Tonight, Tonight! A 100th Birthday Tribute to Leonard Bernstein

Singing Valentines / Valentins chantants

Featuring excerpts from West Side Story, Candide, The Chichester Psalms & more
Leah Edwards, soprano | Cantor Gideon Zelermyer, tenor
The McGill Chamber Orchestra
Roï Azoulay, Conductor | Boris Brott, Guest Conductor
With the Choirs of Shaar Hashomayim & St. Matthias’ Anglican Church


For Immediate Release, April 11, 2019, Montreal, QC … Shaar Hashomayim Music & Arts (SH’MA) proudly presents Tonight, Tonight!, a concert celebrating the magnificent music of Leonard Bernstein, part of “Leonard Bernstein at 100,” a two-year global celebration of the life and career of the 20th-century cultural giant. The multimedia concert on Wednesday, May 29 at 7:30 pm features Broadway actress and soprano Leah Edwards alongside the Shaar’s own internationally-acclaimed tenor, Cantor Gideon Zelermyer. The varied programme includes Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and excerpts from West Side Story, Candide, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Concerto for Orchestra. In addition, the programme features music that most inspired Bernstein including selections by Gustav Mahler and Aaron Copeland. Shaar Hashomayim Music Director Roï Azoulay and Boris Brott conduct The McGill Chamber Orchestra as well as the choirs of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim and St. Matthias’ Anglican Church, in a special first-time collaboration. Additional special guests are to be announced.

Conductor Roï Azoulay, Cantor Gideon Zelermyer and the Shaar Hashomayim choir came to international attention for their stunning contribution to Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker, the iconic artist’s final album, which went on to win Juno and Grammy Awards in 2018. Speaking of the music of Bernstein, Azoulay comments, “Leonard Bernstein was very proud of his Jewish identity, and also exceptional in his ability to touch so many styles and worlds. At the Shaar we appreciate this excellence and wish to pay tribute to someone who represented these values in his life.” Azoulay is also enthusiastic about the Shaar’s new collaboration with the choir of St. Matthias’ Anglican Church and music director Scott Bradford, just across the street from the synagogue in Westmount: “Today, it is more important than ever to unite with our friends and neighbors. Through our shared love of music, we have a beautiful opportunity to create community.”

The concert will also feature the captivating, multi-talented actress, singer, dancer and pianist Leah Edwards, who will be heard in beloved songs including the exhilarating “Glitter and Be Gay.” Edwards made her Broadway debut in 2011 in Terrence McNally’s Master Class and has appeared in numerous shows Off-Broadway and with the Encores! series at New York City Center, including the Emmy-nominated production of Carousel with the New York Philharmonic, broadcast on PBS Live from Lincoln Center. As a classical soprano, she has appeared with the Rochester Philharmonic, New York City Ballet Orchestra, the Utah Festival Opera Orchestra, and in recital at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall.

The concert includes symphonic works by two composers with whom Leonard Bernstein was closely associated: Gustav Mahler and Aaron Copeland. Bernstein frequently conducted Mahler’s works, most famously the Symphony No. 2 in a televised tribute to President John F. Kennedy, two days following his assassination. Five years later, he would conduct the “Adagietto” from the Symphony no. 5 with the New York Philharmonic at Robert Kennedy’s funeral. Bernstein’s 1961 recording of Copland’s Appalachian Spring with the New York Philharmonic is considered the definitive version of the eternal 1944 ballet score, with its uniquely American sense of expansive, open spaces.

Congregation Shaar Hashomayim continues a proud musical tradition that stretches back to the great synagogues of the major capitals of the Old World. In addition to their much-heralded collaboration with Leonard Cohen, the Cantor and choir have toured North America and the U.K., and their series of recordings, “The Music of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim” has received widespread critical acclaim. In January 2016, Azoulay led the Cantor and Choir in a performance at the United Nations in New York City, marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Cantor Gideon Zelermyer, now in his 15th year at Shaar Hashomayim, has performed around the world as a featured soloist. Music Director Roï Azoulay has conducted the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra, and the Israeli Sinfonietta, and was previously Music Director of the Great Synagogue Choir in Strasbourg, France.

The McGill Chamber Orchestra has toured widely presenting concerts in 17 countries on five continents to great critical acclaim. Since 2005, the MCO is under the Artistic Direction of conductor Boris Brott, one of Canada’s most internationally renowned conductors. The orchestra is a vibrant ensemble consisting of the city’s best professional musicians and presents concerts throughout the year in the finest halls of Montreal. The orchestra will celebrate its 80th anniversary season in 2019/20.

This concert is also in tribute to Marvin Corber, a music lover and valued supporter of Shaar Hashomayim.


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