Jerusalem choir marks 50th with Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Somewhere’… at home
Nowhere and everywhere

Jerusalem choir marks 50th with Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Somewhere’… at home

Conductor who worked closely with Bernstein decades ago chooses ‘West Side Story’ number to send uplifting message during tough times

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

The JAMD Chamber Choir recorded a rendition of Leonard Bernstein's 'Somewhere,' in honor of the choir's 50th anniversary (Courtesy JAMD Chamber Choir)
The JAMD Chamber Choir recorded a rendition of Leonard Bernstein's 'Somewhere,' in honor of the choir's 50th anniversary (Courtesy JAMD Chamber Choir)

There are three minutes and 28 seconds of pure listening bliss in the JAMD Chamber Choir’s recorded rendition of “Somewhere,” the “West Side Story” song composed by Leonard Bernstein.

Many of the 32 members of the choir, comprised mostly of students and former students from the Jerusalem Academy of Music, as well as some former choir members, came together for this particular performance, conducted by Stanley Sperber, who has led the choir since 1972.

During this performance, however, each singer filmed themselves at home, and a film editor later produced the final recording.

“I conducted to an empty room, but I can see them in front of me,” said Sperber. “I spent a lot of years with this group, and they’re unusual, they feel like family, people who really care about each other and there’s an awful lot of love in this choir which has a big effect on their sound. They love to be together and they love music and when they give a concert, people come up and tell me there’s so much joy on this stage.”

50 שנה למקהלה הקאמרית – Somewhere

היו לנו הרבה תכניות לחגיגות 50 השנה למקהלה הקאמרית.אף על פי שנאלצנו לוותר עליהן בשלב זה, לא ויתרנו על לשיר ביחדאז לכבוד שנת ה50 למקהלתנו האהובה, אספנו את הקולות שלנו, ואת הניצוח של סטנלי כדי להרכיב את אחת היצירות האהובות עלינו, ולהגיש לכם במתנה. מקווים שתהנו!המקהלה הקאמרית שליד האקדמיה למוסיקה בירושליםבניצוחו של סטנלי ספרברSomewhere – מתוך סיפור הפרבריםLeonard BernsteinStephen SondheimArr. Robert Edgerton מיקס: מתן סרי עריכת וידאו ומאסטרינג: נועם טביבתודה ענקית לעינת בירון וניקה יענקלביץ' על הרעיון, הארגון, ההפקה, העזרה בעריכה והנחישות!

פורסם על ידי ‏The JAMD Chamber Choir | המקהלה הקאמרית שליד האקדמיה למוסיקה ירושלים‏ ב- יום רביעי, 15 באפריל 2020

It was the singers who planned and paid for the recording, mourning a long-planned concert planned for May 15, when there were plans to celebrate the choir’s 50th anniversary.

“It won’t be canceled forever, at worst, it will take place in the 51st year,” said Maya Polizer, the choir director.

Still, the choir needed to do something together, said Polizer. The group is accustomed to meeting twice a week for three-hour rehearsals, and sometimes more often, when there’s a concert coming up.

The singers wanted to prepare a song that had an uplifting message, said Polizer. The “Somewhere” rendition is one they’ve sung before, always saving it for the end of concerts.

It’s a piece that’s close to Sperber’s heart as well.

“Bernstein’s music is enough to break your heart,” said Sperber.

Sperber, 78, who conducted at least one of the grandparents of his current singers, worked regularly with Bernstein decades ago.

“For me, he was Lenny,” said Sperber, who, besides his work as a conductor, is an internationally certified tennis umpire and recently wrote a book about the subject, “Between the Lines, My Stories as a Conductor and Tennis Umpire.”

He recalled Bernstein as someone who exaggerated a lot and was “a bit of a drinker.” During one rehearsal in Tel Aviv, Bernstein had had too much to drink and got lost conducting “Kaddish,” a staggeringly complicated work he had composed.

During a short break, he asked Sperber how he conducted the piece.

“But you wrote it,” said Sperber.

When Bernstein finally conducted it during the actual performance, it was flawless, and from memory, said Sperber.

When Sperber conducts “Somewhere,” Bernstein is always with him, he said.

“It has special meaning for me,” he said. “”He was eccentric and sage and such a genius. He was a beautiful, beautiful guy. It adds a lot when you know somebody.”

And the song, he said, offers the perfect message for these times.

“Someday, somewhere, there’s a place for us.”

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