The Jerusalem Youth Chorus

There is something new in Jerusalem, it’s called the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, its founder and musical director is Micah Hendler, and they are based at The Jerusalem International YMCA on King David Street.
 
Micah recently graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor’s Degree in music and international studies. In conceptualizing the bi-national Israeli-Palestinian Jerusalem Youth Chorus Micah not only relied upon his extensive knowledge of music community work but also came equipped with his experience as a Seed of Peace, the idea that music is an important part of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and four languages. Micah is fluent in English, Arabic, Hebrew and Music!
 
Micah’s perspective is refreshingly unique he believes that: “Given that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fueled by societal fear and insecurity as much as by intractable disputes over real-estate, perhaps the self-confidence and mutual understanding provided by a cross-conflict community of singers is precisely what the region needs.” and so he’s decided to be very hands on. He’s been living in Israel since July 2012 and working on getting the chorus off the ground. “The Jerusalem Youth Chorus is an ensemble of high school students from East and West Jerusalem who are working towards attaining high levels of both collaborative musicianship and empathy for one another. Through music and dialogue, our Palestinian and Israeli students learn skills of communication and trust.”
 
So far the Jerusalem Chorus has participated in several concerts and just last Friday they recorded with Israeli singer songwriter David Broza. I think it best to just share Micah’s blog post about that http://micahendl.tumblr.com/post/41452660032/recording-with-david-broza:

Recording with David Broza!!!

The Jerusalem Youth Chorus spent today in the studio with David Broza.

David Broza is a prominent Israeli artist who is not only accomplished in his own right, but has also for many years been working with Palestinian musicians on joint projects. The studio that we were in, Sabreen Studios, is actually in East Jerusalem – David said he’s been using them for years. It was an incredible honor and privilege to be there today with him.

The opportunity came about through a long series of connections that ultimately ended up with a high school friend of David’s recommending the project to him. (The Holy Land is very small. :-)) He called me a few weeks ago asking if we would be interested in being on his album. The obvious answer was yes. We then spent the intervening time preparing for the session. In consultation with his VERY legit producer, who claimed credit today for such hits as “who let the dogs out”, at which all the kids responded “who! who who who who!” (ah the transcendence of pop music), I wrote an arrangement (and of course recorded all the parts, since most of the kids don’t read sheet music yet) and then spent the last few weeks trying to teach it to the chorus. It was a reach, because unlike the songs we’ve done so far, it is not cyclical or strictly verse-chorus – it changes as the song goes on – and so most of the singers effectively had to memorize large chunks of new material in a very short period of time. And of course there were last-minute changes that added to that new material. But we made it!

We recorded backup vocals for two covers: “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding,” originally performed by Elvis Costello, and “Where Do the Children Play,” by Cat Stevens. The whole session was recorded on video as well, as they are making a documentary about the album, and word on the street is “Where Do the Children Play” will actually be publicized by Playing for Change (think the performance of “Stand By Me” recorded with artists all over the world)!!! Photo/Audio/Video footage coming soon. :-)

The experience of working with David was a dream – he is so down-to-earth and encouraged the kids in such a real way. I hope this is the first of many collaborations to come (David insinuated that it might be) ;-)

Today was a BIG DEAL. It took an immense amount of effort to pull off successfully (the number of things that went wrong are numerous and each could have potentially derailed the project but for last-minute scrambling, flexibility, and ingenuity) but was totally worth it.

What an honor. What a privilege. What a day.

For additional information about The Jerusalem Chorus please visit their official page at: http://jerusalemyouthchorus.org/
 
On a personal note: Micah Hendler is my children’s paternal third cousin, in Israel that means: We are family, therefore we think that Micah’s work is the essence of coolness and we are mighty proud of him!   
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