Matthew Lazar, director of the Zamir Chorale, attributes this notion to Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav: when two people speak at the same time, the result is cacophony, whereas when two people sing at the same time, it’s harmony.
With passion and commitment, Lazar has been getting Jews to harmonize — beautifully — for most of his life, and this Sunday afternoon the chorale will celebrate its 50th anniversary of performing modern Hebrew music with a gala benefit concert at Carnegie Hall.
It is a tribute to Lazar’s vision and perseverance that the choir, through the Zamir Choral Foundation he leads, has reached this milestone. And along the way, in supporting and advancing the growth of Jewish choral groups, he has not only brought quality music and professionalism to audiences here and around the world, but he has strengthened Jewish continuity and proved that trans-denominational efforts can be successful.
From the outset, members of the choir have come from every religious stream, joined together by a love of music and Zion — all too rare in today’s increasingly polarized Jewish community.
Founded in 1960 by Stanley Sperber, now a leading conductor in Israel, the Zamir Chorale was the first modern Hebrew-singing chorus in North America. Lazar became director in 1972, and has been a leading force in the Jewish choral movement, creating a number of singing groups. Two decades ago he launched the North American Jewish Choral Festival, an annual forum for hundreds of choral singers. And a few years later he began a network of international Jewish high school choirs, and a chamber choir.
A recent survey found that participants in Jewish singing groups feel more connected to Klal Yisrael [Jewish peoplehood] than most Jews and are more Jewishly knowledgeable; they also say that their participation enhances the experience of Jewish prayer for them.
Zamir has become a cultural treasure for our community, and we salute its leaders, members and alumni. May it continue to educate and entertain audiences for many years to come.