On Mother’s Day, May 13, 2012, Mishkan Torah presented a cultural event which was a first for the Synagogue. No less than fourteen highly experienced and trained Mishkan Torah artists performed in the Generations United Concert, marking the culmination of Mishkan Torah’s nearly two year celebration of the theme From Generation to Generation. This event took place before a cheering full house, and was a smash hit.
In alphabetical order, Pianist Don Anderson, the former tenor soloist for the United States Army Chorus, returned to the piano and performed the mystical Two Preludes, Opus 67 by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. Don continued in the Russian Romantic repertory by offering the Etude-Tableau, Opus 39. No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Mishkan Torah’s other piano virtuoso, long time piano soloist and teacher David Charney gave a resounding rendition of the tempestuous Sonata No. 22 in F, Opus 54, by Ludwig von Beethoven, which he explained to the audience. Dave followed with a performance of the ravishing Rhapsody #2 in G Minor, Opus 79, No. 2 by Johannes Brahms .
Darelynn Fung played the haunting Sonata for Bassoon and Piano by Paul Hindemith. In keeping with the twin themes of Mother’s Day and generational continuity, Darelynn’s mother Diane joined her daughter to perform the Duet for Two Bassoons by O. Blume, a composer so mysterious not even his first name is known. (Note: The name “O.Blume may have been a pseudonym for a better-known composer.) Cantor Yael Fischman, Mezzo-Soprano, one of the first women to graduate from the Jewish Theological Seminary with a Cantorial Degree, enchanted the audience by sensitively performing three songs on the eternally fascinating theme of love. Yael sang “An die Nachtigal” by Franz Schubert, “Ich ging mit Lust durch einem grunen Wald” by Gustav Mahler, and “My House,” a beautiful and moving setting of a text from James Barrie’s play “Peter Pan” by the late Leonard Bernstein.
Another intergenerational team, the father and son duo of Adam and Don Juran, lent their considerable talents to the festivities. Adam, a tenor who has sung with local and national opera companies, performed two passionate mainstays of the operatic tenor repertory, the lyrical “Flower Song” from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” and Lenski’s Aria from “Eugene Onegin” by Peter Tschaikovski. Adam dedicated the latter number to a Mishkan Torah colleague who had recently passed away. Adam stepped in at literally the last moment when Tenor Ben Greenfield was not feeling up to par, by joining his father Composer and Bass-Baritone Don Juran and Baritone Cantor Phil Greenfield in Don’s “Rise Up, My Love,” a setting of a text from “Song of Songs,” and by adding his voice to those of the Greenfields in the grand finale of the program, the duet from “The Pearl Fishers,” by Georges Bizet. Don had originally written “Rise Up, My Love” as a fortieth anniversary present for his wife, Carol.
Don, a chorister and occasional soloist with a number of local organizations as well as a composer, performed three songs, beginning with “The Cherry Tree.” That work is Don’s own setting of a poem by his son Josh. He continued with the rollicking “Upon the Hearth the Fire Is Red,” the setting of a J.R.R. Tolkien text by Donald Swann. Don concluded the first half of the program with a suitably misanthropic rendition of King Gama’s monologue, “If You Give Me Your Attention” from “Princess Ida” by Sir William Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.
Tenor Ben Greenfield for his determined “the show must go on spirit” in giving a sensitive and moving performance of “Von Ewiger Liebe” by Johannes Brahms. Ben also joined his father Phil and Adam Juran, who stepped in at the last moment, in the “Pearl Fishers” duet. Phil not only performed in the “Rise Up, My Love” and “Pearl Fishers” numbers, but he stepped forward at the last moment to sing the challenging “Where’er You Walk” from “Semele” by George Frederic Handel when Ben became indisposed. Phil gave special commentary to both the “Semele” and “Pearl Fishers” numbers. To make “The Pearl Fishers” a real family occasion, special guest artist Flutist Carolyn Sonnen, the wife of Phil Greenfield and mother of Ben Greenfield, played the ethereal flute accompaniment to the “Pearl Fishers” duet while her husband and son sang.
Continuing in the familial vein, Hornist Joshua Rosen played his original Concerto for Horn in E Flat Major, making him the second Mishkan Torah composer to perform his own compositions at the concert. Joshua studies French Horn at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts with long-time Chicago Symphony Orchestra Principal French Hornist Dale Clevenger. His father Jeffrey Rosen, who produced the Concert, also took his turn at Gilbert and Sullivan by performing “Am I Alone and Unobserved?” from “Patience,” a take-off on Oscar Wilde. Ben Greenfield’s fiancée, Mishkan Torah Choir Director Flutist Rachel White literally went for baroque. She played the Suite in A Minor of G.F. Telemann, to authentic sounding harpsichord accompaniment.
Recording artist and music professional Soprano Nadine Wobus, gave a soulful and passionate rendition of Irving Berlin’s gripping “Suppertime,” the lament of the widow of a black lynching victim.From there, Nadine gave what was indisputably the emotional highlight of the concert by performing the classic “Birth of the Blues” by Ray Henderson, Lew Brown, and Buddy DeSylva, which she dedicated to the late Rusty Mason of blessed memory. Mr. Mason, who passed away right before the Concert, was a local legend for decades as a jazz performer.The husband of Mishkan Torah member Chana Mason, Mr. Mason gave his last concert at Mishkan Torah of December 9, 2011, which was an unforgettable event. Joshua Rosen joined Nadine in the tribute to Rusty by accompanying her on the trumpet, which was one the instruments Rusty loved to play.
Renowned local pianist and collaborative artist Andrew Kraus was the backbone of the whole event by accompanying all of the artists except for the two solo pianists.. Whether playing blues, German lieder, baroque harpsichord, or Gilbert and Sullivan, Maestro Kraus was a complete master. He worked tirelessly with the performers to ensure a professional quality show. A real musician’s musician, Maestro Kraus was a pillar of strength.
Local photojournalist Eric Zhang, who is documenting Greenbelt’s seventy-fifth anniversary year, has produced a superlative blog, with photographs and recorded parts of the concert. As for Mishkan Torah, there are more exciting events planned for next year- maybe a Generations United II! Watch this space!