Review: Israel - Home Of Hope

He chose the music, wrote the words and even does (spoken) vocals. The Chief Rabbi plays a huge role in making the Israel tribute CD a success

Various Artists

The Office of The Chief Rabbi

Recorded and released to coincide with Israel’s 60th anniversary, this double-CD collection boasts 46 tracks, featuring music together with spoken-word passages about the evolution of the Jewish state written and read by the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks. “The narrated passages and the music go together,” the Chief Rabbi says. “Nothing’s grafted on. It was conceived as an integrated piece.”

Sir Jonathan chose all the music to match the narrated interludes. He combines existing songs and film soundtracks (such as the theme to 1960 movie Exodus by Ernest Gold) with new arrangements, and brand new music specially commissioned for the occasion. “I’ve chosen some music that moves me,” he explains. “We spent months trawling around for material. Some I already knew. Others were completely new discoveries. But I think the six tracks recorded especially for the album are the best things on it.”

The CD set is available at free to members of synagogues under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi, or as a free download from www.homeofhope.co.uk. All the artists involved worked for free, as a sort of birthday gift to Israel.

The feted producer Trevor Horn (who created lavish soundscapes for everyone from Frankie Goes To Hollywood to Seal) has adapted and arranged the music for three of the tracks here: Ke-she-halev Bocheh (When the Heart Weeps); When You Believe (from the cartoon extravaganza The Prince Of Egypt, which, unlike the original Whitney Houston version, bears Hebrew lyrics), and Hatikvah, sung by Lionel Rosenfeld and The Shabbaton Choir, with orchestral flourishes courtesy of Horn.

“Clearly to get a world-class producer like Trevor Horn, I thank the Almighty for that,” says Sir Jonathan. “He’s done three remarkable pieces.”

Elsewhere, there is poignancy aplenty, such as on Im Eshkachech (If I Forget You), sung by Lev Tahor, which operates at the interface between euphoric and mournful. Meanwhile Matisyahu, the American Chasidic beatboxer and reggae star toasts his way through his own composition, Jerusalem, with production from legendary US R’n’B producer Jimmy Douglass. The album may not instantly appeal to the Amy Winehouse crowd, but it is a moving tribute to a resourceful people. “The songs are often mournful, but then, the story of the Jewish people was often written in tears,” says the Chief Rabbi. “But there are some joyous pieces here where all the pain is transmuted into hope. It’s simple, enjoyable, and in some cases deeply spiritual music, straight from the Jewish soul.”

    Last updated: 2:54pm, February 18 2011