In Ramat Bet Shemesh they really know how to celebrate Shabbat Shira! This is the third year in a row that the Bet Shemesh Municipality, along with the generosity of a private sponsor, is making a Shabbat of Unity and Chazzanut in the Ramat Bet Shemesh Sports Center. The Halelu Choir, a local Ramat Bet Shemesh choir which was created in 2008 will lead the tefillot along with world renowned chazzanim. Chazzan Avrohom Kirschenbaum, a cantor at St. John’s Wood Synagogue in London and the Jerusalem Great Synagogue will lead services along with world renowned chazzan Binyamin Helfgott.
From year to year the crowds have grown. Last year over 1,000 people participated in Kabbalat Shabbat. Some walked over an hour from other neighborhoods to be there. The next morning the crowds came for more. This year even more people are predicted to come. Hidabrut wanted to find out about this Choir and the groundswell of followers they have. So we interviewed them.
When was the choir started?
In 2008 we were a small but talented group of singers in Ramat Bet Shemesh led by our Choir master Shalom Kinnory who was also our Gabbai in the Bnei Hayeshivos Shul. The choir has a unique blend of both adult and children.
What is the background of the singers?
All the choir members are professionals and business people who are really committed to the choir, devoting countless hours to practices each month. Most have a professional musical background, some from university, some come from families of chazzanim, others trained at the Cantorial School in Tel Aviv, and some have their own recording studios. All bring their own personal contribution to the choir.
Tell me more about your choirmaster.
Shalom Kinnory comes from an extremely musical family. His father, Kalman Kinnory escaped Europe during the war only because he was a young violinist with a promising future. When he grew up and was hoping to play with all the leading philharmonics and musicians in the U.S. he found that employment as a professional symphony musician meant working on Shabbat so he went into producing music so he could stay self-employed and keep Shabbat. He ended up producing Shlomo Carlebach’s first album.
Shalom has taught children’s choirs across Israel for many years. His childrens’ choirs also performed in different parts of the former Soviet Union and in other international venues. The Halelu choir is beautifully complimented by the voices of the children who join us for Shabbat Shira and other prayers and performances throughout the year.
What performances for example?
For starters this will be our third really large Shabbat Shira service. A few weeks ago, before Chanukah we performed at the Jerusalem Theater with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and leading cantors Simon Cohen and Avraham Frohlich. In the summer we prayed in Pisgat Ze’ev with the renowned Chazzan Yaakov Motzen. Last Pesach we sang a Chol Hamoed concert at the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria. In just 2 weeks after our Shabbat Shira performance this Shabbat, we will (G-d willing) be praying Shabbat in London in two different synagogues. Friday Night we will pray at the Hendon Adath Synagogue and Shabbat Morning at the Ner Yisrael synagogue. We are also performing at a concert after Shabbat at the Hasmonean Hall.
Who arranges your choral pieces?
A large portion of the repertoire was written and arranged for Halelu by Shalom, in his unique style. The repertoire blends new arrangements and classical chazzanut compositions transforming the Shabbat prayer into a unique and moving experience. Some of the arrangements are in conjunction with the famous arranger Raymond Goldstein and Maestro Eli Jaffe with whom we’ve had the honor and pleasure of performing with in different venues.
For more information see halelu.org
Enjoy a clip of Halelu's last concert: