As Matthew Lazar stepped onto the stage, surveyed his creation, and began conducting the Hazamir choir, his face was shining. Hazamir: The International Jewish High School Choir, founded by Lazar in 1993, includes students active in 21 chapters across North America and one (soon to be two) in Israel. Two Sundays ago, they performed their 20th Annual Gala Concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center, with songs including “Shehechayanu” and “L’Eyla.
Although the dinner celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Zamir Chorale took place last Saturday night, and the gala concert at Carnegie Hall was on the Sunday that followed, I must admit that, as a participant in both, I am having trouble snapping myself back into the here and now. I had such a wonderful time!
To be a Jewish musician is easy, says Matthew Lazar, but to be a Jew and a musician is sometimes difficult
Nevertheless he has overcome many hurdles over the years as he guided the world-renowned coeducational Zamir Chorale as its director and conductor — in an age when modern Orthodox Jewish sensibilities shifted fundamentally to the right.
Zamir Chorale was founded by Stanley Sperber in 1960. He made aliya in 1972 and passed the baton to Lazar.
Like most 60-year-olds, Israel is showing her age and weariness, but like most 60-year-olds there are still some people who remember when she was young, stunning and something to sing about.
Back in the 1950s, in the Massad Hebrew-speaking summer camps in the Pocono Mountains, teenagers got together to sing Israeli music with the same urgency that doo-wop magnetized teens on inner-city street corners.