Commemoration and Celebration – Zemel Choir Concert on November 13th

By Zemel Choir
October 9, 2011

Commemoration and Celebration – Concert on November 13th

Are you interested in the history of cinema? Do you enjoy choral music? Will you join us for an evening of history and reflection, celebration and joy? The High Holydays are over. Sukkot and Simchat Torah are upon us. It is time to look forward to the year to come, and to inaugurate it in musical style. Once again, the Zemel Choir returns to Belsize Square Synagogue for its annual concert, held on the weekend in which the synagogue commemorates Kristallnacht – that horrific historical event which destroyed Jewish lives and turned decent citizens into refugees. This year we will be both commemorating this event and celebrating our own history, as we mark the eightieth birthday of our founder, Dudley Cohen.

While previous years have included an element of commemoration for Kristallnacht, this year we will be devoting the first part of our concert to the commemoration of the fate of German Jews of the 1930s. Unusually, we will be doing so through the medium of silent film. In the 1930s, Zionist organisations tried to persuade German Jews to leave for the land of Israel and to join in the pioneering efforts of successive waves of immigrants. They did so in part through the use of documentary films. We will be showing one such film – Hatikvah – created in 1936. The film includes scenes of Israel in the early twentieth century and urges all Jews to join in the creation of new communities and a new country. It provides a poignant reminder both of the difficulties facing the early pioneers, and also of the fate of those German Jews who did not heed its call. The film will be accompanied by both choral and instrumental music (performed by members of the Wallace Ensemble), including some music written specifically for the accompaniment of early silent film and only recently discovered in the archives of Birmingham Central Library.

While Kristallnacht and the 1930s give us cause for sorrow, it is important to remember the happier history of British Jewry since the Second World War. For members of the Zemel Choir, there can be no happier event than the choir’s own creation in 1955. The Zemel Choir came into existence when Jewish culture in Britain was only just beginning to achieve recognition. Now British Jewish culture is thriving. In part that is due to the pioneering activities of musicians such as Dudley Cohen, who has written much beautiful music for the choir and whose devotion to the cause of Jewish choral music has lasted for over fifty years. As Dudley turns eighty, we celebrate his musical life with performances of his compositions and arrangements. If the story of Jewish history is the journey from darkness to light, and the celebration of happiness in times of sorrow, it is only fitting that we should finish this Kristallnacht weekend with a celebration of Jewish culture in modern Britain. It is thanks to Dudley and others like him that such culture exists at all. Come and say thank you, and join us for an evening of history, reflection and celebration.

To order tickets for this concert, please visit our website at


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