plays regularly in public spaces in Jerusalem, attracting young people, even from religious and haredi populations. While aimed primarily at the young, who are often less involved with classical music, older people who have never been exposed to such concerts also attend them.

Shpitalnik, 30, is a graduate student at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in its conducting track.

“I played the piano, composed music, and never thought of becoming a conductor until I took a course in the basics of conducting. I tried it out and fell in love with the field.” Shpitalnik also studied classical music in Weimar, Germany, and participated in various programs, such as the Meitar Ensemble for contemporary music and other cultural programs.

The orchestra is supported by the Culture Ministry, the municipality, the Natan Fund, Eden – the Jerusalem Center Development Company, the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and the JCU Giving Circle.

Some 25 musicians performed in the recent city council hall concert. It’s not a common sight to see two baby grand pianos brought up to the hall on the sixth floor! Journalist, actor and publicist Yaron London narrated new texts for The Carnival of the Animals, which he adapted for adults. The original texts were written for children.

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“I try choosing pieces that match the location,” says Shpitalnik. “For example, the texts in The Carnival of the Animals are philosophical discussions, somewhat resembling what takes place in the political sphere.”

The hall was filled nearly to capacity – with a less formal atmosphere than regular concert venues. London’s text (published in book form by Yediot Books) was handed out as a program, so everyone could follow the words. Many young people attended, as well as some older ones.

The next concert in the series will be on November 8 in the Clal Center.

“The Clal Center’s structure is made for concerts,” says Matan Israeli of Muslala. “It’s a spiral structure and the orchestra plays at the bottom of the spiral, so many people can enjoy the concert from all heights, like in a concert hall. Even though the acoustics can be a disadvantage for sounds of all kinds, it becomes an advantage for the concert, since the instruments can be heard.” The upcoming concert will be free of charge and will feature a string orchestra with 18 musicians.

On the program: Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings will be the main piece. It was chosen also because it suits the building’s acoustics. The program also includes Mozart’s Divertimento in D major, Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite and Bottesini’s Double Bass Concerto No. 2 in B minor with soloist Alexander Osipenko.

The concert planned in December might literally shake the earth. It will be held 80 meters underground, in the uncompleted station for the new Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railway.

“This should really be amazing. The acoustics are very good.” The program is still tentative at this stage.

The Jerusalem Street Orchestra produced a music video that was showcased on the main stage of the AIPAC Policy Conference 2017 in front of 18,000 people. It presented the players in front of different Jerusalem sites, with photographs of the sites from about 100 years ago merging with today’s Jerusalem.

The next concert in the series will take place on Wednesday, November 8 at 9 p.m., at the Clal Center, 97 Jaffa Road, Jerusalem.

Free admission, no need for advance registration. More details on the Facebook page of the Jerusalem Street Orchestra.

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