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Faith In Brooklyn for Nov. 26

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Originally published on Brooklyn Daily Eagle by Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor

Judith Clurman.
“Testimony” by Stephen Schwartz
(Recording released
Essential Voices USA); rehearsal photographed: Tuesday, June 20, 2017; 11:45 AM at Manhattan School of Music; Room 707; NYC; Photograph: © 2017 Richard Termine
PHOTO CREDIT – Richard Termine

Prominent Conductor from Brooklyn Releases New Album on Jewish Song

Acclaimed choral conductor Judith Clurman has released a new compact disc, “Cherished Moments: Songs of the Jewish Spirit,” on Sono Luminus (DSL-92182). Clurman, whose Brooklyn roots have stayed with her, now lives here in the borough with her husband, Cantor Bruce Ruben.

“Cherished Moments” features Essential Voices USA, with Clurman conducting, along with soloists Ron Raines, Bruce Ruben and Michael Slattery.

This new CD combines the expertise born of Clurman’s 30 years as a prominent conductor with memories of her own childhood in synagogue and an intimate knowledge of this poignant repertoire to create a unique recording. The recording introduces exciting arrangements of traditional songs that represent the Jewish holidays and life cycle events — from the centerpiece “Songs of Freedom: A Celebration of Chanukah,” a cycle for chorus, soloists and orchestra that premiered at Carnegie Hall, to the 19th-century lyrical classicism of Louis Lewandowski and Emanuel Kirschner, to works by folk artist Debbie Friedman, cantor-composer Bruce Ruben and Canadian composer Ben Steinberg.

The recording also features important new works, among them a minimalist setting of “Set Me as a Seal” by Nico Muhly, Larry Hochman’s “Shomeir Yisrael” and Paul Schoenfield’s “Al Hanisim,” all written for Clurman. The recording features the singers of Essential Voices USA and renowned guest instrumentalists, including composers Hochman and Schoenfield accompanying their own works.

Clurman’s Essential Voices USA (EVUSA) is widely regarded as one of New York’s preeminent choral ensembles. It is composed of a highly talented roster of both seasoned professionals and auditioned volunteers. Within this group, Clurman has created a dynamic choral model in which the size of the ensemble is dictated by the unique needs of each project. EVUSA performs regularly on the Carnegie Hall subscription series with the New York Pops and at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. For more information, visit


The Artists

Conductor Judith Clurman has conducted and collaborated with world-renowned orchestras, dance companies and music festivals. She served as director of choral activities at the Juilliard School from 1989-2007, as co-director for Harvard University’s Leonard Bernstein: Boston to Broadway Festival, as a faculty member and vocal specialist for the National Endowment for the Arts/Columbia University Institute of Classical Music and as a visiting artist/conductor at Cambridge University, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Zimriya in Israel and the Janacek Academy in the Czech Republic.

Her work as the associate music director of “Sesame Street,” with the Muppets, cast members and guest artists earned her a 2009 Emmy nomination for outstanding achievement in music direction and composition. Her recording of music by Tania León, with the Son Sonora Voices, was nominated for a Grammy award. Clurman served as founding conductor of the New York Concert Singers and Project Youth Chorus and as music director of Prism Concerts and the 92nd Street Y’s Music of the Spirit program. She currently conducts Essential Voices USA, serves as chorus master for the Omaha Symphony Sacred Voices concerts and collaborates with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall.

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A native of Texas, Ron Raines attended Oklahoma City University and The Juilliard School. He has had an illustrious international career that spans the worlds of musical theater, opera, cabaret, classical music and television. He most recently appeared as Ben in the critically acclaimed revival of “Follies” at the Kennedy Center, Broadway and Los Angeles, for which he received a Tony nomination for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical. He was a three-time Emmy and Soap Opera Digest award nominee for his role as the villain Alan Spaulding on CBS’s longest-running daytime drama, “Guiding Light.” He has appeared on four PBS “Great Performances” and on numerous cast albums. He has also made two solo recordings. His voice is heard on the “Sono Luminus Celebrating the American Spirit” CD with Essential Voices USA.

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Bruce Ruben is the cantor at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and the director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. From 1982 to 2006, he served as the cantor of Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City. He has taught special classes on liturgical music at the University of Cambridge and the Juilliard School. He studied at Indiana University, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the City University of New York, where he received his Ph.D. in history.

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Michael Slattery made his New York Philharmonic debut this past year. His career highlights include the title role in Bernstein’s “Candide” at Royal Festival Hall in London; “The Very Best of Lerner & Loewe” with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall; the title role in Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo” at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris; Peter Sellars’ “Tristan Project” with Esa-Pekka Salonen; and Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten” with John Adams – both with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Upcoming projects include Britten’s “Curlew River;” Roland Auzet’s “Steve V,” the world premiere of Steve Jobs’ digital opera, with Opéra de Lyon; and Britten’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the Festival Aix-en-Provence.

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Arranger/orchestrator Larry Hochman received the Tony award in 2011 for his orchestrations for the Broadway hit musical “The Book of Mormon.” He has also received Tony nominations for best orchestrations of Monty Python’s “Spamalot” (also Drama Desk nomination), “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Scottsboro Boys” and “A Class Act.” He has written orchestrations for “The Addams Family” and “Jane Eyre,” as well as additional orchestrations for many other Broadway shows, including “Shrek,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Chita Rivera: A Dancer’s Life” and “King David” (Alan Menken and Tim Rice). He is the composer for Nickelodeon’s hit series “The Wonder Pets,” for which he has received four Emmy awards. Hochman has arranged the recordings and concerts for Sir Paul McCartney, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Marvin Hamlisch and others. His original music and arrangements are on the “Sono Luminus Celebrating the American Spirit” CD with Essential Voices USA.

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Chabad Movement Gathers in NYC as Outreach Expands Worldwide

Opening Event Honors Memory of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson

The international Chabad-Lubavitch movement was set to converge on New York last weekend for a conference and what has been dubbed “NYC’S Largest Dinner.”

An estimated 5,200 Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic rabbinic emissaries and communal leaders from more than 80 countries — hailing from as far away as Bangkok and the Congo (and as close as Brooklyn) — gathered for the 31st annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries. This year’s conference carried an added significance, as millions around the world mark 20 years since the passing of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.

Chabad-Lubavitch has gained a reputation for its unique fusion of global activism and intellectual pursuit and is now considered to be one of the most successful spiritual movements of all time. Its vast success is credited to its cadre of dedicated rabbinical emissaries whose families are willing to pick up and move literally anywhere in the world to bring their fellow Jews closer to Judaism.

While the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has seen rapid growth and its impact continues to grow through its 3,500 institutions, there are still vast amounts of Jews who know nothing of their heritage and are not engaged with the wider Jewish community. At the conference, leaders were expected to announce initiatives aimed at reviving Jewish awareness and practice around the world.

The weekend conference was scheduled to begin with a visit on Friday, before Shabbat, to the resting place of Rabbi Schneerson at Old Montefiore Cemetery. Movement leaders continue to regard the Rebbe, as he is affectionately known, as their spiritual guide. The Rebbe’s gravesite is considered a place of deep spiritual sanctity. Even throughout the year, hundreds of thousands people, including non-Lubavitchers, Jews and non-Jews, frequent his resting place, seeking blessing, guidance and spiritual inspiration.

Following the observance of Shabbat, the gathering was scheduled to converge in front of Chabad-Lubavitch Worldwide headquarters in Crown Heights for a “class picture.” That evening, they were to sit down to arguably the largest dinner in the metropolitan area, hosted at South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.

The gathering had a global justice element, as rabbis from the war zone in Eastern Ukraine met about assisting their communities and how others around the world can help. Another rabbi who saved hundreds in a Nepalese blizzard was scheduled to be recognized. And the Chabad community in Mumbai, India is celebrating the reopening of the center after the 26/11 terror attacks that killed the rabbi and his wife there in 2008.

Chabad-Lubavitch has established a new presence in Mississippi and is now found in 49 U.S. states.